You may have seen and heard the term hashtag. But, what is it? Why does it matter?
A hashtag is simply a keyword phrase, spelled out without spaces, with a pound sign (#) in front of it. For example, #InboundHour and #ChocolateLovers are both hashtags.
So you see it's simple, a Hashtag is a word, phrase, or set of characters behind a '#' with no spaces. ie. #SmallBusinessSaturday, #ShopLocal, or #Caturday2018.
Hashtags were originally used to categorize and make searchable tweets and posts around a topic.
By using a hashtag you are telling the social channel you are posting on to categorize this post into a certain topic.
Hashtags are a great way to drive organic traffic to your social media pages and then hopefully to your website as well.
By using a hashtag associated with your business or the customers of businesses like yours you are making it easier for people to discover you and your business. This can be particularly good for local businesses.
Prairie Giraffe is located in Gillette Wyoming. If I want to do business with other companies in Gillette Wyoming all I need to do is search the official Gillette Wyoming hashtag, #GilletteWy, and just for good measure, I'll throw in a #ShopLocal.
Now I can see all the businesses who are promoting themselves and their posts as local to the Gillette community and are trying to encourage others to shop locally with them.
So you can see hashtags allow you to join in on the conversation and engage with a community of people and businesses you wouldn't otherwise be connected to.
Unlike other groups and forums, the conversation doesn't require management. There are positives and negatives to the lack of control. For one, anyone can use your hashtag. An example is #quotes, you will find millions of posts and there will be a lot of "noise".
However, with a tag like #quotes, there will be tons of people who see that content. If you sell signs with inspirational quotes on them to hang in your home, you should use #quotes, but then also use something a little more targeted to your customers like #DreamLivingRoom, #HandPainted, and #ShopLocal.
The upside is anyone can use and see your hashtag. By using a hashtag in your posts you are joining a larger stream. You are opening up your content to a larger audience. People looking for your content.
Suppose you are wanting to get the word out to attendees of an event your business will be presenting at. You should start dropping in the events official Hashtag and those who are attending the event or otherwise searching that tag will see your posts in the stream of other posts with that same tag.
Use hashtags whenever you are wanting to get the word out to a larger community and engage with new people on social media.
We need to stop and just mention the use of Hashtags is only for social media. If you are using email to reach your customers then hashtags should not be used.
Hashtags are a great way to promote your business. As we mentioned before using hashtags allows you to enter the larger stream of posts and get seen by more people. Tags like #ShopLocal, #SmallBiz, #SmallBusinessSaturday are all good general tags for small businesses.
Other great small business tags are location specific. Like we mentioned before, the Gillette Wyoming Tag is #GilletteWy. By using this tag I am letting everyone who wants to shop in Gillette or is just searching for information about Gillette that we are a part of the community.
Hashtags such as #ShopLocal, #SmallBiz, #SmallBusinessSaturday are general hashtags. The more generic a tag and the more often it is used the bigger the cloud of posts that use it. Then there are hashtags that are more industry specific. We recommend using a mixture of both. You never know which tags are going to help you the most so use both.
General tags like #quotes, #rainyday, #ShopLocal, #beautiful, #instagood, are super popular and reach a large audience. Your posts can be washed away in the noise, but also have the best chance of being seen by someone.
These are more specific and while they may never see the light of day, they stand the best chance of being gold. Someone searching a Niche tag are probably more passionate about what they are searching for and have a better chance of being fiercely loyal. Which is great for your brand!
#FeedFeed, #CoffeeShots, #OutdoorLife, #ApartmentTherapy, #vitamix are examples of niche tags.
These tags will have a much smaller audience than most of the general tags, but they have an audience that are more likely to engage with your brand and are much more likely to follow you.
You should use a mixture of niche hashtags and general/popular tags. You want your content and posts to be getting out to the most people as possible and at the same time attracting those looking for your products and services.
A picture of this in action would be as Prairie Giraffe we make the following post.
You can see we used very generic tags like #seo and used some very niche tags like #OutsourcedCMO, which is limited to our industry. We want to be discovered by people looking for SEO advice and ultimately SEO services and we want to show up for someone looking for an Outsourced CMO service.
We've touched on it before, but events are great places for Hashtags. It doesn't make sense for every business at the event to make a page or group about the event.
However, most events have official Hashtags. This allows all the news, conversation, announcements, and anything else surrounding the event to be gathered into one easily searchable place that doesn't have to be managed.
Imagine you're holding an event for wedding vendors. You create official Facebook and Instagram pages and you make a few announcements on that page. That's great. But, by having an official Hashtag for the event, you allow people to join in on the conversation about your event. They can make announcements, tell their customers that they will be there, show off the products they are going to bring and more. Without having to be an admin of your page.
So if you are going to an event, it's in your best interest to find out what the official Hashtag will be and start using it in your posts that pertain to the event. Are you announcing a product, are you bringing something special, do you just want everyone to know you'll be there?
There is no downside to using the events official tag. You will be helping make the event a richer experience for everyone and if your competitors refuse to use the tag, you are going to stand out from them.
Another example - let's suppose you are holding your own event. Nothing too big, just a special sale with some new products and a short class related to your industry. You need an official hashtag. What fun is a party if no one shows up? Imagine though if one of your excited attendees shares your hashtag.
Other people see your fan's post and click the tag (since tags act as links). They now get to see what's going on and that they would like to attend as well. You know people tend not to do things unless they are incentivized so you make a deal with your followers that if they like your page and share your hashtag in a post they will be entered into a drawing for a free product, which you hold after the class.
Now you are getting more shares than before and since the prize requires them to attend, even more, people are coming.
This is just an example of the power of Hashtags when used with your Social Media. We will go over more amazing things Hashtags can do in the future.
So get out there and #StartToday, #DontWait, #GrowthHacking, #SavvyBusiness.