Friday, 12 August 2011

Are #hashtags relevant to your Business?

Last week I talked about using twitter hashtags to promote business, specifically adding trending hashtags to your tweets to increase their reach. I offered a couple of top tips and promised more this week, so here they are.

Relevance is Key - Though you can add a trending hashtag to any marketing tweet, even if they have nothing to do with one another, it's not often a good idea. It will be considered spamming, which means at best, it will be ignored by most but a few, who will follow up with your desired action. At worst, it will irritate many, twitter will receive a report of spamming and your account will be deleted with no prior warning. Not great, if you've spent years building your following.

Relevance can be Flexible - It can be tricky, but with a little creativity messages can be made relevant to the trending hashtag. Remember that it's rare that traditional marketing speak should be used in Social Media. 'Buy now!' doesn't often cut it. Social Media is relationship building, before the sale, so don't think you have to go in screaming about your brand. Even forgetting your brand and just engaging in the conversation around the trending hashtag or making a witty comment will bring relationships for you to build on.

Relevance to your Brand - Except for the geographical targeting above, so far we're talking about a fairly scatter gun approach. Yes, you're reaching large numbers of people, but are they interested in what you offer? If your market is broad and encompasses all shapes and sizes, there's no worry. If not, it depends what you offer. If it's golf clubs, for instance, then there may be lots of activity around famous tournaments and you can presume the trending hashtag audience will be fairly receptive. Other times it may be slim pickings, unless Tiger Woods makes the headlines again.

So, our tips so far are piggy backing on popular hashtags, but they don't necessarily have to be trending to be useful. '#specialoffer', for instance, may not be trending, but if a user sees it in a tweet, they can click it and see every tweet with it included, presumably a list of special offers. Similarly, people looking for info about Sheffield, can search for '#sheffield' and bring up all the corresponding tweets.

If you have a keyword such as these that you suspect people may be looking for, have a look yourself, by typing the keyword, including the hashtag in the search box at the top of any twitter page. If there's lots of recent tweets in the results, then the hashtag is 'live' and good to be added to your tweets. If, on the other hand, there's few and they're far between, it's probably not worth it.

Looking at creating your own hashtags, these can be good for running competitions or having a conversation around a subject, but you'll have to prompt your followers to add them. So, something like "answer this question and include '#yourcompanyname' to be in with a chance of winning" or "Tweet with #ourlatestproduct to let us know what you think of it."

As far as having your hashtag trend, it'll be tricky and may not even be worthwhile. For it to trend, it needs thousands of tweets to include it, so will need to either have a viral element, such as humour, or have topical relevance to current affairs. However, if this has no relevance to your brand, your initial tweet will be lost in the deluge and all those thousands of tweeters will have no idea it was you who started it. It's therefore imperative that your brand or a direct connection to your brand is included.

This will most likely prove difficult, if not impossible, so may well never play a part in your twitter marketing. It's always worth keeping in the back of your mind though, because if the opportunity ever arises, a trending hashtag directing back to you could bring phenomenal success, easily eclipsing everything else you've ever done with the platform.

I often say there's no magic bullet or means to get instant success in Social Media, it takes consideration, work, patience and time. But that said, a trending hashtag as described above, would come pretty close.

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