What’s a #Hashtag? And 5 Ways to Use Them in Marketing

July 25, 2013

Today we have a post from Rachel Kerstetter, Sonnhalter’s PR Engineer, answering one of the questions she’s frequently asked and sharing some tips on how to use hashtags.

The basic mechanics of making a hashtag include putting a pound sign (#) in front of a word, phrase, acronym or combination of characters (but not punctuation).

But beyond calling attention to the words in a tweet, post or whatever, hashtags allow you to join into a more broad conversation. Hashtags have become a standard part of online conversation and stretch across many social platforms. Hashtags originated on Twitter and very recently Facebook added hashtag capabilities to the platform, but you can also use hashtags on: Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+ and newcomer Vine.

There are many ways to use hashtags, but they all boil down to participating in public conversation. Here are some common ways to use hashtags in marketing communications:

  1. Promote engagement during events. Whether your event is online or offline, it will have a presence. When you create your own hashtag (and publically identify it) you can then monitor and interact with the conversation around your event. Most conferences, trade shows, webinars and other events announce the “official” hashtag, put it on publicity materials and have a designated person using it. Mostly this happens on Twitter but permeates into other social media use.
  2. Host or take part in a Twitter chat. Twitter chats are a simple way to have a conversation with multiple people on the same topic. Chats are traditionally an hour and have a prescribed hashtag. Most chats happen weekly at the same time and center around a prepared set of questions, due to their growing popularity services have been created to help you participate more easily, for example Tweetchat is a Twitter application to organized the tweets on a hashtag and shows them in real time, allowing you to tweet in the action and pause the conversation to catch up.
  3. Run and follow a marketing campaign. If you have a campaign that will get people talking, adding a hashtag to it isn’t a bad idea. Often you’ll find ads that have hashtags to see more online.
  4. Contests. Hashtag-powered contests work the best for photos but can also be used for sharing experiences or answering a question. Just ask your fans/followers to post their entry using your hashtag.
  5. Research. See what people are saying or posting about a topic, brand, event or anything by searching hashtags. If you see a relevant topic hashtagged on your own feed, click it to see what else is being said.

If you still aren’t sure you’re ready to use hashtags, at least get your feet wet by identifying them when you see them and find out how they’re being used.

What are some ways that you’ve seen hashtags incorporated into marketing plans?


Spring Clean Your Social Media

April 11, 2013

Since the social media scene developed many years ago, it’s become cluttered. There are accounts on all social platforms that sit, gathering dust for years. Do any of those accounts belong to you or your company?

Today Rachel Kerstetter, our PR Engineer, is sharing some pointers on how you can spring clean your social media.

When I entered into the realm of public relations with a broad social landscape, I was a little surprised that much of my social media consulting and instruction wasn’t about getting social programs started or operating them, it was a lot of clean up.

It doesn’t take much time to get your social media back on track if you know what to do.

1. Take a look at what you have. How long ago was your last status, tweet, post or picture? Do you have messages or invitations that are waiting to be read? When you look at an old account, try to see where/when things went stale and identify what may have been the cause. Did you have an intern running your social that has since left? Did you “run out” of content or ideas? Do you need help?
2. Check your branding. If anything in your company’s branding has changed, all of your social accounts should reflect that. Get your logos, profile pictures, covers and banners up to date. Make sure that you have a Twitter cover, a LinkedIn banner and a Facebook cover for your company. Use your own company and product names correctly.
3. Is your profile complete? Fill out the boxes with information about your company. Make sure there isn’t a blank spot where an About section should be and make sure that you have links to your website and contact information on there. Here’s what the About Section on Sonnhalter’s Facebook Page looks like:

Sonnhalter Facebook About Section

4. Don’t stand alone. If you only have one person in your company with the Facebook or LinkedIn admin rights or the passwords to your accounts, you’re in for some trouble. What happens if that person leaves your company, takes vacation or falls ill for an extended period of time? You may have one main point person on social media, but always have at least one other person in your organization with social access.
5. Approach the rest of the year with a plan. If you’re having trouble with content, consider setting up a schedule monthly, quarterly or annually with the general topics you want to address on your social media and recruit help if you need it.

You may also be getting overwhelmed on your personal social accounts because your connections are active. Here are just a few tips to save some personal sanity this spring:

  1. Take advantage of lists, circles, etc. to organize your connections into logical groups. That way you can easily check information from one group at a time (or find information you’re looking for).
  2. Change your email preferences so you don’t end the day with 50 Facebook email notifications or opt to receive daily or weekly digests from your LinkedIn groups.
  3. Use your readers. Put all of the blogs you read in one place to minimize jumping around from site to site. We’ve recommended a couple of options in a previous post.

Are You Minding Your Manners on Twitter?

November 23, 2011

Yes, there are rules (even though some should be self-evident) on the do’s and don’ts on Twitter. Heidi Cohen does a great job identifying them in a recent post giving you 24 guidelines. Here are just a few:

  • Use a recognizable Twitter handle - keep it short and align it so it can go across several platforms.
  • Brand your page - make sure your Twitter page has the same look and feel as the rest of your branding efforts.
  • Twitter bio - should be there to help others figure out what you’re all about.
  • Let followers know if you’re going to be increasing your tweets - an example would be going to a conference or trade show.
  • Give credit where it’s due - acknowledge the originator.
  • Beware of TMI (too much info) - tell what time it is, not how to build a watch.
  • Pay-it-forward - contribute helpful info and re-tweet and support others without expecting anything in return.

What can you add to the list?


Event Planning: 5 Tips on How to Get the Most out of Twitter

July 12, 2011

If you’re in charge of an event, whether it’s a presentation, seminar, webinar, virtual meeting, trade show or sales meeting, if you want to shake it up a little, try using Twitter as an interactive part of the program.

What a great way to engage people, see what people are thinking and you can even field questions. Here are some tips on how to use Twitter successfully for events:

  1. Create a hashtag – These will identify your specific activity. That way anyone posting or following the hashtag will see what everyone else is commenting.
  2. Promote the hashtag - Depending on how large the event is, there are various ways to let people know how to follow the event. If you’re putting on an association meeting or a global conference, you may be able to get someone to sponsor the promotions and signage.
  3. Inform the presenters that live tweeting will be going on. Most folks that do this have a screen on stage so the audience can participate.
  4. If there are multiple presenters, make sure that the audience knows their Twitter handles.
  5. Make sure wifi is available – you can’t tweet if you can’t get on the net. I know I’ve been in ballrooms listening to speakers where there is no access. This is not good.

Those are some of my suggestions. Care to share yours?


Tips on How to Get the Most out of Social Media Marketing

January 5, 2011

This is a guest post from Marc Levine, social media director for RiaEnjolie, a website developer for small business owners. Marc shares some best practices he uses to get the most out of social media.

Social Media Marketing Requires Focus and Discipline

Effective Social Media Marketing requires strong multi-tasking and solid organization skills. Without these two key requirements, a small business owner can be easily overwhelmed and consumed by a “beast” starved for jealous attention and fruitless labor. Social Media Marketing is a “beast” that makes no promises for success or ever feels the need to apologize for bad results, despite the best efforts of marketers. Indeed, Social Media Marketing makes the strongest possible argument for planning to working smarter, rather than simply working harder…and longer.

The Blogs are overflowing with “how to” lessons on “taming the beast,” we call Social Media Marketing. You don’t have to look very hard to find blog posts that promise great results from a one-hour daily commitment in Social Media. Is this not possible? I suppose it is; depending on a number of unique variables that begin with having a realistic set of goals and expectations. What works well for some may not work as well for others. So, don’t be disappointed if what you read somewhere was not the panacea you hoped it might be. Your situation may require an entirely different approach.

Let me tell you what works for me. I can’t guarantee it will work for you, but it may – at least – be a starting point for your own Social Media effectiveness trials. Taken together with the advice of others, some personal tweaking may result in creating a workable plan exclusively for you and your business.

In my position as Social Media Director for a growing web design company, RiaEnjolie, Inc., I am charged with contributing directly to the corporate marketing effort, as well as assisting the many small business owners that purchase their new websites from RiaEnjolie. My major goals are to increase Brand Awareness for RiaEnjolie, as well as to “converse” with our customers and prospects, so as to better understand their needs and help them in their own Social Media Marketing efforts. 

These are rather modest goals with an expected ROI measured mostly in customer smiles and business compliments. For a company that is young and relatively new in Social Media, RiaEnjolie is confident that it has started in – exactly – the right place with the appropriate focus and a reasonable set of expectations. Let me explain more about our use of Social Media.

We find that Facebook and Twitter work particularly well for us. We focus most of our attention on these two sites, in addition to the regular blogging we do. If you know where your target audience generally “hangs out,” you need to go there and invite everyone else to join you. These places, along with your own Website, become your “base of operations”…your primary residence, so to speak. If one has too many homes to maintain, it becomes very expensive and time consuming. This is also true in Social Media for those who attempt too much. Therefore, if Facebook is your primary choice, you need not apologize for not participating on MySpace, as well. Just be sure to direct everyone to where you can usually be found (on the Web) and they will eventually arrive there, as long as you offer them some real value.

Once you have established your “base of operations,” consider what your presence will be like once there. In other words, “when can you most often be found at home?”  

They say that the single best time to Tweet is 9:00 am PST (Pacific Standard Time). They also say that the best time to get re-Tweeted is 4:00 pm EST on Fridays. These recommendations offer an educated framework to consider for “planning when to be home” in Social Media. In fact, there is plenty of free automation software available such as “Tweetdeck” and “Hootsuite” to program tweets for when you are not physically available on the Web. My recommendation, though, are to use these programs very sparingly. They are increasingly seen as very impersonal. They often come across more like annoying sales tools than true relationship builders. 

Each day, I schedule about three Social Media sessions for myself. Each session runs about thirty minutes. I base my activity on peak user times reported in online studies. My online sessions are often supplemented with additional tweets and posts – throughout the day – as interesting news and tips come my way. This is why I keep Twitter and Facebook minimized on my laptop, all day.

Each morning after calling up my web browser, I open up four screens before minimizing three of them. Up and running, concurrently are:

1.  Twitter

2.  My Facebook Group (Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses)

3.  Bit.ly (a URL shortening tool)

4   Google.

Next, I search Google News for a short list of topics to be shared with our audience.

RiaEnjolie shares the latest news and tips for Social Media, Small Business, Website Design and Charity Programs. The searches are refined to “past hour” results to help insure we are among the first to Tweet and post this news. In fact, rather than burden followers and “friends” with article links, I carefully review each item for its content value and for any quotable quotes by the principals in the article or post. Often the best quotes come from people we have not heard of before and what they have to share – in just a few words – sums up the entire article their views are contained within. Make no mistake that quotes are very re-Tweetable. Just make sure to give each quote a related category with a hashmark in front of it (i.e. #smallbusiness) so that others can search for it, find it easily on Twitter and attribute it to you, as its original Tweeter.

Beyond sound bytes, any article or post we read has intellectual value. We either agree or disagree with its contents. It is a definite learning experience for us and often the source of good debate.  So, we gain something to internalize and to share with others in the form of a Tweet; a re-Tweet; a Facebook post; an E-mail to someone we know; or it might even become the subject our next blog article. And, while we are at it, we can comment on the article or the post we are reading; leaving behind our professional footprint and a valuable backlink for our own website.

With all four of the above mentioned screens available on my desktop, I essentially become a Social Media production company. I am able to create split screens and multi-task the information that I am working with in a number of different ways. At the very same time that I may be tweeting some memorable quote, I can also be expanding on the same thought with an insightful – and sometimes provocative – post to my Facebook Group audience.  Thinking man’s Social Media at its best.

If a link is particularly long and takes up too many Twitter characters, Bit.ly is also open and ready to go for creating short URLs. Keeping these few platform and tool screens open throughout the day, saves time and allows for a smooth and steady flow of content from reading to analysis to publication and commenting. Since much of this also plays into analytics, measurement is also possible through Google Analytics and other similar programs.

None of this stuff is rocket science. It is mostly based on individual and collective user experience.  The technology is all here and we just have to consider how best to use it to achieve our unique goals. There are even better ways to do the things I just described. I am confident you and others will find them through your own exploration, trial and error. Meanwhile, my system works for me. There is no right or wrong, just satisfaction. If you feel comfortable with a plan that gets you the results you are looking for, that’s three-quarters of the challenge.

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Twitter: Steps to Ensure Success

October 21, 2010

According to new research from Sysomos, 92.4% of all retweets happen within the first hour. If you’re looking to be retweeted and nobody picks you up in the first hour, chances are slim to none that it will happen.

Replies and Retweets on Twitter a Report by Sysomos 300x290 6 Timely Tips for Twitter Success

TIMING is crucial when sending out tweets. Jay Baer recently wrote a post, 6 Timely Tips for Twitter Success, where he outlines ways you can increase your odds. Here are some highlights:

  • Find your influencers - These are the ones we want help with spreading your message.
  • Repeat your tweets - If 94% of all retweets happen within the first hour, then it stands to reason the more times your message is out there, the better the chances of it getting picked up.
  • Test your times - Depending on your audience, you may want to think about when you send them out. For example, contractors are early birds and if you want to get them, the best time is either between 6-7 in the morning or between 4-5 in the afternoon. You also need to take into condsideration time zones if you have customers across the country.
  • Pay attention to structure and language - Are shorter ones better than longer ones? Is it better to put the link at the front or at the end?
  • Manage expectations - Reality is 6% of all tweets are retweeted so be realistic.

Twitter is a great tool, but you need to do some homework to insure you’re getting the most out of it.

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7 Tips to Use Twitter to Generate Traffic and Leads

September 16, 2010

Used in the right way, Twitter can be one of the best social media tools to be used to generate traffic and leads for your new business.

For the past 18 months, Twitter has been the leading traffic generator to my Tradesmen Insights blog. It definitely needs to be part of your overall social media marketing strategy.

For Twitter to be effective for new business, the following are seven of my personal tips:

  1. Don’t be afraid to use Twitter differently from the way it was originally intended to be used. Twitter is more of a broadcast tool that most would admit and current research validates. Treat it as a broadcast tool through reach and frequency of your content marketing efforts and generating the best return on your time investment by repurposing your content through tools such as Social Oomph.
  2. Build a targeted Twitter following. Research Twitter lists such as Mashable’s Twitter List Directory, third-party programs such as TweetAdder.
  3. In addition your own blog’s content, be sure to supplement your Twitter posts with resources from others that are of help to your target audience.
  4. Pay-it-forward. As others are so kind to publicize your content, also help to promote theirs.
  5. In addition to Twitter being a broadcasting tool, it must be utilized as a networking tool for you to have success. Content helps build awareness but it is up to you to turn awareness into relationships. The efficiency of these kinds of online networks should be all that is needed to motivate you to participate. People want to work with other people that they know, like and trust.
  6. Use third-party Twitter tools like CoTweet and HootSuite to minimize your time and maximize the effectiveness of your Twittering.
  7. What you learn to do for your agency can be used for your clients. There are a multiplicity of benefits from your involvement.

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