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.


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.


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.

5 Ways to Use Content Marketing to Attract New Business

September 8, 2010

Content Marketing is an overarching term that involves the creation and sharing of content for the purpose of engaging your prospects. Manufacturers who are trying to reach the professional tradesmen would benefit by building your brand, increasing your recognition and having you become a thought leader in your industry.

Relevant and valuable content will attract a clearly defined and understood target audience.

Here are 5 ways to use content marketing:

  1. Define your target audience.
  2. Identify their pain points - what keeps them up at night, and develop a way to address them.
  3. Make a blog the center of your communications efforts - make it the one-stop shop concept where professional tradesmen can come and get valuable info and insights.
  4. Continually measure your response and make adjustments if necessary.
  5. Jump start your blog traffic – repurpose content through other social media channels like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook using third-party tools to make the process easy and efficient to manage.

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Using Social Media to Market an Event

August 19, 2010

When doing an event, from a press conference to an open house or a new product launch, are you using social media to capitalize on it? Social is an inexpensive and cost-effective way to enhance the buzz around what you’re doing. I’m not suggesting that social replace traditional methods, instead use social to enhance them.

I recently read an article on Social Media Explorer.com by Rich Brooks on 12 Ways to Market Your Event with Social Media. Rich makes some good points and here are some highlights:

  • Before the event - Market your event through Twitter. Even consider your own hashtag in all your tweets. If the event is large enough give it its own Twitter account. Use Facebook Events to attract fans. Use LinkedIn groups you belong to to promote the event. If you have a blog, use it to promote it. Forums, talk up your event and its benefits. Tell them about the agenda, speakers, etc.
  • During the event - Use those hashtags to make your event more findable and searchable. If it’s a local or regional event, use Foursquare and Gowalla to promote it by announcing the event, link to a registration form, give updates. If you belong to Forums, talk up the event and its benefits. Live blogging from the event, let people know what they are missing. Share video and photos – a picture is worth a thousand words.
  • After the event - Blog about highlights and possibly interviews with attendees. Post similar comments on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and ask for feedback.

These are some great tips. What are you doing to capitalize on social?

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Social Media Success Story

July 28, 2010

I’ve been talking about the benefits of social media in the B-to-B space now for almost 18 months and yet there are some companies out there that still don’t “get it.”

I wanted to share a success story with you of a traditional trade association, the PMPA (Precision Machined Products Association) and their results from starting a social program a little over a year ago (disclosure: they are a client of ours). These types of associations aren’t very sexy and they have plenty of competition out there for members to help them run their business better.

To better position themselves within the metalworking world as a thought leader and as part of a new business strategy, we recommended they jump on the social media bandwagon.

They did, and the following is an article written by Miles Free (Director of Industry Research and Technology, and principal contributor to their blog, Speaking of Precision) in their monthly magazine to members and potentials advocating they too jump on the social media bus.

PMPA content has been before people who are interested in it over 1,500,000 times in just one year at next to no out-of-pocket cost…

In just one year, we can document over 65,000 page views on PMPA’s Blog, SPEAKINGOFPRECISION.COM.

We’ve used Twitter to help connect people to our Blog content, and we’ve made hundreds of thousands of contacts using that tool. Once a week, one of our selected Blog topics gets uploaded to LinkedIn, where it is seen and shared by over 25,000 people in the machining, medical defense, and aerospace markets that belong to groups on LinkedIn. We can conservatively say that PMPA content has been before people who are interested in it over 1,500,000 times since we started our social networking program a year ago.

And on our blog we’ve posted some pretty good content – our posts on austenitic grain size, welding resulfurized steels, bar straightness, temper color, and material impacts – these all come up on page 1 of Google search results. Often in the top handful of non-paid links.

Page one on Google is the gold standard for information in the information age of today.

These social networking tools have helped us connect with members, potential members, your potential customers, suppliers, and the larger market for Precision Machining. The out-of-pocket expense was very small, trivial really. And the staff time required once we set it up is just a few hours a week.

So why haven’t you picked up these Social Networking Tools You Can Use? We’ve demonstrated that they can create connection, start a conversation, and introduce us to new clientele. Our getting topical page one rankings on Google shows that the knowledge that your shop has is just as likely to command attention in the Marketplace of Ideas online. Certainly you have special capabilities and expertise that when properly shared and targeted can help those people (and companies) who need and want to find you, to connect.

For several years, we’ve been working on the idea of connecting. Our member surveys always show Networking as a highly valued PMPA deliverable. Networking is done by connecting.

We’ve just had a one-year demonstration of what social media tools can do for an industry association. The numbers are as impressive as the costs are low.  We hope that you will follow our experience by using these new tools to connect with tomorrow’s buyers who haven’t yet figured out that you can help them, and won’t take your salesman’s call if he finds them.

Social Media tools make you bigger in your market. The 30,000 people who see a message from us weekly are larger than the few thousands of people who were already in the PMPA “tent.” And they have conversations and network with people with similar wants and needs. Of course you want to reach them!

Consider social networking. Not just an email blats of a newsletter. A blog perhaps or enhancements to your website. At the very least, you need to be on LinkedIn. Join relevant groups. CUSTOMER GROUPS. Industry groups, any group that might conceivably be related to your business. Develop content. Share it weekly with your new Network. Do it now.

From PMPA’s first-year experience, there may be a million and a half or so of your potential followers, customers, and maybe even potential employees out there waiting to find you. And, perhaps, 60,000 or so opportunities to teach those who are really interested in what you might have to say – the stuff that makes you an expert and that they really need to know.  

Social networking. It’s not about selling. It’s about cultivating your market. Connecting. Establishing your expertise. Finding your voice. Being found. Connecting.

Social Networking – it’s Tools You Can Use. Pick your tool. Give it a try.



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