Hashtagging Beats Threshing and Winnowing

Discover and Promote Your Own Good Hashtag

#, #

Pound, pound.
Nope. It’s not a knock-knock joke.
They’re read “hashtag, hashtag.”
Or, “hash, hash,” if you’re British.
Or, “tag, tag,” if you’re a little lazy, like me.

But you already know all this if you’ve seen the helpful SNL PSA from social media wizards Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake. (It’s ever so slightly not-safe-for-work (NSFW), but Questlove’s #STFU is bleeped.)

Still Wondering What in the Interwebs a Hashtag Is?

If you’ll indulge a bit of gratuitous back-patting, here’s a good explanation, if I do say so myself, from my own wee lil’ Twaining Manual, published a long, long time ago. In 2009.
Old school hashtags; i.e. 2009
This was before Instagram started in 2010 and before Facebook introduced clickable hashtags in 2013, that is, before the Fallon-Timberlake explainer. Both Instagram and Facebook audiences have evolved our usage of hashtags.

To Review: Old School Hashtags Were for Winnowing.

You know, those old-timey threshing machines that separated the wheat from the chaff? You know, the grain from the rest of the stuff that the grain grows on? Oh, go Google it, would ya?

Nowadays, the Cool Kids Use Hashtags to Give More Context.

Review the Fallon-Timberlake clip, if you need to.

The cool kids, especially on the non-text-character-limited channels, use hashtags to show their prowess with snark. And synonyms.

#goodtimes #coolkids #highschoolflashbacks #boredalready #nowedonotusecommas

Ok, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

How Do You Get a Good Hashtag for Your Business?

What Makes a Good Hashtag? Or, Hashtag Virility Do’s.

True Story

I was typing my notes for my recent #Yogais hashtag contest case study and wrote that

“… the hashtag’s virality was due to blah blah…”

You know the helpful little guy who lives in the computer and red-underlines all of the words that he doesn’t know?

Well, he lit up.

So, I right-clicked on his friendly suggestion.

And, don’t you know? He wanted me to spell it as if we were running a fertility clinic.

That still cracks me up. And, that, friends, is why you don’t see too many think pieces in the social media blogosphere about Post Virility.

Anyways…A Good Hashtag…

1. It’s gotta be person-able.

As a marketer, what you need to get is that social media is people at their most people-ish.

Let me say that again. Bigger.

Social media is people, being people.

It’s about being human.

With other humans.

That’s the part that so many companies miss in their social media behavior and activities. These companies, big and small, are simply masquerading as “persons” with accounts. (Like corporations in Texas. I digress.)

Don’t do that.

Especially when choosing a hashtag for The People to promote as they play along with your little game.

2. Make it relatable and relevant to your audience.

Sure, the name of your company is technically air-quotes-relevant to your in-house marketing goals.

But, it’s not at all relevant to your followers flipping through their feed while they wait for their number to be called at the DMV or whatever.

In the example from the #YogaIs case study, we wouldn’t have had any success, nor even the serendipity of trending and accidental winners, if we had gone with such a knee-jerk hashtag choice.

I mean, #HimalayanInstitute. What kind of tweet can anybody build around that, for Patanjali’s sake?

3. What phrase(s) enjoy currency within your niche?

In the #YogaIs example, fueled by chai and chocolate chip cookies, our hashtag spoke itself into existence. A quick Twitter search found reams of people expounding on what “Yoga is” to them. Bango!

So, among your audience, what do folks talk about on the regular?
What do they search on?
What problem are they trying to fix?
What are their pain points?

Just remember, it’s about them. The people. For them, by them.

It’s not about your company, your marketing objectives, or your precious metrics.

Now, I’ll admit, we lucked out and happened to be in the center of the whole American yoga zeitgeist when we ran our little contest.

So, the synchronicity of soon-to-be followers participating in our game without realizing it, that was…

Well, let’s call it Twitter Shakti, mm-kay?

4. Don’t make it too long. Mind your tc’s.

In a Twitter hashtag contest, at least, you’re still basically limited to 140-tc (text characters). If your chosen hashtag is #ReallyTooTerriblyLong, you’ve left no room for the people to do their thing.

Got Your Good Hashtag? Now, Let’s Promote It.

Start using your good hashtag regularly, as it fits:

  • In your tweets. On Instagram, Facebook, and wherever else you are.
  • In your blog posts:
    • In the titles, the headings, the image meta data — you know, the SEO pieces.
    • In your posts’ calls-to-action (CTAs).

Search on related terms and tags. Introduce yourself to folks who are talking about the same.

The underwater basket weaving example.
Let’s say your shop is an award-winning legend in the underwater basket weaving community. But you’re not yet so widely known on the interwebs.

You’ve done your research and uncovered a family of tags that you and your growing online audience will be enjoying from now on. Your favorite new tag is #H20Weaver. Get it? Water Weaver. It has alliteration and chemistry! How supercool!

When you share photos of your beautiful baskets — professionally lit, gorgeously staged photos — across your chosen social networks, add that tag with your brief marketing copy.

Ahhhh! A tawny kitten in one of your baskets. On a warm beach. Your marketing copy says, “Who’s our favorite new #H20Weaver?”

When you write blog posts about products, process, people, your shop, local attractions, the industry, et cetera, close with calls to action (CTAs). Usually,

“We’d love to hear what you think about the current state of affairs in the underwater basket weaving world. Tell us on social. Be sure to use our tag, #H2OWeaver.”

Set up an ongoing search in the social channels (and a Google Alert, while you’re at it) for folks who are using your tag or related tags, people who are also talking about baskets, weaving, artisanal crafts, being underwater, whatever.

Introduce yourself to them with your hashtag.

“How cool. We’re #H2OWeavers, too! Nice to meet you. We’d love to get to know you better.”

Maybe even extend a discount to fellow #WaterWeavers.

Generate buzz for yourself and your good hashtag with a contest.

In the case study that I keep hammering, we looked at how the #Yogais hashtag contest:

  • Generated momentum for the nonprofit’s social properties
  • Developed strategic relationships with industry influencers
  • Gained traction and tightened followership in a very niche audience
  • Fostered goodwill in our online and offline communities
  • Increased in-house and staff buy-in and participation in social media activities

You should totally do that.

  • Giveaway merchandise credit. Call that your ad budget for the month.
  • No merch to give? What about branded swag? Screen-printed tote bags? Even better, invest in next gen branded swag that proudly displays your good new hashtag.
  • No budget for swag? Giveaway a free session with you or your chief service provider.
  • Let the winner be chosen by crowdsourcing. That is, the one who generates the most traction for you, your brand, and your hashtag wins. Depending on the platform(s) you decide to use, you might reward the most likes, shares, retweets, tags, comments, and other vote-signals.

And, here comes my CTA:

I can’t wait to hear what’s your good hashtag? Need help uncovering it? Comment at me below and we’ll put our heads together.

Feature image credit: Flickr user Werktuigendagen, License: CC Attribution-Share-Alike

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Suzanne Hoenig is a strategist and writer helping small businesses, nonprofits, and private practitioners craft their marketing copy, grow their online and offline community, and navigate the changing tides of social media and digital content marketing.
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