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Papas 300

There have been valid business reasons to use hashtags for years. Twitter started it off. Pinterest added to it. Google+ mastered it in many ways. Instagram, Tumblr… the list of social sites on which hashtags are relevant is long. Facebook was the last major holdout. Now that they’ve joined the bandwagon, it’s go time.

Mastering the use of hashtags takes practice, testing, experimenting, and more practice. Thankfully, there are few things you can keep in mind that will make the journey much easier. Here are some basic techniques for using hashtags that should help you find your own strategy pretty easily…


Send a Message through Emphasis

This is hands-down the easiest and arguably most effective use of hashtags on a regular basis. It’s also, oddly enough, the most misused or underutilized. In the example above, there are no major hashtags that people search for or click through to on a regular basis. They aren’t designed to market anything in particular. They’re meant to make the words themselves stand out in the text and to enhance the message itself through emphasis.

Notice the words that are hashtagged – affordable, beauty, performance, reliability. There aren’t a whole lot of better words to use in a description of a used Chysler 300. It makes the message stand out in the stream and helps to punctuate the overall message of the post itself.


Latch on to Trending Topics

This is the most used technique to use with hashtags and is also arguably the least useful, especially for a local business. Trying to “trend surf” can be dangerous as some businesses have found it. It also means trying to stand out in a very large crowd. However, that doesn’t mean they’re useless.

The easiest way to make them effective is to latch onto national campaigns associated with hashtags that are relevant to business. For example, a Toyota dealer would want some posts with the hashtag #Toyotathon when the event comes around. Local trending hashtags can also be useful. For example, #Travelers and #Golf were both trending in Connecticut at the beginning of the Travelers Championship held in Cromwell, CT.


Personalized Hashtags

If you can make this one work, you’re a winner. Many big brands fail miserably at this. They can turn into debacles that allow the trolls of the internet to desecrate a brand and their message. However, it’s worth noting as something to explore when you have something really strong to promote.

The essence is this – make and spread a hashtag that is attached to your brand, then ask (hope) people will use it in a positive fashion. No need to go into the gory details here, but this backfires much more often than it works. Still, businesses will continue to try it and occasionally some of them strike gold.

* * *

Hashtags work. They should not be overused. They should not be utilized for spamming. Put in the proper context, they can be great ways to highlight your message and get it exposed to a wider range of potential customers.

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Can Facebook come up with one original idea! OMG, like seriously!

Facebook has always wanted to edge in on Twitter’s Interest Graph.

The idea is, it’s a boon for ad dollars, as Twitter’s real-time stream taps into the immediate sentiment of the crowd. Facebook’s Friend Graph, while powerful, isn’t designed for immediacy.

At least, not yet. As was previously reported by The Wall Street Journal, and as I’ve verified through sources of my own, Facebook plans to launch its own Linkify’d version of the hashtag, allowing users to connect common themes and trending topics around the social network by adding the simple hashtag symbol to a status update. Clicking through sends a reader down a rabbit hole of information, all connected to the hashtag being followed.

“We don’t comment on rumors and speculation,” Facebook told AllThingsD.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Facebook already hinted at something like this at its News Feed redesign event last week. Breaking up the entire feed into separate verticals — like photos, music, and the entiresharing stream instead of only some shares — was the most Twitter-y thing Facebook has done yet. I’m surprised they didn’t introduce the linked hashtags throughout the service at the News Feed event.

But drilling down on the hashtag specifically is a direct affront to Twitter, potentially dipping into Twitter’s valuable ad dollar territory.

Look at it this way: Imagine the power, Twitter would say, of an advertiser sticking an ad in a user’s face at the exact time they want to see it. If a user follows a hashtag about, say, #desserts, a company like Hostess could sell ads against anyone who searches that hashtag, sticking a promoted tweet for their delightful pink Sno-Balls in front of everyone following the hashtag. It’s a practice that’s slowly catching on for the advertisers who can understand it (but not every brand is totally up to speed on how to best advertise on Twitter).

Facebook, on the other hand, can’t tap into that trending sentiment quite as effectively. While the company does attempt to place relevant ads in the News Feed and lower-right-rail to reach its users, it would do better to let people dig deeper into trends across categories. So blatantly ripping off Twitter makes some sense here.

And Facebook has hinted that this could be a reality for the site. In January, the company debuted Graph Search, the nascent way of digging deep into Facebook by making connections through the Friend Graph. Also, Instagram has used hashtags for some time, though that seems to have grown out of the language of Twitter.

Essentially, edging in on Twitter’s advertising territory by offering a better way to connect ads to users could spell trouble for Twitter.

But there’s a glass-half-full way of looking at this.

One of Twitter’s largest issues has been its difficulty translating just how normal people are supposed to use the hashtag in the first place. When on-boarding new users, they’re faced with a litany of “at symbols” and hashtags, a language of Twitter’s own that isn’t immediately clear. Not to mention the difficulty of letting users know how to use hashtags effectively in search and discovery; right now, Twitter’s search and discovery tab has improved, but it has long been terrible.

So Facebook’s widespread adoption of this language could actually bring the lexicon to the masses, essentially introducing a billion newbies to a gnarly language — one which Twitter is still trying to figure out how to introduce to users.

Remember, Twitter: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Just hope that this rip-off is to your advantage.

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Use Hashtags Instead of Social Icons on Ads

If you ever want a crash course on the latest social media studies but don’t want to spend the money to do them yourself, just watch the Super Bowl. You have to assume that if companies are spending millions to produce and distribute 30 second spots for the big game, they’re going to research what’s working today.

This year’s big takeaway was a shift in the way that companies were presenting their social media. As described here, there’s even a debate about the winners and losers. The results of the research were easy to spot. Many advertisers decided that hashtags were the way to go social this year.

If you think about it, nothing could be simpler to understand. Hashtags are social network agnostic with the glaring exception of Facebook. Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, and countless other social networks apply hashtags to their streams to allow for tagging and easier searching. Popular hashtags often get featured on these sites. It’s a way to win bigger than simply posting a Twitter handle or Facebook page URL.

You should apply the same concept to your campaigns, particularly when interaction is a part of it (and it should be). It’s no longer about sending people to your profiles through your advertising. They won’t go. If they want to interact with you on social media, they’ll find you (at least they should be able to if you’re doing it right in search and on your website). They will, however, be willing to take part in a conversation. The best way to group conversations on every venue other than Facebook is through hashtags.

For Facebook, things are different and that deserves a blog post of its own, but for now if you focus on hashtags to spread your campaign messages in your advertising (print, television, and just about everywhere else), you’ll find that your social media interactions can improve. If you’re still posting your profile handle next to a blue bird, you’re probably not getting anything out of it and simply wasting space.

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Twitter Birds

Twitter is not a challenge for most car dealers. It's pretty easy be above average as a dealership because most of your competitors aren't doing it at all. Getting to the next level isn't that hard, either, as long as you apply some basic strategies.

Hashtags are one such strategy.

In the video below, we discuss how to apply Twitter hashtags to your Tweets and posts in order to improve their exposure and enhance your messaging. There are more strategies that we'll discuss soon that are much more advanced, but starting with the basics is often enough to take a Twitter account from above average to really good.

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