5 Tips for Marketing with #Hashtags

A hashtag, for the uninitiated, is a # symbol placed before a word or series of words, with no spaces in between. The practice originated on Twitter, first pinoneed by Chris Messina in August 2007 as a way for users to carry on a conversation or search for messages pertaining to a certain subject (channel). It has spilled over onto Facebook, in email, in print and has even become a hand gesture – with two  fingers placed crosswise over two fingers.

For example, the hashtag can initiate a discussion, that in turn becomes a spirited debate – #BestAlbumOfTheYear. Or the hashtag can spawn an idea that inspires a movement – #OccupyWallStreet.

As  a marketer, how can you harness the power of the hashtag?  Read on.

1. RIDE THE HASHTAG WAVE

Do you sell organic seeds and want to increase your brand’s awareness in the organic gardening community? Start by searching on hashtags related to your business – #seeds, #garden, and #organic. Then join the exchange of information in progress. Don’t hard sell your company. Instead, recommend that a farmer attend the Organic Seed Growers Conference or explain how you preserve heirloom seed varieties. Make sure your Twitter page includes a link to your business site, enabling you to gain more visitors and traffic as your Twitter following grows.

2. LAND PRESS VIA HASHTAGS

You own a handmade toy company and want to secure publicity leading up to the holidays. Determine the people you want to pitch. From major toy retailers to parent bloggers, industry publications to celebrity moms, introduce your toys via a hashtag. You can lead with a simple #Introduction. Or use a hashtag to convey humor or a toy benefit: “Can you put our handmade Soma cube back together before your child can? #BraggingRights #CustomersReportIncreaseInSmiling.”

3. DRIVE TRAFFIC VIA HASHTAG

Encourage Twitter users to visit your business by using a unique hashtag to communicate a great offer. During a traditionally slow time, Joe’s Diner tweets: “Tuesday lunch special – bring at least three friends between 2 – 5 p.m. and you get 25 percent off your bill. #JoeIsFeelingGenerous.” Or an online stationery store tweets: “Free shipping if you write us a poem in the Comments section during checkout. #NoRosesAreRedVioletsAreBlue.”

4. CONDUCT A WEBINAR AND INCORPORATE HASHTAGS TO FIELD QUESTIONS

A Webinar is a Web-based seminar where you present via computer – in real time – to your remote audience. Your audience never has to leave their home, but they can interact with you. Whether you’re launching a new product or announcing changes to existing services, leading a training session or demonstrating how to use an item, ask participants to include a specific hashtag with their questions or suggestions. That way, you can answer participants plus you may generate more seminar interest in the Twitterverse beyond the invited group.

5. USE HASHTAGS IN MODERATION

Hashtags should be used sparingly. You are looking to connect with Twitter users to market your business. Overusing hashtags dilutes your message and may annoy followers to the point where they unfollow you, or worse, consider you spam. Interact with users in a meaningful and professional way and your business will benefit from the marketing power of the hashtag.

Do you use hashtags in a cretive way?  Share below…

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Omar Kattan is Chief Strategy Officer at Sandstorm Digital, the MENA region's first specialist content marketing agency headquartered in Dubai. His experience includes 10 years in traditional marketing and advertising in the Middle East and a further 10 years at two of the largest media agencies in the UK. Follow Omar on Twitter for updates on the latest in digital, branding, advertising and marketing.

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