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Op-Ed: Making good choices when it comes to hashtags

By Anne Marie Marais     Apr 29, 2014 in Business
The hashtag can be a very useful tool, but a powerful one. What you put after that little hashtag can bring you great success but potential failure. A thoughtful hashtag plan is well worth the time for a small business.
As I've mentioned in previous posts, the hashtag can be an incredibly useful tool for business, especially small businesses. You can use it to connect with like minded people and businesses and as an extension of your brand and values. But you must be mindful of your usage and ensure that it's being used well.
The other day I was explaining to a client the correct use of hashtags and she asked if there was a limit to how many you use in a Facebook or Twitter post. The answer, I proclaimed loudly, was YES. No question there must be parameters put around what you put after that all important #. However, this is not the case with all people and businesses.
You quite often see the extreme usage of it through personal tweets, sometime the work of the younger generation. It may work for what they are talking about, but you definitely do not want to get caught in that mess.
You can see that with hashtags like:
You have far more important things to say than that, but must still be mindful of what you're doing.
In my opinion, and many others, you really don't want to use more than 3 hashtags in any one tweet or post. Some like to place them at the end of a tweet/post, but if you are tight on space, placing them with in the text of the tweet as they fit in the sentence is acceptable. That's how I feel and is what I do.
If you're creating a hashtag for a special event or promotion that your company is involved in, ensure that you and others read that hashtag every which way so you don't end up with a big #FAIL.
Do you remember Susan Boyle? Well, the marketing team from your music label wanted to make use of social media to promote and get the buzz going about your album Standing Ovation, so they created this hashtag. Now, as you can see it read very different when all the words were put together.
Definitely a #FAIL. Tough lesson to learn.
Another example of a #fail can happen with the best intentions. Some of the biggest brands really just want to hear from their customers and don't always consider the negativity that can come back at them.
One of the world's biggest brands, McDonald's, had to learn the hard way with #McDStories. This hashtag was hijacked with stories that were not so positive about people's experiences eating McDonald's. You can just image what the result was. Proof that you need to consider all sides when you create and implement a hashtag to start a conversation among your followers and customers.
Definitely something that the NYPD should have done before they launched their recent #MyNYPD where they had hopes of people taking fun pics with their officers. You can see the results for yourself here #MyNYPD
I'm not trying to scare you with these stories, just want you to carefully create and use hashtags for your small business. There are some great success stories of companies using hashtags. They can help you create engagement, support and interest in your company and product.
A very creative and successful example of a hashtag was implemented by Domino's Pizza in the UK with #letsdolunch. They promised to decrease the price of one particular pizza by one pence every time someone tweeted the hashtag #letsdolunch between 9-11am on that day. After 85,000 tweets, the price dropped from £15.99 to £7.74, and Domino's offered that price from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day. (from Mashable)
Here are a few tips for a creating a hashtag for your business:
- Try to include your company name or product in the hashtag
- Keep is as short as possible so as to not take up too many of the valuable 140 characters in a tweet.
- Do your research and make sure that your hashtag is unique, as you don't want it be using one that is already in use for something else. You want to be unique.
- However, you can use an already established hashtag if you want to get in front of that group, but couple this with a unique one for your business.
There is success to be had with hashtags. Just be mindful of what you are saying, how it looks and what the potential results could be. Be prepared for negativity, but also overwhelming successful. You have to be able to deliver on what ever promise you've made.
And whatever you do, don't over do the hashtags like these two.
Anne-Marie, owner of Long Leg Productions, is a seasoned social media marketer. Clients such as the Toronto Star and Blue Line Innovations, work with Anne-Marie to increase their social presence in order to develop and retain community. You can follow Anne-Marie on Twitter @atmarais.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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