Hashtags: you should be using them

When I began to notice friends’ Facebook posts ending in wacko stuff like #husbandsjustdontunderstand #lovemyhouse #hatemylife I closed my eyes and my ears. I most certainly did NOT want to know what new thing they were all coming up with, nor did I wish to find out I would need to use them. So, like an ostrich, I buried my head in the internet sand and happily lived without using one… single… hashtag… ever!

What’s nice, is that I was in good company. Plenty of us older twenty-somethings/younger thirty somethings, i.e., the dinosaurs of this new technological age, have had it with new weird things we “have” to do. Facebook, sure. Twitter, sure. Add in Google+ and LinkdIn, umm, oookay, if we have to. Throw hashtags into everything? I give up, man! I can barely figure out how to call someone on my dumb smartphone, let alone put hashtags on the end of my tweets and posts. As if I needed one more thing to do!

Part of the reason I didn’t want to use them at all ever, was that I didn’t understand their purpose. Gibberish, that’s what they were. And then I started thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could find all of the random posts I’ve ever posted everywhere? Too bad there isn’t a way to tag them all so I can find them on Google.” Oh wait. Someone has already figured it out. And those are the dreaded hashtags.

Of course, it’s also a way to share similar content with hashtag groupies. If people like stupid pictures of popped balloons, there’s a hashtag for it. If there isn’t, you can make one right now. #stupidpicturesofpoppedballoons There! It exists! And everyone can start tagging their pictures of popped balloons with it. It’s a really cool organizational tool (I know I date myself whenever I say cool. Sorry. I used to be cool).

Now, the juicy part. How do these things work from a business angle? There are analytics, strategies, do’s and don’ts. How can you make hashtags work for you? After reading a ton of stuff about hashtags, here is what I took away for myself:

  • Although you can put a hashtag on anything you want, they are only really effective via Twitter (highest), Instagram, and Google+. LinkedIn didn’t really like them. What about Facebook? Studies keep showing that interaction drops out when Facebook users add in hashtags (perhaps it’s a symptom of tech dinosaurs). Other social media users haven’t really caught up, so if you’re sticking with mainstream, there you go.
  • Limit yourself to TWO hashtags. Analysts show the level of engagement is highest when there are two, count’em, two. Not so much at one, and then hashtag overload past two.
  • Make one of your hashtags your brand and another one something trendy.

That is as simple as I can make it for my brain-on-four-kids. If I can figure it out, so can you!

I like to leave my readers with a laugh. In case I’m not the only one who didn’t see this until yesterday, this video clip is pretty funny. Note: bad word bleeped out at the end.

Click on me and watch funny movie clip#haha

Have fun playing with hashtags. Signing off.

Should your business be on Instagram or Flickr (or both?)

As a content and social media firm, we are often asked which channels a company needs to be part of.  Today I’d like to make the case for adding Instagram and Flickr to your social media mix.

Let’s state a couple premises we operate from at the outset:

1.  No matter how much Google AdWords has trained us, not everything is trackable.  The classic example is the Instagramcustomer who has heard about you from two different friends, seen you on Facebook, and calls after getting a direct mail piece.  Do you credit that sale to a direct mail or would the customer have eventually contacted you based on the personal referrals and/or fb visibility.  In social media, as in life, 50% (or more) of success is just consistently showing up.  Adding one or two more channels to your social media mix is only a marginal increase in time spent.

2.  Visual mediums are not restricted to visual products.  Instagram and Flickr curate photos, it is true, but you can also insert infographics and pictures of your stuff, special occasions, and interesting happenings (Just because you make an “uninteresting widget” doesn’t mean you can’t have an interesting account).

With those two premises in mind:

a.  Do you want to reach a younger, tech-savvy, social audience?  Instagram is great for that.  Both Instagram and flickr have tools to allow people to “discover” using hashtags.  While facebook and Google+ are now getting into this game also, it is at the heart of Instagram and is a great way to engage your audience.  One example?  Throwback Thursday, also known as #tbt.  It’s a way to have a “retro” shot.  Here’s a creative way I did this on my personal account a few weeks ago.flickr-logo-alexleite

b.  Do you want to challenge yourself and your team to be more creative in your outreach?  Nothing like a visual format to force that.  You’ll be amazed at the insights gained and thought processes formed by creating and maintaining good Instagram/Flickr accounts.

c.  Do you want to discover new resources and inspiration for yourself, even as you seek to share yourself?  Something great about this medium is you have so many opportunities to be inspired yourself.  Check out Red Bull or Ben and Jerry’s for cool ideas as to how to make your Instagram sing.

d.  Do you like to break up the routine of Facebook, Twitter, and Google+?  These channels, which only the best of your competitors are on, will give you a real chance to not just differentiate yourself, but also break up the routine of those other channels as you cross-post and cross-promote.

Yes, it’s “one more thing” in social media – but it’s something that can be thought through, added, and maintained.  If you want help, reach out and contact us!

The proper treatment for social media overload

When it comes to social media, the array of options is dizzying.  Facebook is the biggest, of course, with 1.2 billion users.  Twitter comes next, but then comes a glut of others, including — but certainly not limited to — Google+, Pinterest, Vine, Tumblr, and so on.  Then there are a boatload of other services that may have another primary purpose but still contain a social aspect to it, like LinkedIn, Instagram, and Flickr.  There are other players who are huge in their own industries but are trying to bust into the social sphere, like Netflix, Amazon, or YouTube.  There are also an increasing number of hardware manufacturers like Samsung or Sony that are integrating their own “apps” into hardware devices like Blu-ray players to try to play in this space.  As if the waters weren’t muddy enough, there is an increasing number of so-called “curators” like Pulse, Zite, or Flipboard, who simply gather content generated by other outlets and arrange them in simple and intuitive interfaces, integrating social media-like functionality as a secondary feature.  So what should you use to promote your business?

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The answer to that perplexing quandary is, without question…it depends.

It’s simply not realistic to avoid social media altogether, at least not if you’re intending to grow through the 21st century.  You could take the opposite approach and try to hit them all, but that would take a small herd of twenty-somethings, each armed with more smartphones than hands.  There has to be a middle ground somewhere.

The key is targeting.  Before you devise your social media strategy, you have to answer a few questions.  Who are you trying to reach?  Seventy percent of Pinterest users are women.  LinkedIn is known for its prowess in job searching and career-related content.  Google+ is where you need to be if you’re looking for or addressing a technically savvy crowd.  If you’re trying to reach mobile users in particular, social media consumes a whopping 30% of mobile users’ time all by itself, and 63% of year-on-year social media growth is via mobile apps and website usage, so social media is the way to get to your audience.  If you’re focusing on your business’ brand, Instagram is the place to be.  If you’re looking to find a niche and let the market itself grow the size of that niche, then Facebook and Twitter are out since they’re sitting at something like 0-4% adoption rate; on the other hand, Pinterest and Instagram are growing by leaps and bounds at a clip of about 25-35% per quarter.  Of course, for sheer magnitude of reach, you simply cannot beat Facebook or Twitter, each of which have more users than most of the other services combined.

Another key question is: how and what are you trying to communicate?  If you’re looking to send out a major chunk of text, don’t bother with Instagram or Pinterest – blogs are the ideal forum for you, with Facebook or Google+ a close second.  For high-quality still photos, though, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr are perfect.  YouTube is the undisputed champion of video, but Vine has picked up a huge following for quickie videos that are easy to share, too.  Neither of those are any good at text, though.  Twitter is terrific for witty banter or frequent updates on events or fast-moving real world developments, but long conversations simply aren’t possible.  Customer service functions are rapidly moving into Twitter because it is the only genuinely real-time communication in social media.  I have personally contacted companies via Twitter for fast help at least half a dozen times and gotten good response almost every time.

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The bottom line is that you first need to understand your own business, and how you want to portray yourself to the rest of the world.  It’s better to cherry pick two or three social media services that are a good fit for what you’re trying to do than to cram a round peg into a square hole simply for the sake of “getting out there.”  The Internet is clogged with enough useless digital vomit already, so don’t contribute even more!  Keep it focused, keep it relevant, and keep it coming regularly.  The key result you’re looking for is to get engagement from your followers and/or customers.  Getting likes or comments or shares is how you know you’ve found both a receptive audience and a good vehicle for reaching that audience.  And don’t think for a moment that no one will care about your business, no matter what it is.  Velveeta has over 7,000 followers on Twitter and over 150,000 likes on Facebook.  If processed cheese food can get that kind of a following, so can you.  You just need to know who you are, who you’re trying to reach, and what you’re trying to accomplish.