How to Use Hashtags for Your #Business

Hashtag

rHow to Use Hashtags for Your #Business

Blair Callahan

The hashtag seems to be everywhere now that big-names like Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Google+ have adopted it, and adapting to its growing popularity is important in the social media world. Businesses with Twitters aren’t the only ones using them anymore, so the hashtag can’t be ignored any longer. Here are some ways to use them:

  1. The most popular way to use hashtags is fairly straightforward—you hashtag a word or group of words to create a link that people can click on to see who else is discussing the same tag that you used. This is a useful way to track how many people are using your specific, original hashtag and what they’re saying. You can start a discussion as a business and people who follow your account can respond and use the hashtag that you promote. Remember that capital letters in tweets don’t matter for search results, but spaces and punctuation won’t register and will mess up the hashtag.

Example: “Food truck rodeo today! Visit us and tweet your favorites using #FayettevilleStreetRaleigh”

  1. If your business wants to give a discount or a deal to the users who use their hashtag in a tweet, it’s an easy way to confirm their participation and their use gets your business’s name on the timelines of their followers. You can also hashtag the name of an event or sale that your business is having, so that people who attend or have questions about the event can use that particular hashtag to discuss it with other attendees or to just show that they’re going.

Example: “Retweet with your favorite salsa flavor and you get one taco on us! Use the hashtag #TacoBellSalsa and show us your tweet when you come in”

Example: “Going to the #JCPennyFlashSale this morning with Lilly!”

  1. Humor and voice is another way to use hashtags. Tweets with clever hashtags by businesses tend to keep their current followers interested in the brand—it might not gain new followers the same way that a searchable, relevant hashtag might, but it keeps your current followers entertained. These can also help demonstrate your brand identity as long as it stays true what the business might possibly say. Following Twitter trends (as long as they’re appropriate) are also good ways to entertain your followers. The trending hashtags are on the left side of your screen, and you can set it so that it shows your area or the entire country.

Example: “We’re sick of this rain at El Rodeo, too! Don’t leave us alone with this queso #eatingitall #comeinandseeus #butreally #quesoisgone”

A good combination of these types of hashtags makes it so that your business’s page isn’t redundant or boring, and that you’re getting good use out of the hashtags that you use. The hashtag isn’t going away anytime soon—no more ignoring its many #uses.

by Blair Callahan on LinkedIN at: www.linkedin.com/in/blaircallahan

Aso see Martin Brossman’s book on How to Use Hashtags on Amazon at: 
http://www.amazon.com/How-Use-Hashtags-Martin-Brossman-ebook/dp/B00JCD1II4/

How to Market a University in the Age of Social Media

Marketing a UniversityUniversity Marketing in the Age of Social Media By Cynthia Fobert

Research shows that people are suspicious of slick brand messaging and resent interruption advertising.  According to Martin Brossman, social media guru and co-author of Social Media for Business, they regularly block, skip or mute it.  Instead, consumers rely on what some anonymous reviewers say about your product or business online because these sources are assumed to offer authentic unbiased accounts. Unflattering comments on social media can override commercial marketing messages, and this phenomenon holds true for any branded entity, including universities.

It is not a stretch to suppose that if prospective students are checking reviews to decide where to go for lunch, they might also consult Google or Yelp regarding which university they should attend.  Although social media may be a preliminary source of advice when selecting a college, not all universities are paying close attention to what is being said about them in these online forums.

 To arrive at a plan to help turn around declining enrollment at a large, public, research-intensive university, I conducted an analysis of its social media profile.  Let’s call this institution U-One.  Searching Yelp for reviews of all universities in that city, I found two rival institutions were represented, but U-One did not appear at all. Certainly, in-state students would know about the existence of U-One from local media coverage and advertising, but for any out-of-state or foreign students for whom Yelp serves as a preferred platform for reviews, U-One was invisible.

 There were Google reviews posted about U-One, but these were problematic.  Not only was U-One’s overall rating weaker than its cross-town rival, the top three reviews and the only ones visible when you opened the window were scathing and unanswered. Although the effect of these reviews is difficult to measure, U-One was not in a position to ignore them.

 I recommended that U-One establish a system of monitoring and countering negative reviews with statements written and posted by students who hold very different opinions.  Social media staff should be in the business of canvassing faculty for successful students who might be called upon to write occasional positive reviews or to provide timely responses to attacks.  These responses must be real, honest and entirely authentic.  Little should be managed beyond the timing.

Just based on size, U-One’s Facebook and Twitter numbers should dwarf those of the small public university with which I am most familiar, North Carolina Central University (NCCU).  But this was not the case.  Despite having one-sixth of the student and alumni populations of U-One, NCCU had more Facebook likes and 14 times more Twitter followers.  A review of U-One’s Facebook content revealed why.

 Social Media Performance Comparison

U-One

NCCU

Student Population

55,000

   8,300

Alumni Population

250,000+

40,000

Facebook Page Likes

13,000

16,000

Twitter Followers

500

  7,000

 Prospective students will check out a university’s Facebook page to see what is happening on campus. It is a critical engagement and marketing vehicle.  At the time of my review, U-One’s Facebook timeline included a post of the CEO’s formal statement regarding an on-campus shooting.  Living 1,000 miles away, I would never have known about this incident had it not been for this post.  How many prospective parents and students learned of this episode this way?

 Other posts exhorted students to complete their senior surveys.

 Facebook offers a golden opportunity to showcase for prospective students what a vibrant and exciting life is in store for them if they choose to attend.  Consistent with the medium’s culture and message properties, content should be fun, social and full of great photos.  Posts should suggest things to do and see on campus and follow up with pictures and news about what they missed.  Primarily, the interests served by the posts should be those of your followers.  Otherwise, why should they follow you?

 Communication such as the CEO’s response to a serious incident on campus, crime reports, surveys and deadlines is better disseminated through segmented mass email.  Targeted email and web-page announcements are the workhorses of business communication. In an emergency, Twitter, phone and text messages, email, webpage alerts, and on-campus video and loudspeaker announcements get the job done.  Let Facebook be Facebook.

 U-One recently launched a slick, professional branding campaign with perfected photos and sanitized student, faculty and alumni statements. An illustration of the changing times in marketing today is the comparison of the number of YouTube views received by one of U-One’s professional marketing videos — less than 3,000 — with those garnered by an amateur, unsanctioned student production — 60,000 views.   How much less would it cost and how much more effective would it be for U-One to offer technical assistance to student interns to produce authentic videos marketing the university in a way that reaches those who regularly block, skip or mute obvious branding messages?

by Cynthia Fobert, a Graduate of The Social Media Management Certificate Training