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A Beginner's Guide To Marketing With Hashtags

Hashtags seem to be everywhere these days. They have become a mainstream part of the culture, but lots of people are still trying to understand exactly what they are, how you use them, and why they exist. As a marketer you might be left wondering –

“How am I supposed to use hashtags for my business? – and should I invest the time to figure it out?”

Let’s start at the very beginning and then review everything you need to know to get up to speed on this topic.

According to Wikipedia:

A hashtag is a word or an unspaced phrase prefixed with the number sign (#). It is a form of metadata tag…Words in messages on microblogging and social networking services such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or Instagram may be tagged by putting “#” before them.

 What’s all that mean?

 Hashtags are the card catalog system of the 21st century – a method for tagging and then searching for topics

– Jason Miles

 Although hashtags are usually viewed through the specific social media platform you’re used on, most commonly Twitter and Instagram, they can also be viewed in a consolidated way via a third party viewer tool.

Exercise: Look At A Hashtag Viewer

The best way to begin to understand how hashtags work is to go look at them through an easy to use viewer tool. A viewer tool will allow you to see the big picture. You can look up any hashtag and see how it is being used.

I personally like statigram – recently renamed iconosquare.com It’s free and easy to use. To give it a whirl simply go to iconosquare and look for the search box in the top right corner.

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 4.13.56 PM

Simply type in a hashtag you’re curious about and look at the results. For example, type in “Pixiefaire” or “libertyjaneclothing”. Now try your brand, name, or other names you’re interested in. What you’re seeing is referred to as “User Generated Content” or UGC. Here is what we see when we type in pixiefaire:

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 3.56.43 PM

Can You Do Marketing With Hashtags?

Now that you know what a hashtag is and how to look at them. The next question is – can you can use hashtags for sales and marketing purposes? Yes! And that is the real powerful part about them. How do you do it? Let’s look at a simple hashtag marketing plan that you can implement without too much technical expertise.

A Hashtag Marketing Plan: Let’s outline a basic hashtag marketing plan. Here are the steps:

 Step #1 – Claim Your Hashtag & Promote It

The first and most obvious step is to begin using a hashtag in association with your work. You simply “claim it” by using it. There is no formal process and no one can truly own a hashtag. It can be your company name, your product name, a slogan, or just about anything else you want to use. Just realize anyone can use it – so don’t try to use a hashtag someone else has already taken. We started promoting the #pixiefaire hashtag by including a new widget box on our homepage that encouraged people to use #pixiefaire. Here is what that looks like:

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To generate enthusiasm and support you should begin including the hashtag(s) in your product listings, on your website, in your “about me” information, in your newsletters, and everywhere else your customers, fans, and followers might find it. The success of your hashtag promotion efforts will be directly tied to your brand power and influence. Strong brands will get significant engagement. Unknown brands will get very little engagement. But the good news is that even a few enthusiastic fans can make a big difference – so starting small is okay!

Step #2 – Track & Evaluate Usage

Use a free viewer tool, like Iconosquare.com to track and evaluate how your followers are using the hashtags you promote. You might be surprised to find a new level of community involvement in a fun and easy way. If it’s going well – work to take it to the next level. We were nicely surprised by how people started using the hashtag – and so we expanded it! You created an “inspiration” page that had a much larget collection of images. We talked about that in our newsletter and on our Facebook page. The full page looks like this:

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 1.17.44 PM

Step #3 – Thank & Engage Your Hashtag Users

Since most hashtags are used on Twitter and Instagram – you’ll want to get an account on each of those platforms. Then simply like, comment, or retweet the posts that include your hashtag(s). When you thank and acknowledge people for using your hashtag you reinforce the user behavior and join their conversation online. I’ll be honest, we need to get better at this step, (that’s one of our goals).

Step #4 – Add UGC Into The Sales Process

There are various ways to include the User Generated Content. We took the next step by including our product information on the images being displayed – the product image pops up as you scroll over the image. You can go see how it works on our inspiration page – you’ll see something like this:

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 5.33.14 PM

When you can include your community’s hashtag’ed content into your product listings then you’ve got some exciting stuff happening. This will become a common practice over the next few years – and it’s something every online seller should begin to understand and explore. I wouldn’t be surprised if sites like Amazon, Etsy, and eBay begin to offer these types of integration strategies. There are free tools available with limited functionality that you can use to get the UGC displayed on your site – and even website themes that are now starting to have this type of basic functionality built in.

The only tool we’ve found that allows you to integrate UCG into the product level sales process is Readypulse. [Full disclosure – I’m honored to serve as an Advisor to them and we couldn’t do what we’re doing on www.pixiefaire.com without them]. We are seeing exciting results and as we continue to learn new things about UGC I’ll continue to write about the journey. There are still lots of unanswered questions in our minds about how to do all of this, but it’s fun to begin to see it all come together.

Regardless of whether you use Readypulse, or another tool, or even create your own customer code – getting UGC onto your product pages is a HUGE ecommerce trend that is only going to get more and more common – and I’d imagine it will even become expected by customers.

Conclusion

Hashtags are not going away anytime soon. In fact, they’re just getting started as part of society. So the sooner you begin learning how to integrate them into your marketing the better! Take the first step on your hashtag marketing journey today. You’ll be well on your way to engaging with customers and fans in an exciting new way.

Do You Have A Question About Hashtags?

Leave a comment and tell us what you think – or ask a question about hashtags!

Jason & Cinnamon

4 Comments on A Beginner’s Guide To Marketing With Hashtags

  1. Jason, thanks so much for posting this info. I’ve been wanting to know more about hashtags, but hadn’t quite gotten to it. I appreciate your newsletter and all the info you are generous enough to share with us.

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