"Hashtag Marketing": Reaching Audiences and Making Money
Dr. Eric Grabowsky
With the expansion of the Internet in general and of social media in particular, marketing one’s product, service, or cause has become more difficult than one might think, even amid the multitude of opportunities to communicate with one’s intended audiences. It might seem that with the opening up of this technological terrain, things would be somewhat easier in terms of reaching potentially interested persons. Yet, this is not often the case. At bottom, people are saturated with media messages, both on and off the Internet.
At this point, it is quite possible that you have been working to increase your Twitter following, even across multiple Twitter accounts. So, when you reach your goal of getting this number of Twitter followers into the thousands, your sales will exponentially explode, correct? Well, not necessarily.
There are many folks out there who are looking to sell on Twitter, and it is an open question at any given time as to how many people are actually looking to buy something on the Internet (especially your product or service). Along the way, in building your Twitter following, you have had to follow a number of other Twitter users through one means or another. During the day or night, I am sure that you have seen the variety of promotional Tweets that are calling you to take action on this or that marketing product, professional service, or charitable cause. Sprinkled in between these Tweets are profound quotations, which are possibly (or likely) generated in some automatic way. This is thought (I guess) to give the effect of genuine interactivity, or at least to stay in accord with the user guidelines for marketing and advertising on Twitter.
By the way, are you familiar with the rules of Twitter? They are available as "The Twitter Rules" at the Twitter Help Center. You ought to get to know these rules so as to follow them! Now, I am not saying that you ought to give up on Twitter as a strong marketing tool. But, building Twitter followers alone is not going to be your ticket out of the everyday mechanics that go with the world of marketing communication. Sure, with an increase in Twitter followers it is more likely that you will make a sale or get a donation. With the sort of saturation that is indicated above, however, how much more likely is it really?
I will say straight away that you should be looking to increase your Twitter following on a daily basis (in accord with Twitter’s rules). Increasing your following will certainly help to widen that first wave of people who will see your promotional Tweets. Widening this base of followers will lead to increased online visibility, more frequent Retweets, and pertinent Twitter conversations. As you increase the number of your professional “relationships” on Twitter, you will need to think more about target marketing, that is to say, reaching audiences that are more likely to have a real interest in your product, service, or cause.
Time is money. Why not use the tools available for social media that will make more effective and efficient use of your established marketing time? If you are more efficient and effective in getting your message out to those audiences with more of an interest in what you do, there is a greater likelihood that your marketing efforts will lead to more success in your making money. Also, I am not saying that there is a secret “hashtag marketing” program with which you will begin to see an endless stream of PayPal notifications overnight.
Like with any fruitful marketing endeavor, competent “hashtag marketing” still requires work. You must focus your efforts upon those people who are more likely to visit your site with interest, rather than just those persons who are seeing the Tweets that you routinely put out there on Twitter. If you have a quality product, service, or cause, then it is more likely that these targeted folks will then utilize their site visiting time to purchase, subscribe, donate, etc. Targeted social advertising with Tweets can increase your website traffic.
So, where does one begin? I am going to assume here that you have a basic working knowledge of Twitter along with its system of hashtags (please see "Using hashtags on Twitter" at the Twitter Help Center). Beyond this basic working knowledge, you should begin with the obvious as to the product, service, or cause that you are looking to promote. For example, let us say that I have started a company that makes office supplies. With this, I am looking to get out the word about a line of tablets (of paper) that I want to sell on the Internet. Alongside of the well-written content of my Tweets, I might add the following: #officesupplies #writing #notes. This is just one range of possible hashtags for my tablets.
Regardless of what you are promoting, ask yourself the following question: What relevant words would a potential customer/donor affiliate with my product, service, or cause? There is another dimension of “the obvious” for this sort of public promotion—public promotion. If you are selling a product or service, the following hashtags might work with your Tweets: #marketing; #advertising; #promotion; #promotions; #ads; #sales; #selling.
So as to keep within the guidelines/rules of Twitter, be a bit careful here. Some products and services lend themselves more to these types of communicative terms than others. Twitter likes the hashtags used to be relevant to the content of a given Tweet. The Twitter rules indicate that you should not use more than three hashtags per Tweet, so plan your use of hashtags across the variety of Tweets that you put out there over a given period time.
Since so many promoted products and promoted services on Twitter have to do with marketing and advertising, these sorts of promotional hashtags would work just fine in those particular cases. However, if your product or service does not fall within this realm of marketing and advertising, it is arguable that an occasional hashtag along these lines would be okay, as you would be engaged in the activity of what is named with one or more of the hashtags used. Non-profits should use caution with this dimension of “the obvious,” except with regards to public relations. I will be writing about PR and hashtags at a later point in time.
For now, let us keep on with marketing (and advertising) as we look to the research of targeting with Twitter. With respect to the content of your Tweets, I should safely assume here that you have a sense of the features and advantages of what you are promoting. You ought to have an understanding of the basis on which you are expecting people to take notice of and to spend money on your product, service, or cause.
If you don’t have this sense, then don’t begin your “hashtag marketing” just yet. Sit down and reflect upon these aspects of your marketing plan. With these marketing items clearly on your mind, take the time to do research as to what is popular and trending on Twitter in terms of not only hashtags in particular, but in terms of topics and words in general. There are various sites out there for this sort of online study. In the future, I will here add some suggestions.
Do not just arbitrarily select hashtags or phrases because they are the most popular on a given day or during a given week. Look for those wordings that are relevant to what you are promoting. Follow Twitter’s rules and apply common sense, but be creative too. You are looking to gain the attention of those audiences who will likely visit your link and possibly spend available money. Make a list of all of those words that potential customers would legitimately affiliate with your product, service, or cause. See where those words are at in terms of trends and popularity. Ask yourself the following question as related to what you are promoting: Who is using what words on Twitter and why?
As with any good set of marketing practices, you will want to know what the competition is doing so that you can (as possible) communicate a degree of uniqueness to those audiences that you will discover. Of course, entities will have commonality of characteristics, strategies, and tactics, but don’t look to copy others as such. Sure, it is a good practice to emulate those marketers who have been successful with Twitter marketing. Ultimately, however, you will have to gain the attention of interested audiences by means of the proactive promotion and consistent implementation of what you do as a business or as a non-profit.
For my part, I have personally seen two major advantages of “hashtag marketing” in terms of online visibility. First, you will pick up followers who are in the ballpark of your product, service, or cause. These followers might be competitors, which is okay. A large part of the value of Twitter is that people who are involved in the same endeavors can share ideas and emulate others. You will also pick up followers who might have or do have a degree of interest in what you are promoting, especially if you are creative, legitimate, and targeted with your use of hashtags.
Second, because of my own use of hashtags, I have had Tweets appear within one or another publications from paper.li. Authors who use this site track hashtags so as to automatically gather content to feature in their publications via the Tweets out there in the universe of Twitter. In my observation, these publications often feature news stories, blog posts, and relevant products.
I am not the inventor of “hashtag marketing” as a concept or practice. For now, search out this term on Google. I have no idea who originated it as a notion (maybe some research here on my part will be included in the future). Yet, I have seen its value for gaining online visibility. It is an area of online communication that I will be thinking and writing about more as time goes forward, including the use of hashtags for public relations. I might post a general bibliography of online resources regarding the use of hashtags for marketing, advertising, and public relations.
Thank you for reading! EG
"'Hashtag Marketing': Reaching Audiences and Making Money"
Copyright 2012-2016, Dr. Eric Grabowsky