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Tweet Your Way to Better Business: The Secret of the Hashtags, Part II

Last week we discussed Twitter—specifically, Twitter as a tool for business promotion and brand management, not Twitter as a platform to ramble on and on about whatever you ate for breakfast this morning. Remember: Twitter is what you make of it. Approach it without vision or discretion and it’s only going to generate useless noise. Approach it with foresight, however, and you can really use it to your company’s advantage.

And hashtags are a great way to do that. Last week’s blog was all about selectively and effectively using pre-existing hashtags, and, if you’ll remember, my comments emphasized the importance of discretion—of using only the hashtags that really fit your business and its goals. But what do you do when there isn’t a hashtag that fits the bill? Simple: You make your own.

Easy, right? Well, yes and no. Of course, the simple act of creating a hashtag is a breeze—you just put the # character in front of a word. If you can’t handle that, I might suggest that Twitter isn’t for you. But creating a hashtag that will actually benefit your company and function as a useful brand management tool? That takes just a bit more finesse.

The first step is picking the word itself. Remember, the hashtag you use needs to be something that fits with your business. It also needs to be something that other Twitterers can easily use in their tweets. The whole point of this is to generate a sense of community, after all, by creating a memorable “trend” on Twitter—so make sure your hashtag is something that’s pretty easy to spell. You might also want to make it short. As a Twitter user, I will personally attest to the fact that, when a hashtag eats up half of your 140 characters, it’s usually way more frustrating than it’s worth.

Once you’ve settled on a good hashtag, just start using the thing. Attach it to your tweets, but remember to make those tweets pertinent. Don’t throw around your hashtags like spam; say something substantive in each tweet. And make it worth your followers’ while to use the hashtag themselves. For instance, let’s say you own a lawn equipment store. You could ask your followers what their favorite lawn maintenance activity is, and have them tag their answers with #lawnfavorites. Maybe offer a door prize of some sort for one lucky participant?

The idea, of course, is that using hashtags like this will help you cultivate a sort of community among your Twitter-savvy clients—keeping your name in front of them and keeping them interested in what you’re doing. As always, I should also note that Grammar Chic, Inc. offers superior services in brand management campaigns just like this, and that investing in said services could ultimately help your business convert Twitter followers into sales prospects.

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Tweet Your Way to Better Business: The Secret of the Hashtags, Part I

I love my Twitter feed. My dad doesn’t get it, though. He once told me that he wasn’t on Twitter because he’s not interested in hearing what so-and-so had for breakfast today. Fair enough—I’m not particularly keen on hearing that kind of thing, either. But my solution isn’t to avoid Twitter; it’s to only follow people with interesting or insightful Twitter accounts—be they musicians, politicians, comedians, pastors, artists, bloggers, or what have you.

That’s the thing that non-Twitter users are missing out on. Twitter is what you make of it. I’m sure it’s possible to have a Twitter experience that’s an absolute bore—but if that’s the boat you’re in, it’s probably the result of how you’ve chosen to use Twitter, not something that’s inherent to the social networking site itself. And if that’s true in personal Twitter use, I’m inclined to say it’s equally true in professional Twitter use. If you create a Twitter account for your business and assume it’s not going to amount to anything lucrative, well, it probably won’t. But an open mind and an enterprising, imaginative spirit can turn Twitter into an excellent tool for generating and cultivating business.

One of the best ways to use a corporate Twitter account is to utilize hashtags. Even a novice Twitterer knows about hashtags, but for the uninitiated, here’s a crash course. A hashtag is created when you attach a hash symbol (#) to the front of a word—for example, a hashtag for the topic of my home state would be #Tennessee, and my favorite minor league baseball team would be #CharlotteKnights. Grammar Chic tweets might come adorned with #CharlotteWriting or #EditingService. Using a hashtag creates a sort of searchable database, a catalog of posts that all address the same topic. It makes it easy for Twitter users to locate tweets that are about the same thing.

You can employ existing hashtags to help make your business Twitter account an effective brand management tool—in fact, you’d be foolish not to. For one thing, hashtags tend to spread pretty quickly; at any given moment, several of the “trending topics” on Twitter are bound to be hashtag phrases. Moreover, a lot of users will use hashtags to search for information. Using hashtags to your advantage is a great way to extend your reach and get your name or brand in front of people.

So which hashtags should you use? Well, obviously, that depends on exactly what your business is. You want to make sure to pick hashtags that are relevant; a #JustinBieber hashtag is probably not a great option for, say, a law firm. (Unless the Beib is one of your clients, I suppose.) But then, one of the most enduringly popular hashtags is #tastytuesday, where folks tweet all about food. If you own a restaurant or a food service company, you ought to jump on that one. Search for the hashtags that might relate to your business and try to get your name out there into the fray.

You might think in particular about using a site that gauges the most popular and effective hashtags. One of them is twubs.com, a full directory of useful and effective hashtags. Another is whatthetrend.com, which evaluates the effectiveness of “trending” hashtags. Both of these references are indispensable for business-grade Twitterers seeking to use social networking as a means for brand management.

Let me give one word of caution, though: Make sure you don’t turn your company Twitter account into a spam generator. Following the proper Twitter etiquette is essential for ensuring that you maintain followers—and if you don’t have followers, the whole thing is moot. So don’t ever attach “trending” hashtags to tweets that are totally off-topic, and don’t attach random hashtags to tweets in which the content is unrelated.

Of course, if you can’t find an existing hashtag that meets your business needs, you can always create your own—but that’s a whole different topic for a whole different blog post. Tune in next week for a discussion of how you might create a perfect, brand new hashtag to suit your business needs. For now: It warrants a mention that Grammar Chic, Inc. offers professional service in brand management and social media integration—which means, in essence, that we can help do remarkable things with your Twitter account, helping you use it to truly grow and cultivate your business.

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