Why you shouldn’t hashtag all the things

As you would expect a large part of my professional life is spent online. I’m either writing or reading blogs, or interacting with a wide variety of people via social media. (occasionally I also do “proper” work, but I avoid it as much as possible). As a result I see a lot of the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to content and digital marketing.

One of my personal pet peeves, the sort of thing that makes me disappear in to a corner and bang my head against a wall is over enthusiasm when it comes to hashtags.  No doubt you’ve seen the sort of posts I’m referring to.

#Your #statusupdates #look #so #cool #with #your #hashtags #saidnoonever

Today one particular post has sent me over the edge (it contained 18 different combinations of essentially the same tag) and it’s time to call a Hashtag Intervention.

What is the purpose of a hashtag?

Once upon a forever ago the hashtag (#) was simply referred to as the pound sign.

For musical types, you may even have referred to it as the sharp sign.

Personally, it’s always been the noughts-and-crosses board, but I accept I may be in a club of one there.

Regardless of what the sign means to you, when it comes to social media the humble # has been elevated to supernova stardom. Now it is used to draw attention, organise and promote content.

Twitter started using hashtags to make it easier for users to find, follow and contribute to specific conversations. If you wanted to find out what the latest news was in Manchester, you would simply search #Manchester and you’d have access to everyone who had used that tag.

#Simples.

How to use them

Whilst many people will know what they are, and even what they’re meant to do, few seem to really understand how to use them.

Here then are my top tips to ensure you’re making the right impact:

  1. Be specific – whilst there are some rules when it comes to using a hashtag, the reality is you can pick anything. With an endless array of options it serves to be focussed. If you are selling products for newborns, don’t imply rely on #parents, instead try to attract #NewMums or #newborn #baby to really hit your target audience.
  2. Consider the platform – although you can now use hashtags on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram etc it is important to bear in mind the platform you are using. For example, Instagram tags will tend to focus on the content of a picture whilst on Twitter tags are used to engage in particular conversations.
  3. Don’t go too long – hashtags need to be memorable, and more importantly, readable. Hashtags count as characters, and if they’re too long to type, people simply won’t bother. Equally, too many words strung together and it becomes impossible to read clearly. #ItsNotACaseOfGoBigOrGoHome
  4. Maintain a balance – posts with more hashtags then general words are meaningless. It’s true that the more hashtags you use, the more users you are likely to reach as you tap in to more searches and conversations. However, your content becomes impossible to read as it doesn’t actually contain anything worth reading. My advice is don’t exceed more than five tags per post. And ideally, keep it lower than that.

As always, if you need any advice, tips or help when it comes to curating content or posting on social media, the team at Time Saving Heroes are on hand to help out. Give us a call on our hero hotline: 0161 883 2024, email hello@timesavingheroes.co.uk or get in touch via Twitter or Facebook.

 

 

 

 

If you’re avoiding social media because of this, then you’re missing the point

The vast majority of the people who follow this blog are business owners (usually SMEs), and as such I imagine this post will resonate somewhat.

This week I had a meeting with a potential client who wanted to find out more about the services I offered.  Initially they were interested in content for their website, but conversation drifted to social media.  They immediately admitted they could see the upside, but the thing that worried them the most was this – what if they (i.e. their customers) took to social media to complain?

It’s entirely plausible that I’ve been doing this for too long because honestly it took me a while to understand what their problem was.

We all know that customers sometimes complain. Occasionally they complain for apparently no reason – some people just can’t be helped. No, it’s never nice to be complained about, so I get that; however, every complaint is an opportunity to wow.

Ah, but a complaint on social media could go viral they tell me.

Yes, I acknowledge, it could. However, you have 15 followers and sell a niche product, the chance is slim. And if it happened, your business would probably benefit from the publicity.

It’s not really worth the risk though, they argue.

Harumph.

Let’s cut to the chase here. Your customers will not complain because you are on social media. If they feel strongly enough to complain, they will find a way to do so.  This obsession that somehow a complaint on a Facebook page is going to destroy your business is simply ridiculous.

How did customers used to complain?  In person. The law of Sod would also dictate they’d wait until your store was at its busiest before they did so. The result? Other people would hear.

You know what impact those complaints have on your target audience? Nothing – provided of course you handle it correctly.

Online complaints are no different.

If someone complains on social media, and you address it courteously and in a timely manner, you will always come away looking better.   As a result, social media is not a thing to be feared. It is an opportunity to be embraced and one we really don’t think you should miss.

 

If you are concerned about how to keep on top of your interactions we offer a management service to take the hassle from you. Alternatively, we are always happy to provide advice if you have a specific concern when it comes to customer service.

Please get in touch by calling our hero hotline: 0161 883 2024, emailing lu@timesavingheroes.co.uk or messaging us via Twitter or Facebook.

 

 

 

 

Stop saying Social Media doesn’t work

Despite the fact that social media marketing can boast positive ROI for up to 92% of businesses who use it, it’s still a largely underrated mode of getting your brand out there.

Last week I was at an Expo and it was a great opportunity to speak to a whole new market and make new contacts.  For some people, the second I mentioned that social media management and training was one of the services I offered, they switched off.  Just not interested.

Now, don’t get me wrong, that’s fine – however, I decided to challenge some of them to find out what their aversion to the big bad world of social was.  Here’s what I discovered:

# 1 It’s just a fad

No, really.  In 2018 we still have people who believe social media is just a “fad”.  I don’t mean to be rude or appear mocking but, really?!

This argument might have held a bit of weight in 2007 if I was trying to sell the concept of digital marketing, but ten years later I think we have to accept it’s not about to fizzle out.  Facebook has over 1.2 billion users, a figure that is actually increasing and all platforms are constantly evolving in order to keep their users happy.

There is an entire generation that knows nothing but social – people expect it!  I can buy the argument that maybe your target audience doesn’t engage with social media, and that’s all well and good, but please stop suggesting it’s not got longevity in it!

# 2 It’s free

Some people I spoke to seemed to think that digital marketing, specifically engaging with audiences via social networking sites, wasn’t worth it because it was free.

It took me a while to get my head round this.

Essentially, there is perceived value in paying for something; which conversely means if you’re not paying for something, it’s worthless.  When it comes to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like you can access free accounts, and assuming you’re not paying for any form of advertising, it doesn’t have to cost you a penny.

Of course, my argument was you could pay me to manage it for you so it does cost you something …

# 3 It doesn’t work

The people who had tried to engage with social media marketing in the past cited the fact they had poor results as a reason not to bother again.  On further probing it actually turns out that they were either buying followers, or didn’t have a coherent strategy.

Consider the former; if you are simply buying people to follow you, in a bid to look more popular than you are, then you can’t complain about the lack of engagement or interaction.  How do you know the people that have followed given a damn about your brand, product or service?  I have always argued it’s better to have 10 engaged and motivated followers than 100 people who have no genuine idea who you are or what you do.

With regards to the latter, without a plan you have no hope of achieving anything.  Encouraging people to interact with you takes time and/or money – and yes, it can take a lot of both.  You need to stop, think about your strategy, your audience, your goals and put the plan in to action.  If you do that, it really can work.

Where to start with social media contests

Many of our clients have tried increasing their social media reach and engagement by offering a variety of different contests. Unfortunately, for most of them, they haven’t necessarily gone to plan.

Having spoken to them we’ve found that the most common issue is actually consistency and lack of time. In the vast majority of cases someone has decided, on the spur of the moment, to produce a contest. It’s not been properly thought through or designed, and it’s been thrown out to the masses in the hope that something sticks.

They then spend a few days publicising it every five minutes, and then go quiet.  There’s absolutely no consistency at all – and for the largest part, they’re trying to publicise a page that’s not had much interaction in the first place. So there’s not a lot of people seeing the new content.

Social media contests can be a great way to get attention for existing and potential customers, but you need to do some homework beforehand if you want them to be a success.

Here are some things you really need to consider:

Appeal to your target audience

When you start thinking about a contest you need to decide who it is you really want to target.  Is it going to be men, women or both?  Adults or children? Business owners, employed people or retirees? Will they have a specific hobby, interest or work in a particular industry?

It’s all very well saying you can sell to everyone, but you can’t.  Not on social media.  Pick a segment of your market, and focus on them.  It’s well and good if other people want to get involved, but try to stay focussed in your own thinking.

Tie in with a topical event

A social media contest can be a stand alone event, definitely, but it’s often a good idea to try and tie it in with something relevant. For example, if you sell chocolate, link it in with Valentine’s Day.  If you’re targeting women, what about linking it to a celebration of International Women’s Day?

These things can just help you get more attention and garb people’s interest because they’re already thinking of the same topics you are.

Can you offer relevant items as the competition prize?  A romantic meal for two, tickets to a concert, hospitality tickets to the first game of the season? Remember though, only people interested in winning those prizes will enter.

Choose valuable prizes

Talking of prizes, it’s important you choose something that is of value to your target audience.

Many businesses offer more than one product or service, and it’s important they don’t be too selective in terms of what they are offering as a prize.  As a retailer, you can’t offer a purse, unless you only want women to enter the competition.

Think about what your entrants would want to win and find useful, and select from that.

 

Are you utilising the lead generation powers of this LinkedIn feature?

When we talk to people about LinkedIn most of them don’t see beyond their own profile.  As long as they have one, and they’re connecting with the latest people they’ve met at an event, they believe they’re doing well.

Of course, they’re not generating any leads, and not getting any business through LinkedIn, but that’s fine.

Others realise there’s a bit more to it, and might have set up a Company Page, and might even be doing searches for some specific key individuals they want to be introduced to. But that’s as far as it goes.

All of that’s fine, apart from most people will admit they’re not getting much out of the whole process, and don’t know why they’re bothering. To mis-quote Tom Lehrer, LinkedIn’s a lot like a sewer; what you get out of it depends on what you put in to it.

If you want to stop getting rubbish out, you need to put a bit more effort in and start really thinking about your lead generation strategy.

One of the best ways to connect with new people, and strike up genuine conversations that can actually lead on to business is via LinkedIn groups.  So many people fail to understand the little gems that can lurk in these untapped resources, so there’s plenty for you to work with.

This all sounds wonderful, but how do you get started?

Step 1: Find a group

Quite obviously you need to join a group, but it needs to be the right one for what you’re hoping to achieve.

You could of course create your own group, but in order for this to work you have to be able to spend a lot of time on it.  If you haven’t already spent time in any other groups, I really don’t recommend this route.

Instead, look at what’s already available.  That way you will be able to access an already established audience.

When you’re searching for groups think about your buyer personas (which I’m sure you’re very familiar with and have worked out in detail).  What sort of things are they interested in?  Who are they? Where are they going to be hanging out online? Figure that out, and then go join the same groups.

Alternatively, think about your competitors, and see if they have already set up any groups themselves.  Not to poach their potential leads (there’s enough people on LinkedIn, you can find your own!) but to see what they’re doing, what works and what doesn’t.

You should also consider joining groups that are relevant to your industry.  This is a fantastic way to hit the ground running, get used to being involved in discussions, and you may even be able to pick up some tips along the way.

Step 2: Post

As a member of quite a few groups (one of which is an awesome shoe worshippers group on Facebook) I can assure you that the vast majority of people say nothing.  They’re lurkers.

Which is fine, but when it comes to LinkedIn, you need to make sure you’re out there and actively getting your point across.

Most groups have specific rules about what you can, and can’t post, so as long as you follow those, you’re not going to go too far wrong. The main key is not to be too self-promotional.  A LinkedIn group is there to serve its members, and that’s usually done by sharing information and educating.

Make sure that you don’t just get involved in posts that are asking for services you can provide, but that you engage with the whole group as much as possible. People really do notice if you’re just there to sell, and that doesn’t help to develop any relationships further.

Equally, when you are responding to anything, keep your content relevant.  Any help you can offer will be seen as helpful, and that will be remembered too.  It doesn’t take long for people to see you as the good go-to for that particular type of advice or assistance, which is precisely what you want.

Step 3: Monitor results

As with any lead generation tactic you need to keep track of how well it’s working.  You might find that some groups are more beneficial than others. Equally, you may see that you learn more from some than you might in another one, and that’s just as valuable as actually developing leads.

Only you know what you’re looking for, but LinkedIn Groups are a fantastic way to find it.

 

Every small business should do this to gain new customers

Last month we wrote a blog about how being a small business can actually be an advantage when it comes to social media marketing, specifically when it comes to building relationships.  It seems to have resonated with a few people, so we thought we would follow up this week looking at another advantage – collaboration.

As a small business you are well placed to make strong connections with your local community.  This can include your consumers and potential clients, but also other businesses based within the area.  When that happens you open up the possibility of combining efforts and therefore potentially reducing your spend, whilst increasing your reach.

For example, I have a client who sells travel insurance.  Following a few meetings with a local spray tan company they struck up a fantastic deal whereby if you purchased a course of spray tans, you could obtain a discount on your travel insurance for your next holiday.

My client saw an increase in enquiries (which he was able to convert) without having to do any additional advertising himself. Equally, the offer went the other way so as one partner isn’t putting in all the effort.

It’s a very simple and effective way of getting more bang for your back – and it helps remind you, as a solopreneur that you’re not actually alone in this big bad world of business.

Larger businesses and corporations are unlikely to strike up such relationships, if for no other reason than there’s a lot more to consider and the legal department is likely to scrutinise any suggestions put forward.

Think about what you have to offer, and if anyone in the local area sells something that could enhance or compliment your product and service, and reach out to them.

The worst they can say is no.

Small businesses have the advantage when it comes to social media

Whenever I start talking about social media marketing at networking events there’s always a couple of people that roll their eyes. There’s lots of different reasons for their knee-jerk reaction, and I certainly don’t judge any of them for it.  For many, unfortunately, they’ve had bad experiences of people who have tried to sell them the idea of marketing to the masses – and they’ve been burnt by costly, yet fruitless forays in to digital advertising.

Of course, it’s not that sort of thing I’m talking about. But that’s the point with knee-jerk reactions; they’re not always on target.

However, I digress.

One of the biggest barriers I come against when it comes to talking about SMM with potential clients is their own perceptions.  Many argue that they’re too small to really make any impact with Facebook or Twitter, and therefore don’t see the value of “throwing money” at it.

I agree, simply throwing money at anything and hoping for the best seems like a bit too much of a gamble – and that’s coming from a girl with a thing for the horses.

No matter how big, or small your business, you have to have a plan. That means you need to know what it is you’re trying to achieve, how much money you have to achieve it, and over what time period you’re going to work on it. It’s more complicated than that of course, but that’s the nuts and bolts.

Most of that will be determined by you and any consultant you decide to get in to help; however, there is one thing that applies to every small business.  You can make a huge impact regardless of your size. In fact, I’d go so far as to argue that small businesses might have the advantage when it comes to social marketing.

Think about your small business and any larger scale competitors you may have.  Don’t focus on the things you don’t have such as numerous staff, a large IT department or a huge media budget. Instead, think about what you can do that they can’t.

You can reach out to your local community and be more focussed on the individuals within that community.  You can build genuine relationships.  As a small business you’re more likely to remember Jean from the last time she commented, and you’re definitely in a better position to reply to her when she does reach out to you.  Faceless large corporation couldn’t give a monkey’s about Jean, she’s just order #45789.

Equally, just because you don’t have loads to throw at social media doesn’t mean you can’t get a reaction out of your audience. People love to talk and share, so why not ask them to post pictures of them using your product. Get them to add reviews, or ask questions that they need your answers to. Ask them for their feedback and suggestions, and then act upon them so they know they’ve been listened to.

Being small is a huge advantage when it comes to being genuine.