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One Week Without Facebook

I'm logging out of facebook - One Week Update

Two weeks ago, I deleted the Facebook app off of my phone. Last week, I decided not to log into Facebook to check my personal profile anymore. You can read more about that decision here. Part of me kind of feels childish for just not going on Facebook. For a moment, I felt like the kid who decided to leave because the other kids wouldn’t play nice. The problem with the majority of the people on Facebook is that they do not respect the thoughts or opinions of other people. These people have no regard for others. What is interesting to me is that these people seem to only exist on Facebook. There is a different mentality on other social networks such as Twitter, Linkedin and even Instagram.

Over the last week I have ran different situations through my head that could get me back to Facebook such as deleting a lot of these negative people from my friends list or just deleting my entire friends list altogether and then add people back that I want to remain online friends with. All of this sounds like too much work. There is no easy way to do this when you have 4500+ friends in your friends list. I don’t want to delete my account because as I have mentioned before, there is a timeline of my life for the last many years on there and I do not want that to go away.

I also noticed that my Instagram was posting to my Facebook profile and my wife mentioned that people were commenting on the photos I was posting from our trip to Newport Beach last week. I wish that you could pin a post to the top of your profile like you can with a Facebook Business page. Since Facebook does not show much of what you post to your entire friends list, many people do not know why I am not responding. There is no easy way to make that known. I did add a message in my about me section mentioning that I am no longer checking my Facebook profile but people who are already my Facebook friend would have to dig to find it.

I have been considering disabling my Facebook profile because that would make it easier to remove myself from the equation. A friend of mine deleted his Facebook profile and then started getting messages and calls from people asking if he was ok. He said that people thought he might be having marital problems or that maybe something went wrong with his health. This is the kind of weird OCD or whatever it is that people on Facebook have. Facebook is so engrossed into people’s lives that when something doesn’t seem right, they assume the worst and have to know the gritty details. The issue I have here is that most people would never bother to call or check in on you personally so long as you have your Facebook profile going. The moment you remove yourself from the tribe, everybody assumes the worst and must know the drama. When there isn’t any drama, they go back to scrolling Facebook on their phones in hopes to find something else they can feed off of.

What is hard is that all of my family uses Facebook to stay up to date with what we are doing and to see photos of our kids. To be honest, I kind of like it that way. My family and I talk maybe once a week, sometimes a little less than that. It’s just the way we have always been with communication, even before social media. My wife’s family talks much more often and seeing a post on social media often triggers a phone call. When I decide to post to my blog or another social network, my family often does not see that post. Being on Facebook does make it easier because everybody is there.

Not posting to Facebook all week has also changed how I feel about Facebook pages for businesses. The more Facebook forces businesses to pay for advertising the less I want to be involved with it altogether. When there was talk of the Facebook IPO, I knew that they were going to have to switch gears quickly into money mode and that is what they have done. Facebook runs tests on us showing us different content to see how we react to it. They show us less of what we actually want to see so we spend more time there. For many, it has turned into an addiction. For me, I would spend a lot of time there just trying to find something interesting. It would take me 10 minutes of scrolling to find something that was interesting enough to read or comment on.

I get it, we are all busy these days. We have filled our lives with so much stuff to keep us occupied that we don’t have time for real life interactions. We don’t get the details on each other’s lives like we used to so when we see something on Facebook, we obsess over it. We have also lost context. We are left to draw our own conclusions. To be honest, I would rather that less people know what is going on in my personal life. I would rather those who do care about what I’m up to ask me what I am up to by giving me a call or text message. I miss the days of getting coffee with a friend and talking about life.

Whats next?

I am going to continue not logging into Facebook and will stop Instagram from posting as well. Hopefully this post will remain on the top of my profile so people can see that I am not physically present on my Facebook profile. If anybody wants to stay up to date with what is going on with my family and myself, you can follow this blog or the links below. There is also a Photos section of this blog that contains photos I have been posting here rather than to Facebook.

I have also been reconsidering my presence on several other social networks. Instagram is owned by Facebook so I am sure they are working toward making changes to it like they have with Facebook. They have said that there will be ads and the feed of photos will start to change. It’s only a matter of time before Instagram becomes more of a time consumer.

When talking about social networking with people, I have always told people that I would rather be someone that somebody Google searches for than someone who just shows up in somebody’s news feed. I want to add value to the internet and that means coming up with content that is useful and interesting. I want to connect with people who have similar interests and desire similar things in life. Facebook has not been the correct platform for that.

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I’m Logging Out of Facebook

I'm Logging out of Facebook

About a week ago, I decided to delete the Facebook app from my mobile devices. I did this because all day long I would get notifications and updates. Most of the updates could have been turned off if I had spent some time customizing, but I didn’t want to deal with that. I felt that my phone had became too much of a distraction in my life and I wanted to get some part of that time back.

Over the last year I have noticed that I check Facebook much more often than I used to. I used to get on once a day for a few minutes just to see whats new. These days, Facebook has figured out how to get us on there more often and I believe they do it by showing us less of what matters to us. I have noticed that I don’t see much from the people who are closest to me. I have to scroll past a lot of nonsense before I actually reach something that matters to me. I know that part of this is due to the fact that I used to just accept all friend requests and this resulted in 4,500+ Facebook friends. In reality, I have probably have seen 100 of them in the last 2 years, maybe less.

I also had noticed that most of what I come across on Facebook is negative. It doesn’t matter if it’s a comment under a post I make or posts that are in my newsfeed, they are negative. I can’t share anything on Facebook anymore without someone throwing me under the bus for it. Sometimes my posts are snarky but often I post about my take on things. It is then that I get thrashed by people who are my “friends” on Facebook. Nobody honors anybody’s opinion these days. Nobody can just let a person have their opinion and make it known these days. Posting it online means that you are going to get crap for it.

I am not running away from confrontation or differences of opinion, I just realize where my time could be better spent. Social networks come and go and for the most part, the friends that are kept there are not friends, perhaps not even acquaintances. I will keep posting, but I won’t be checking for comments or responding to them. I will post to my blog, which posts to other places such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

I will continue to check Twitter because I have an interesting feed there. On Twitter, you can craft your news feed to contain posts from people you want to hear from. You can do this on Facebook, but it is not as simple as it is on Twitter. Twitter keeps posts short, so scrolling past long winded complains is a thing of the past. Google+, though not a popular social network with many people I know personally, has a lot of professionals who post valuable content that I find interesting. Because of that, I will continue to check Google+. Because Twitter and Google+ are not filled with ads and other nonsense, it takes less time to check them.

Why not just delete Facebook?

I have been a Facebook user since the day it became available to the public. At the time, I wanted something other than Myspace, which had became just as horrible of a place to spend time as Facebook has become. The problem is that I have a lot of content on Facebook. I have posted countless text posts, uploaded 1000’s of images and videos. I know that I can export them, but I don’t want them to go away. My wife, family and close friends are still on Facebook. If they want to tag me in something, I want my name to be there. I don’t believe that deleting Facebook is the answer. I never deleted my Myspace profile.

Since joining Facebook, I have gotten married and have had 3 beautiful children. There are a lot of posts and images that comprise a timeline of that chapter in my life. I may want to scroll though that from time to time.

I will be posting more to my blog

Rather than posting to a social network that will most likely go away one day, I will be posting to my blog. I started this blog in 2005 and had been blogging since 1996 when I created my first website with Frontpage. I have a photos feed on my blog that I have been posting photos to that I would normally have been posting to Facebook. To make it easy to go back and see photos by subject, I have been tagging photos. For example, you can see photos I posted during our Newport Beach vacation by viewing the Newport tag, or photos and posts from Nascar races by viewing the Nascar tag. People who care to can still post comments under my posts, photos or videos and they can do so without the Facebook ads and other nonsense. People who actually do post comments there will most likely be actual friends of mine who are not just trying to take me down a notch.

I have always been a big advocate of driving traffic to your own website rather than sending it to social networks. Most of what I write does get posted to this blog, my company blog or other sites of mine, now I plan to post all content to my own websites.

It will take some time to completely log out of everything that Facebook sends notifications to, but I will get it done. I have already deleted all mobile apps, logged out browsers and system updates on my Mac. I changed privacy settings to show a notice to those who happen upon my profile informing them that I am not logged in any longer. I am sure it will take me a few weeks to figure out the best way to keep Facebook active while remaining logged out.

Will I be back?

I am not sure. I am already enjoying other things rather than hoping for at least one positive post on Facebook for every twenty I scroll past. I have started catching up on blogs I follow and will even have some time to find a few more to read.

I finally got to a point where I realized that Facebook was a distraction that mostly brought negative energy my way. I will still get notifications of me being mentioned in other conversations because I have had many people tag me with questions. I enjoy being useful and love answering questions when I have a decent answer to provide. I will just provide whatever feedback is required through email or in person.

I will also continue to post to my Facebook pages. I have Facebook pages for my Photography business and my Marketing company. Facebook is still a somewhat decent way to keep a feed going with updates.

What could you do with your time if you were not scrolling Facebook all day?

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Linkedin Recommendations Request Script

I have found that it is easier to get recommendations from people on Linkedin if you email them personally and ask. Everybody knows what the canned Linkedin email looks like and they know that you can easily ask all of your Linkedin contacts at once. Linkedin Recommendations are like Yelp Reviews for your resume. Don’t take this script as it is, take it and personalize it to the person you are asking for a recommendation. You should also return the favor.

You can dress this up or down depending on the kind of relationship you have with the person.

Hey Name, I am working on getting a few of the people I have recently worked closely with on projects to write recommendations about me on my Linkedin profile. Your voice and opinion matters to me. I would love to have your thoughts on our work together on my profile for others to see.

You can view my Linkedin profile here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeradhill

Thank you for considering,

Your Name

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30 Day Blogging Challenge

Social Media has reshaped the way we share online. There used to be a time where I shared everything I found interesting on my blog. Even during the age of Myspace, I still shared most of the content I created or came across on my blog. With Facebook and Twitter’s popularity, I have found myself posting more to these social networks and neglecting my blog. I have long been an advocate for creating content on your own website and using social media as a catalyst for sharing that content. Social Networks come and go, so it does not make sense to create all of your content on a social network whose audience will most likely shift to a new location one day.

When I create content, I post it to my website and post links to my social network profiles. What I have not done much of is sharing content I find interesting to my blog. When I find something I like online, I often post a link and a short thought on my social networks. I should be doing this on my website.

Starting on the first of the year, all content I create and share online will originate on my blog. I will then share the content I post to my blog on my social media profiles. I have already began testing this in various ways by posting to my blog from my various devices. I am excited to make this change because I have become somewhat complacent with sharing content in multiple places such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram.

Throughout this process it will be interesting to see how posting here changes engagement that I normally would have received on posts directly to the social networks. Will the amount of times content I post get shared change? How will the social networks treat my content considering it originates outside of their network? Testing things like this is fun to me. I have already noticed that Facebook does not show content that links away from their website nearly as much as when you post directly to Facebook. Deciding how I will post content to Instagram will be interesting being that you can’t link away from Instagram easily.

For those of you who have been following my blog, you will see a lot more content then you were previously used to me posting. This is also why I went to a more minimal look on the design and layout of my blog as well.

When it comes to sharing content, I want my website to be the first thing I think of, not a social network. Once I share that content on my blog, I can then share it with the social network I feel it would be most interesting to. For example, I share more family and life related content on Facebook. I share more tech related content on Twitter and Google+.

Let me know your thoughts on what I am trying here. Do you think it’s a good idea or should certain content be posted directly to social networks while longer content be posted to blogs?

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How to Install the Youtube Subscribe Button On Your WordPress Website

Google Developer Tools recently released a Youtube Subscribe widget that you can place on your website to make it easy for people to subscribe to your Youtube channel. This is great for people like me who prefer to have their content viewed on their website rather than external sites like Youtube. This widget performs one function: It allows people to click to subscribe to your Youtube Channel with out having to leave your website to visit Youtube.com. Prior to this widget, it was a pain to route people to subscribing to your channel. Google Dev Tools has provided a subscription button for regular channels and paid Youtube channels.

It’s simple enough to explain but I thought I would put together a short Youtube video explaining how to install the Youtube Subscribe Button on a WordPress website.

If you liked this video, consider testing out the button on my sidebar by subscribing to my channel.

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Android for Social Media Community Managers

The job of Community Manager didn’t exist a few years ago. Businesses and organizations these days understand that it is important to keep their finger on the pulse of the conversations taking place online. Busy community managers such as those who run social media for an event have an even bigger task at hand. These people find themselves on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Google+ checking for conversations that are happening, usually from their smart phone. On the day of an event or major announcement it is important for Community Managers to be able to see and react to conversations taking place online. Community Managers also share content through out the day to help people connect with their brand, product or event. It is a busy job which requires the right tools.

Most companies these days use a variation of Google and Apple products. I often see Macbook Airs and iPhones connecting to Google Apps for collaboration. Apple has the cool devices that have long battery life, although Google does now as well. Google has the online collaboration tools such as Google Docs and Apple is trying to get there as well. For me, it comes down to what works now and what works fast. If it takes to many steps, I won’t have time to do it. That is where the idea for this post came from.

A friend of mine is a community manager for a busy multi-location conference. She is all over the place and her Macbook Air and iPhone hold it altogether. It helps that she is amazing at her job. As a busy person who is responding to tweets, posting photos to Instagram, writing blogs on the sessions and keeping after the event photographer (this guy), she is busy. Anything that could shave off a second or two off of her workflow is helpful. When she comes across content or is sent content, it needs to be easy to share. Android has done a better job of allowing you to manage and move your content then iPhone has. This is one of the main reasons I am using an Android phone as my primary mobile device right now.

Android has robust Sharing. It’s almost silly how easy it is to share content between apps in Android. For example, if you have a bunch of images in Google Drive, it is easy to share those images to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any other app that you might want to send the image to. Since there is no easy way to post one photo to multiple social networks including Instagram, this is the next best thing. If a new article was posted and needs to be shared, Android will allow you to share it right into each app easily including Pinterest and other social networks that are not integrated with something like Hootsuite.

Here is an example: You have a group of photos in Google Drive (or Dropbox) and you want to post them to Instagram. The process for doing this on an iPhone is to save each photo to your Photo Library, then open Instagram and open the photo in Instagram so you can crop and post it. This is quite a process for posting several photos, or even one if you are in a hurry. What if the photo just came through an email, or was in a blog post? How would you go about sharing it to Instagram? It would involve many steps. In Android, it only involves a few. In the image below, I outline how to take a photo from Google Drive to Instagram in only a couple of taps.

Photo Sharing through Android

In the image above from left to right I am viewing an image in Google Drive, I choose the send option to send it to another app, select Instagram from the list of many options and then it opens in Instagram ready to crop. Very quick, and with a couple of taps of the back button I am back in Google Drive ready to post another photo.

To post an article from a website to Pinterest you would have to copy the link from your web browser, open up Pinterest, tap to create a new pin, choose to provide a link, paste in that link, choose the image from the website you want to pin, add a description to their pin and then post the pin. To do this from Android all you have to do from the website is tap share, choose Pinterest, choose the image to pin, change the description if you want (it already provides a description from the site) then tap pin. Check out the image below.

Pinterest Share Android

I think you are getting the idea now. It is super easy to share content around in Android. When I come across articles that I want to read but don’t have the time, I save them to Pocket or Evernote easily by using the Android Share feature. When I want to send a post or share an article in Buffer App or Hootsuite, I send it through the Android Share feature to the app I want to send it to. It is actually just as fast if not faster than doing it on a computer. In my downtime, I can find articles to share, send them to Buffer App and fill up my cue of posts.

Though Android may not have the variety of apps that iOS has, it is catching up fast and all of the important apps are already there on Android and work just as good. My hope is that Apple will add this flexibility to iOS but even if they do it will probably require apps to allow it. Android already works this way.

If you are a Community Manager and want a better way to push content through your mobile device, I suggest you give Android a try. I use it because it saves me time and the workflow is much more robust.

Let me know your thoughts. Are you a Social Media Manager or Community Manager who manages their accounts through a mobile device? I would love to hear your thoughts and tips on how you quickly and effectively manage social media communities on your phone and/or tablet.

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Word of Like – How Word of Mouth has Changed in the Social Media Era

Word of Like - How Word of Mouth has Changed in the Social Media Era

The way we make decisions and get advice has changed drastically over the last ten years. These days we are more likely to go online and read reviews then we are to ask a friend or co-worker about a product or service. As we become more connected to the internet, more of our decision making has became internet based.

Since the rise of social media, our circle of influencers has changed. Social media allows us to connect with people who’s opinions we trust and vice-versa, even if we do not have an in-person connection with them. This has not only changed us, it has changed the way businesses need to reach people as well.

Deciding how to handle Social Media in your business is challenging because there is no single undisputed correct way to do it. I have been an early adopter of all social media platforms since I dialed into my first BBS (Bulletin Board System) to read posts about my Apple IIgs in the mid 80’s. Even though every social network has it’s distinguishing differences, the opinions of our friends and those whom we follow are typically the main focus. On Twitter, you can retweet something, on Facebook you can Like pretty much anything and on Google+ you can +1 to show you like something. All of these retweets, likes and +1’s are seen by our friends.

A couple of months ago, I clicked the Like button on a high school friend’s new startup business called KitchenBox. The other night, I get a Facebook email from another friend who asks if I had ever used KitchenBox because he is considering a kitchen remodel for his home. When I posted a photo of my new Fitbit Flex activity tracker wrist band, I received multiple comments back asking me what I thought about it from friends I rarely see in person and a few from people I have never met in person. A couple of times each week, I am asked by someone what I think about a product or service I expressed interest in one way or another on one of my social media profiles. Because I personally have done this, I am certain that there are people who simply observe and make decisions with out taking the time to ask about the product or service first.

The internet put perception on steroids. We used to look at our neighbors and think to ourselves, “they look happy, I need one of those too.” Now we watch our Facebook friends posts and likes and come to similar conclusions multiple times per day.

As a business, this means that you should be connected to these social networks in a way that will allow people to like, share and connect with your business, products and services. Businesses can be more personable online and your business should take the opportunity to do that. Create a Facebook page and post something that your type of customer might find interesting. Use social media to keep your customers or potential customers informed about issues related to your industry. Share photos that your customers post of them using your products. There are so many ways to create “likable” content for people to see on social media with out it taking much of your time.

If a Facebook Like turns into a new client, how much ROI is that over what you would have had to spend on traditional marketing? Not everything you post will turn into new business, but it can lead to new business. It’s all about scattering seeds, which could sprout anywhere. This is the Word of Like. It is not the typical conversation that we used to have but it accomplishes the same thing and it’s much more scalable.

Create content that people can share. Build trust by answering questions publicly on social networks. Showcase what your current customers and clients are doing with your products and services. Constantly look for ways you can be helpful with out being overly self-promoting.

If you are lost when it comes to Facebook, check out this free course I posted last year about Facebook Pages for Business: http://bit.ly/intro-to-facebook-pages

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5 Tips For Managing The Online Reputation Of Your Business

As word-of-mouth continues to change, it is more important than ever to assure the reputation of your business online is as good, if not better than it is online. The majority of consumers are using the internet to find information on products and services. In Feb 2011, Inc. Magazine reported that, “Nearly half of consumers use a combination of search and social media to fuel their purchasing decisions…” Any negative information that a potential consumer could find about your business could lead to a loss of sales. By managing the online reputation of your business, you are avoiding the potential loss of business. To help with this process, here are five tips to help you manage the online reputation of your business.

  1. Monitor Social Media and the Search Engines: Unsatisfied customers go straight to Social Media to voice their complaints these days and it’s usually before they contact your company to try and fix their issue first. Staying on top of conversations concerning your company will allow you to interject and attempt to solve the issue publicly. There have been many examples of companies successfully reaching out to upset customers through social media to fix their problems. Reconciling their issue as publicly as you can will show their friends that your company stands behind their products and services.
  2. Don’t Put All Of Your Eggs In One Social Media Basket: From Search Engines to Social Networks, there are a lot of places people can find information about your business. Have a presence on all of the popular social networks and create positive content about your products and services on your website in the form of articles or a blog. Video content posted to sites like Youtube also give you an opportunity to showcase what you offer.
  3. Do Not Get Into Arguments Online: When you argue with one of your consumers online it becomes public record. Other people can watch as you try to defend yourself rather than defend your customer. Nobody wants to do business with someone who comes across selfish. If the matter can not be dealt with in a positive manor online, end the online conversation with an opportunity to talk to the consumer directly. Make sure that you do handle their situation so that if they decide to return to the conversation online, the have nothing else negative to add.
  4. Promote the Reviews Your Customers Leave: We all understand that self-promotion is not always the best way to go, but when your customers leave positive reviews of your business online, you should do whatever you can to get those reviews to the eyes of more customers. You can embed reviews you have received in your website, quote them on other social networks or even print them out for others to see. When your customers review your business, encourage them to share their reviews on their own social media profiles.
  5. Monitor Related Search Results to your Business: Make sure you are on top of what your customers see when they search for your business, your competitors business and anything else related to your business. Dig down a few pages past the first search result page. Take advantage of a free service from Google called Google Alerts. You can set up specific alerts that can be sent to your email every time your business, website or other keywords are mentioned online.

Being a business owner or manager is much more involved than it used to be. Making sure your numbers are scaling in a positive direction will involve keeping track of what others are saying. The sphere of influence each of us have is much larger than it used to be. Information travels fast and once it’s moving, it is harder to stop. Your online presence should start with your website, not your social media. From your website, your web presence should extend out to social media, forums and other online communities. Being proactive rather than reactive.

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The Year of the Hashtag

The trends are changing. I noticed a huge shift with the engagement tools promoted in this years Superbowl commercials. For the last few years companies have done everything to get us to follow them on Twitter or like their Facebook page. What they have came to realize is that simply having a larger number of fans or followers does not necessarily result in engagement. Those of us who have been doing this social networking thing for a while now know that a small portion of your followers actually engage with you. Though having a large number of followers looks good, it is not a valid measurement of successful engagement in social media.

In this years Superbowl commercials we saw a switch from companies asking us to follow them to using hashtags in conversations. These companies were asking us to start conversations or if we were going to talk about them, to use a certain hashtag. This is a smart move because simply following them does nothing for conversation or engagement. Even though their commercials of the past may have talked us in to following their social media profile, if we talked about their commercial we most likely did nothing that tied it all together. Hashtags do this.

A social media hashtag is a word or phrase tied together in part of a conversation that provides a way of grouping messages together. On Twitter, hashtags are easy to search. They become clickable. When you click on them you see the group of all conversations that used the same hashtags. Hashtags are used on Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and countless others. Facebook however, does not use hashtags. Some of the most popular hashtags include: #love#cute#happy, and #beautiful but the most useful hashtags were created for a purpose, which is to start and engage conversations. Sometimes this happens as a result of a cultural movement and other times it has to do with products or services. For example, when Charlie Sheen spun out of control, the hashtag #Winning became the most popular hashtag in the world. This was due to a comment he made during an interview where he referred to himself not as bi-polar but bi-winning. The SanFrancisco Giants Baseball Team used the hashtag #BeatLA during it’s games against the LA Dodgers to get fans to start conversations about the game. I remember Tweeting out #BeatLA multiple times throughout the season and at least a dozen times during one of the Giants vs. Dodgers games I attended in the 2012 season. This also gave the SFGiants an easy way to track who was talking about their brand. If the majority of the conversations taking place include the same hashtag, you can track performance much easier.

Reaching Critical Mass

Something becomes popular because a large amount of people have began using it or discussing it all at the same time. It’s a lot harder to reach critical mass when your product, service or topic is very segmented. This is where hashtags make it much easier for critical mass to be reached in social media conversations. People use the hashtag because they want to be part of the conversation. Because hashtags group the conversations together it makes it much more likely that the topic will reach a critical mass then if these conversations were taking place without some sort of unifying element. Sometimes people will work the hashtag into a comment and other times the hashtag will be at the end of a comment to assure it is part of the group.

Here are two examples of hashtag use:

  • Congrats to the @SFGiants! #Worldseries Champions #2012
  • Going to see the @SFGiants crush the @LADodgers. #BeatLA

These are just examples of what has worked in the past. I know that most of us SMB (Small-Medium Business) owners will never become a trending topic on Twitter and that is ok. Hashtags are not just for large trending events and conversations. Conversation grouping is just as important for small conversations as it is for large conversations because it allows us to easily measure engagement.

Why Hashtags work

You wouldn’t create new social media profiles for each topic you were trying to turn into a conversation would you? That would be like starting from scratch each time. Most of us have a wide variety of conversations we end up in on our social networks. Our businesses have multiple products and services. How do we track our reach? Hashtags make this possible. As mentioned above, a hashtag works as a unified identifier that we can use to search and measure engagement even if that engagement never goes beyond Twitter. I often use hashtags in conversations I am having just to infuse myself into other conversations. If I am talking about my Photography, I will use the hashtag #Photography or #WeddingPhotography. This will infuse me into a grouping of conversations that have to do with Photography or Wedding Photography and sometimes results in retweets or new followers.

On Instagram, the popular photo sharing smart phone app, hashtags are used to include your photo into a group of other photos. For example, if I took a picture of a nice car I saw and used the hashtag #musclecar, it would group my photo along with other Instragram photos of Muscle Cars. If somebody was browsing the search results for the #musclecar, they would see my photo. I have gained countless new followers by using hashtags.

As you can see, hashtags work in different ways and have multiple uses. They help group conversations together so you can track online engagement and they help with discovery by grouping conversations together. It’s a recent movement that is gaining momentum fast.

In the commercials for the 2013 Superbowl, more than half of the commercials had specific hashtags and encouraged you to use them on Twitter. Very few of the commercials mentioned Facebook, Google+, Instagram or even Youtube. I have also noticed hashtags at the end of movie trailers for upcoming movies yet to be released. There were over 25 hashtags used in Superbowl commercials this year. Some of the hashtags included in this years Superbowl commercials include:

  • #betterwithmms – M&M’s Love Ballad commercial
  • #braverywins – Audi’s Prom commercial
  • #thekiss – Godaddy’s crazy model vs. nerd kiss commercial

The television show Community was going to be cancelled at the end of season 3 due to low ratings however it had a strong following. At the end of the season finale the hashtag #sixseasonsandamovie was shown and shortly after it started trending. Actor Joel McHale posted a thank you tweet in response to the popularity of this hashtag on May 18th, 2012.

At the time I am writing this, people are still using the hashtag when they post about the show or the fact that it will be returning for a fourth season. They started a movement and the networks listened. Community fans will get at least one more season out of NBC.

Tips For Creating A Great Hashtag

Keep it simple! Notice that all of the hashtags used by big media are simple. Make it easy to understand. Have you ever noticed that some words canbegroupedtogether and read easily while others are notaseasy to read when grouped? When you group some words together, it creates other words. You want to avoid this. A hashtag has to be grouped together, once you add a space or a dash, the hashtag breaks. Only letters and numbers can be used in a hashtag and they have to be grouped together.

Hashtags vs. Usernames

On social networking sites you typically create a username or handle for your account. My handle on Twitter is @Jeradhill. When you are having a conversation with someone on Twitter or you want to include them in a post on Instagram, you use their handle. For example, if I was going to include my friend @JamesMHorton in a tweet it would go something like this: “Grabbing lunch with the infamous @JamesMHorton today.” If I am reaching out to a Twitter user for something, I would also include their handle. See this Tweet to @Rdio where I inquire about a feature I asked about almost a year prior.

I wanted to get @Rdio’s attention so I used their handle and then I used a hashtag to get my point across and include my tweet in a stream of other conversations where people used the same hashtag.

Closing thoughts

Though many do not yet understand what hashtags accomplish, and many are annoyed by their use, they are the internets way of grouping conversations. Just like Twitter became a buzzword that even our grandparents understand, the hashtag will become mainstream as well. As we move through 2013 we will see it used more and more until the other social networks find a better way of measuring the engagement of conversations. The hashtag works because we can see their use in each conversation posted. Hashtags can be a part of any conversation, which is why they are so great.

Start using hashtags in your conversations and postings on Twitter and Instagram. I can promise you that it will result in more followers and increased reach. If you represent a company, product or service, you should find a way to incorporate the hashtag into your conversations to build buzz and even create a hashtag for people to use when talking about your product or service.

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