Hashtags are a great way to rev up your media game and take advantage of the tremendous opportunities for marketing/branding, prospecting and client engagement. A hashtag is a word or phrase (no spaces) preceded by the number sign (#). By utilizing a hashtag, you can link or group your social media posts together with others on the same topic. Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram all utilize hashtags.
Here are a few benefits of using hashtags:
Stay on top of industry events and news. If you're looking for information on a particular topic, hashtags make it easy to search social media platforms to find relevant articles and follow topical conversations. Clicking on a hashtag for a particular topic will take you to a page with all related content.
Further, many industry conferences develop their own hashtags, so advisers can participate in discussions and meet key influencers while in attendance. Even if unable to attend an event, advisers still can follow the conversation online and gain valuable insight and updates from attendees.
Be seen as an expert. Users search hashtags to discover content on a topic in which they are interested. Including relevant hashtags in your messaging enables you to contribute to conversations taking place online. What are your specialties (#401(k), #retirementplanning, #investments) or the target market you serve (#millennials, #physicians, #boomers)? Using those hashtags in your tweets and posts will add you to the larger conversation and significantly increase your reach. Seeking to be a resource or to provide valuable content to the markets you serve is an excellent way to demonstrate thought leadership and increase your following.
Promote your content. One way to be seen as an expert is to provide content on topics relevant to your audience regularly. Posting a tweet such as “Check out my latest blog post on the biggest money mistakes women make in #divorce. (link to post) #divorceplanning” — gives you the opportunity to get your tweet — and by extension your blog post — out to those searching Twitter for “divorce” or “divorce planning.”
Pay attention to timely topics. Is there a top news story you can refer to in your posts? One that lends itself to content you have written or to an expertise you have? One such event last year was the death (without a properly executed will) of James Gandolfini. Many advisers immediately took to social media to comment on his passing and to provide information on the need for an estate plan.
USE THE CALENDARTimes of the year also may provide excellent opportunities to promote content you have written for your blog or for other publications. Have you written a piece on sending a child off to college (#collegeplanning), or the financial stresses a new school year brings (#backtoschool)? Perhaps you have written an article on money-saving tips for vacationing with children (#summervacation). Tweeting a catchy post that includes a link to your article, along with a hashtag or two will help your content reach a broader audience.
Host online chats. A number of advisers have found success hosting Tweetchats in which they host discussions at a particular time and date, to educate their audience about a topic. The hashtag allows participants to follow along during the chat and also allows the host to promote the event before and follow up with participants afterward. While Tweetchats are designed to be educational in nature, a number of my adviser clients have had participants reach out to them directly after the chat to ask for more information or to seek an appointment.
While hashtags present many opportunities for advisers, you don't want to go overboard. Here are a few words of caution to keep you on the right track:
Don't overdo it. I'm sure you've all seen the post in which a user seems to have gone a little hashtag crazy, utilizing 10 or more. There's no need to go that far. One or two hashtags per tweet or post is sufficient.
Hashtag the keywords. For the greatest impact, you want to use hashtags strategically and only tag words people are likely to search.
Hashtags can be placed anywhere in a sentence or post. While many social media users put hashtags at the end of their sentence, remember that a hashtag can also incorporated within the text (“Great game today #Falcons — good to see your boys rise to the occasion.”).
Above all — post relevant content, work to reach a broader base and, most importantly, strive to really connect with your audience.
Kristin Andree (kristin @andreemedia.com) is president of Andree Media & Consulting.