Posts in Marketing
Should I hashtag the name of my business?

The subject of hashtags comes up on every Twitter training course that I run. No surprise there, as the hashtag was invented and popularised by Twitter. And no surprise that despite being used almost everywhere, hashtags are still something of a mystery to many.

Hence the common question on my training courses: should I hashtag my business name? People are taken aback when my answer is ‘probably not’. There are much more effective ways of using hashtags. And if your business is small, as the vast majority are, using the name as a hashtag is pointless.

hashtagging your name won’t achieve anything

Let’s say that I start using my business name in tweets. I might tweet: “I’m preparing an article about using business names as hashtags #dorsetsocial”

The tweet already includes my business name, so what’s the point of repeating it as a hashtag? One answer might be that by using a hashtag I’m creating a theme that other people might be interested in.

After all, the real power of the hashtag is its ability to connect people around a single subject or idea. I’m writing this in mid-February, so a big theme on Twitter right now is #valentinesday.

Can I unlock some of this hashtag power around my business name? No, you can’t. The thing is, lots of people are interested in #valentinesday, which is why there are loads of tweets with that hashtag. And Instagram pics - the photo-sharing app is the other place where hashtags have become incredibly popular and useful.

The power of the hashtag is that when someone sees a tweet with #valentinesday, they may click or tap it to see what other people are sharing on the same theme.

But who’s going to follow the #dorsetsocial hashtag? Or the hashtag of your business name? Probably no one other than you (or me). And depending on the name of your business, the hashtag of its name may already be used in ways that are entirely unrelated to what you do. After all, no one ‘owns’ a hashtag.

connect with the power of the hashtag

So if using your business name as a hashtag is a non-starter, how can you make the hashtag work for you?

Let’s stick with the #valentinesday example. If you’re a florist, chocolatier or restaurant owner, or have some other product that you can tie in with February 14th celebration of love, use that hashtag in your posts where it’s relevant.

There will be people out there following the #valentinesday hashtag and by using it, you get your message in front of them.

But don’t expect using a very generic hashtag like #valentinesday to generate a flurry of interest. Loads of people are using it, meaning your posts will quickly get lost, and if your product is tied to a specific location (such as a restaurant) it will only be of interest to a local audience.

How to find the best hashtags

To really get results from hashtags, you want to find those that work well with your target market. These hashtags are usually specific to a particular area or a particular industry.

An example I often quote is #dorsethour. Every Monday evening, from 7.30pm, businesses across Dorset tweet about what they’re up to. Lots of people tune in by following the hashtag, leading to some great conversations. It’s a great way to make new contacts.

There are loads of other #hour hashtags, themed by county, city and industry. Likewise, there are loads of event hashtags you can use, such as #idealhomeshow or #wintec17 (the ‘official’ hashtag of the Women in Technology Scotland 2017 conference).

To look for a hashtag that’s associated with an event or activity, visit related Twitter profiles and see what hashtags people are using. Even where there’s an ‘official’ hashtag, people may adopt others in addition, or as alternatives.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to hashtags. That said, don’t overuse them on Twitter - one or two per tweet is usually enough. Instagram posts tend to have more, with a maximum of 30 permitted.

Tools you can use to search for hashtags include: Hashtagify, Ritetag and Tagboard.

Dorset foodie uses social media to spice up her business

IIlana Smith of Hari Hari is an inspiration to anyone who wants to set up a small business based around food. She’s combined her passion for cooking with her Sri Lankan roots to create a brand that’s getting noticed, and, of course, she’s using social media to get the word out. I recently spoke with Illana to learn more about the origins of Hari Hari and the part that Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have played in her story so far.

Dorset foodie
Dorset foodie

The seeds of a spice shop

Illana’s professional background is HR and training in bigger companies. Like so many of us, she wanted to work for herself, which meant looking at the resources and opportunities available.

Being half-Sri Lankan, and having lived there for many years, she had a deep appreciation for Sri Lankan curries, which she loves to cook. The difference in taste means she prefers to use spices shipped directly from Sri Lanka, rather than those bought in the UK.

Turning these spices into meal-ready packages seemed to be a great way for Illana to combine her curry passion with her business ambitions.

She spent a year planning the business. Advice she received early on was to set a high standard of presentation from the start, making it important that her branding and packaging was right from day one.

Dorset foodie cooking
Dorset foodie cooking

Growing a business through networking

Hari Hari began in 2014 with a website and a Facebook Page. Illana then discovered and joined The Anonymous Travelling Market, which promotes local food and craft in the South West. That led her to Dorset Food & Drink, where she made the most of every networking opportunity on offer, picking up loads of advice from fellow producers at every event.

One of the most useful revelations was the power of Twitter to connect small businesses. Through Twitter, Illana has made lots of useful new contacts with other small producers and local retailers.

Because retailers have seen Hari Hari being talked about on Twitter, they’re more open to putting the spice packages on their shelves. Whereas some shops were initially wary, some are now approaching Illana in order to stock her products.

Another revelation to Illana was supper clubs, where foodies gather around a table to share a meal and get to know one another better. She has gone on to develop a supper club in conjunction with Comins Tea House in Sturminster Newton.

Hari Hari food
Hari Hari food

How people and social media have helped Hari Hari

Illana effectively launched her business at the school gate, supported by a website and Facebook Page. Today that Page has well over 400 likes. She also has over 800 followers on Twitter and over 1,100 followers on Instagram.

As a sole trader, Illana struggles to give more time to social media. She’s also very happy with the follower numbers because, while they’re not high, they deliver results.

Illana’s approach to Facebook and Instagram is to share the journey that she’s on, while Twitter is more about connecting with other businesses. She usually posts at least one Instagram picture per day, and posts on Facebook two or three times a week. Because they’re important channels, she keeps up with them during the day.

If you’re thinking of setting up a business, or already run one, here are some tips from Illana:

  • Give social media time - it takes one or two years to really start getting results.
  • Be patient about sales - it took around a year for her website sales to go from zero to frequent.
  • Have a way to measure success - for Illana this is repeat customers. A very high percentage of those who buy from her come back for more.

Dorset is well known for its specialist, artisan food producers. Hari Hari is a part of that vibrant community, both online and offline. It’s a great example of how someone is making a success of their business ambitions by connecting with their passion and harnessing the power of social media.

Hari Hari is a 2016 Taste of the West gold award winner.

Click here to learn more about Hari Hari spices.

Hari Hari packs
Hari Hari packs
Stop selling and start telling
how-to-sell-online

You put people off by shouting about your wares Old fashioned advertising (that is, pre-social media) was easy. You created an ad that said ‘Buy this from me’ and put it into a newspaper, a magazine or online.

Whether you were selling scuba gear, holiday accommodation or bookkeeping services, the process was more or less the same.

So what happened when social media came along? You opened an account for your business and started doing the same thing as you’d always done: ‘Buy this from me, buy this from me.’

Except it doesn’t work. Why?

Because when people use social media, it’s not like reading a magazine or brochure. They don’t just want information coming at them, they want to exchange information. And they want to talk about things that interest them.

So stop selling

Here are some of the selling actions that annoy people on social media:

  • Promoting your product and service in every post you put out.
  • Hijacking hashtags and Twitter chats simply to promote yourself.
  • Sending people Direct Messages on Twitter, saying ‘Thank for following us, now come and buy our stuff’ (or words to that effect).

Take a look at the Dorset firms that use a lot of social media, like Goldhill Organics or Dorset Cereals. Are all their posts pushing their products? No, they're not. They often share posts from others and while they often mention their own products, there are no pleas for you to buy from them.

https://twitter.com/dorsetcereals/status/617994227771928577

And start telling

What’s the difference between selling and telling?

Selling is: ‘Buy from me.’ Telling is: ‘This is what we do and why we do it.’ Telling is often about stories.

A great example of telling not selling
A great example of telling not selling

Ways that you can ‘tell’ on social media include:

  • Sharing about the background to your products, such as where you source from and why.
  • Talking about the people in your business: staff, suppliers, customers.
  • Post pictures of the wonderful area we live and work in. Dorset is so photogenic!
  • Encouraging discussion about subjects that could interest your followers and have nothing to do with your business.

People are increasingly making choices about who they buy from based on how much a business cares about the environment, its staff and its customers.

By ‘telling’ you can encourage people to feel positive about your business, increasing the chances of them buying from you.

The bad news is that ‘telling’ takes time.

stop-selling-start-telling

The good news is that social media makes it really easy to follow businesses that are interesting and ignore those that just sell.

So be sure to be interesting!

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