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# Four Strokes – The Small Big Thing that connects you with customers – Hashtags

Hashtags started just like any other fad, but were way too hard to be ignored! With Google+, Twitter, YouTube having added this functionality – Facebook also gave in and joined the hashtag fan club in 2013 🙂

If you are wondering what is the buzz around Hashtags all about, you’ll be surprised to learn that it’s not rocket science. But hashtags can be very powerful communication and marketing mechanism. And that’s the big deal!

Any word can be made a hashtag. Just add a hash symbol (#) before the word. For instance: #flowers, #bikes etc..

Here’s how Wikipedia defines is.

A hashtag is a word or a phrase prefixed with the symbol #. It is a form of metadata tag. Short messages on microblogging and social networking services such as Twitter, Tout, identi.ca, Tumblr, Instagram, Flickr, Google+ or Facebook may be tagged by putting “#” before important words, as in:
#Wikipedia is an #encyclopedia that anyone can edit..
Hashtags provide a means of grouping such messages, since one can search for the hashtag and get the set of messages that contain it.

That last line is what the whole worlds reeling about?

Well partly yes, the magical thing about a hashtag is that it connects the word to various discussions that are using a similar hashtag.

Think about it this way… it’s like automatically linking your tweet / post / message to million other posts that have thought of a similar hashtag. All you have to do is add # and there you go… you are all connected, covered and participating in a conversation. Most services will automatically convert the hashtag into a link and clicking on the hashtag will bring up all other messages with the same hashtag.

A marketer could kill to have such herculean connectivity and this is what makes hashtags the talk of the town!

Now how can you as a business owner cum marketer benefit out of this simple yet effective tool?

Here are some ways:

Discover Customers

Try searching social networks (Twitter, Facebook etc), with keywords relevant to your business. You may find people who have tagged their posts with some hashtags. Reply to them using the same hashtags, or make a new post with that hashtag. You may just win a new customer!

Get Found

The reverse of discovering customers is getting found by customers. Your customers would be searching too, and when you tag your posts / tweets with relevant hashtags, they can find you easily.

For example:
If I am a bridal wear designer marketing my brand over Facebook, I wouldn’t just post “Elegant Bridal Gowns in store now”… Rather I would post “Elegant #Bridalgowns in store now”.

Just a simple hashtag can lead me to my niche audience. It can get my post connected to people who have wedding on their cards or those are looking out for bridal gowns for someone else.

Start a Movement / Campaign

Take GE’s #IWantToInvent hashtag, which the company uses on an ongoing basis to get people to participate in conversations around innovation. The hashtag has caught on and people use it in all conversations – not just GE’s. The hashtag becomes an identifier of the movement / campaign. Connecting everyone together and sparking interest.

Run an Offer

Run your special offer with a hashtag. Either invite people to retweet / repost / like it, or ask them to respond to you with a hashtag.

For example:
I am a florist and Valentines Day is just around the corner. Just put #ValentinesDayOffer in your posts. Invite people to use the same hashtag and even tell you what they want as an offer from you.

A side benefit of this is that using a popular hashtag (or inventing one) can get you a ton of traffic. Everyone looking for Valentine’s offers can come to you via that hashtag!!

Start and Participate in Conversations

Search for trending hashtags and participate in the conversation. Invite your customers to respond to a question, tagging responses with a hashtag. Ask customers to post support queries with a hashtag, and respond to them…

Hashtags are like keywords for these conversations. This not only will get your discussion noticed by relevant people but also get you connected to the different viewpoints.

Volvo’s #MyFirstVolvo hashtag captured the joyous discussions around experiences people shared on buying their first Volvo.

Your customers could be next!!

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