All you need is love … and a few good hashtags

Small yet fierce, the little hashtag wields so much power and influence in the world of social media. We use it everywhere in our posts, updates and tweets. We even use it in our verbal communication (because doing those quotation mark gestures with your fingers is soooo 2014).

Are you using hashtags effectively in your social media? Do you understand how it can help your pages get more engagement? Here is a bit of insight around how to make the most of it … and some interesting facts, including the most widely used #hashtag.

There are several reasons for using hashtags in your social media posts, whether you’re using them on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn or other platforms. The main ones include:

1.  Use hashtags to generate interest for a cause

There have been a number of timely or trendy hashtags that bloggers, celebrities and everyday people like you and me have used to draw attention to a specific cause. Examples here include #LoveIsLove (often used to gain attention for LGBT issues, particularly around the recent Australian poll on same sex marriage), #imwithher (Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign slogan), #standwithstandingrock (a rally cry for the movement to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota), #pinkribbonday (used to generate interest for breast cancer research and affiliated fundraising events).

What you can do?

Create a hashtag that is unique (or not already in great use) for your cause (or charity, volunteer organisation, etc).  People interested in that cause can then click on the hashtag link or search on that hashtag to find similar content.

2.  Use hashtags to grow your following

There are lots of ways to do this. You can find a hashtag that is currently popular – or trending – such as #princeharry or #meghanmarkle (the latest royal family news, just in case you’ve been on a digital sabbatical or living under a rock). You can use a very common hashtag that is widely used, such as #photooftheday or #food (each with hundreds of millions of public posts on Instagram). Or you can use a hashtag related to your business or industry that people may search on for information or inspiration, such as #hiit or #marketing.

What you can do?

Include in your posts and tweets hashtags that are relevant to what you’re posting about. There is lot of evidence showing that the use of hashtags helps increase the reach of your content. People use hashtagged words to find posts about specific subjects, so think of them in the same way you’d think of search engine terms and phrases.

3.  Use hashtags to find new pages to follow

Generally speaking, the more you follow, the more you will be followed. Search up hashtags that are relevant to your business or industry, and find new social media profiles to follow and engage with. Remember that last bit … “and engage with”. The number of followers you have is completely irrelevant if you do nothing to engage and interact with them – which is why hashtags like #followforfollow or #likeforlike drive me crazy. Social media shouldn’t be a popularity contest. It’s just another form of media we use to grow our businesses. So why would you want to talk to anyone and everyone? Like most things, quality over quantity is what we should spend our resources on.

What you can do?

Decide what the key words and phrases are for your audience (again, similar to search engine optimisation) and search them up. Find some reputable pages to follow and engage with. Remember, the impact on the size of your own audience won’t be seen immediately. Like anything, these relationships take time, nurturing and reciprocal information sharing.

4.  Use hashtags to connect with a particular audience segment

This objective is similar to number two above (growing your following), where you use a hashtag to get found. But it’s more about being part of a group. For example, #interiordesign will connect you with people and businesses working in that industry. Often when you attend a conference or seminar, you’ll be asked to include a particular hashtag in your tweets and posts. This helps connect you with other attendees of the same event, as well as create publicity for the event itself.

What you can do?

Create a hashtag that is unique (or not already in great use) for your business or your event. People will then use this hashtag to find out more about the event if it is a recurring one, so create one for your events and encourage people to use it. Even when I’m not hosting events, I use hashtags to group and categorise content so that it is easy to find. For example, whenever I post about a piece of great copywriting that I’ve seen, I’ll use #clevercopy. And whenever I see a business using marketing or branding to make a meaningful difference in the world (in my humble opinion), I’ll use #socialmediaforgood.

If my followers like these types of posts, then all they need to do is click on the hashtag link or search on those hashtags to find similar content if that’s what interests them.

Caution, sappy holiday season sentimentality approaching….

Compiling research on the hashtag has made me realise its true purpose … connection. We use it to connect with others. Social media and smartphones have significantly impacted the way we communicate and interact with each other. So we’ve created a way to find other people who want to talk about (and look at photos of) the same things that interest us. In some weird way, hashtags bring us together. Interesting then, that the most widely used hashtag is #love.

Ok, if you’re not into the sappy stuff, and prefer a bit of humour in your day, just search on #fail in your favourite social media platform and enjoy.

Have a quick read of our blog post “Where did the hashtag come from?” to find out the history of the hashtag and why we use it.

And if you want to see other hashtags we use, please follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

 

How to make your website work better

To make the most of your website as a sales and marketing tool, your site must be both easy to find and easy to use by prospects and customers as well as having key components that improve your search engine optimisation. There are three key things that contribute to this: design, development and text.

Companies often hire web designers or developers to look after the first two – design and development – and often write the content or copy themselves. The text used on your site, however, plays a pivotal role in making your site easy to find and use and should be worked on by someone skilled in writing for the web.

When we look at effective web copy, we take into account the text layout and the language both on the pages themselves as well as in the meta tags (part of the site’s HTML coding). It is not enough to simply upload copy from your company brochures or other marketing collateral.

We don’t read – we skim and scan

When we read content online, we generally decide within 10 seconds of landing on a web page whether we have found the right site that has the information or answers we are seeking. Web pages, then, must be easy to skim and scan. We don’t read content on a web page like we do a printed piece of collateral.

Eye-tracking studies show that we scan along the top and left-hand side of web pages, along an “F” shape. So the first thing you can do is look at the text on your pages from a distance (just look at the pages, rather than reading them) and see if the text layout makes use of this prime real estate.

Things you can do to make your web pages easy to scan include using headlines and subheads (search engines like keywords in headings), breaking up text into digestible chunks, arranging copy in lists or bullet points wherever appropriate, and making use of sidebars.

Speak the language of your customer

When it comes to the specific language you use in your web copy, there are some key things to do. First, before you do any writing, make a list of words or phrases that people use when searching for a company that provides what you do. Remember to use the language of the customer, not industry jargon. A good start to compiling this list is the Google Keyword Tool (part of Google Adwords) which shows what keywords and phrases are being used in searches and ranks them by popularity and search volume. This then becomes your list of keywords that you would consider incorporating into the text on your site as well as your meta tags to improve your search engine optimisation.

Next, make a list of the top three questions that people ask about your business when they first make contact with you. What is it that they need to know before progressing down the sales conversion path? Make sure your website either answers these queries or entices the reader enough to get in contact with you for the answers. Make sure your web copy includes a call to action wherever possible if you want people to do business with you. Don’t be too shy to tell them what they need to do next.

Lastly, get someone who is not familiar with your industry to read your copy to see if it is written in plain English, not overridden with jargon and acronyms.

Take into consideration the fact that visitors to your site will not read your content in any predictable or chronological order. Pages, then, must make sense as stand-alone documents. This is particularly important if you have external links that direct people to different pages of your site.

Make use of your links

There are certain things that search engines look for when finding and ranking pages, two of these being inbound links to your site from other websites as well as hyperlinks within your site text. Text that appears in a hyperlink is not only more noticeable than plain text when you first scan a page, but it is also considered more important than plain text by search engines. Use hyperlinks for your call to action and to help people navigate through your site, and whenever possible, use descriptive links that include some of your keywords (more than just “click here”).

Remember, your website is not just an online brochure. It should be an interactive sales and marketing tool that you use to direct prospects and customers to do business with you. Search engines also like sites that have content that changes. So keep the customer’s perspective in mind and keep it fresh, up-to-date and informative.

How to write great website copy

For many business owners, writing their own website copy is a challenging task. If you choose not to outsource this work to a professional web writer, here are some helpful tips to make the writing process easier – and the end results more effective.

Home

Start by writing a few concise sentences that tell the reader what your business does and who you do it for. These key messages should be on your Home page. Visitors to your website want to know instantly what you do and whether you can work with them.

Do away with the “Welcome to our website” line. While I’m a big fan of manners in all aspects of life, you don’t actually need to welcome people to your site. The header on your Home page should be an engaging phrase that tells visitors more about what you do. And it’s a good place to put a few key words for search engine optimisation.

Next, write down the three most frequently asked questions that people ask about your business. If you’re not sure, ask your receptionist or whoever answers your office phones and emails. Listen to what people ask you at networking events when you introduce yourself and your company. Pay attention to what people ask you at dinner parties when you tell them what you do. These questions are valuable insight, and often these things should be mentioned on your Home page. Visitors want to know instantly whether your website is the right place for them to find the information or solution they need. Make it easy for them. Don’t make visitors hunt for the information they need.

About us

Don’t make the mistake of using too much “we” copy on your website, especially on the Home page. You can, however, get away with using more of it on the About us page if you have one.

About us (or whatever you choose to call this section of your site) is the place where you really demonstrate your credibility and, if necessary, your financial stability. Readers want to know whether you know what you’re talking about, and whether you’re going to be in business for much longer. So before you write, stop and ask: what do prospects really want to know about us to reassure them of these two questions?

Often the About us page starts with a sentence something like this: “Maple Marketing was founded in 2005 and is located in Auckland, New Zealand.” While the key points here (date established and geographic area) may be important to some prospects, the sentence itself doesn’t tell a compelling story. Instead, a sentence like this might grab your readers’ interest more: “Maple Marketing has been writing marketing plans for small and medium sized enterprises in New Zealand since 2005.”

Products/Services

Here, don’t just describe what you offer. Don’t just talk about the features – promote the benefits. Think about what problems you’re solving for people and describe them. This will help you connect with readers and convince them that you understand their needs. And wherever possible, try to avoid vague terms like “solutions” when describing what you sell.

If you’re in a service industry, focus on outcomes. People are more concerned with where they’ll end up after working with you, rather than the process you’re going to use to get them there. Initially, most people are attracted to the end results (e.g. how much weight they’ll lose, what their haircut will look like, how their home makeover will affect the value of their property, etc) rather than the steps used to get them there (e.g. how many meetings will be needed, what paperwork will have to be completed, etc). Yet all too often business owners try to sell the process, rather than the outcomes.

Contact

This is often the second page people visit, so try to put more information on this page than just your address details. Is there any key information you want to give to people to reassure them that getting in touch with you is the right thing to do? Do you offer a free initial consultation or visit that you can attract them with? Can you add a short section here about signing up to your newsletter? Don’t be afraid to add a concise paragraph of copy to your Contact page.

The most important thing to do if you are creating your own website content is to regularly step back and review your website from the point of view of your prospects or clients. Try to look at your business from an objective perspective and provide all the information that people want and need in order to do business with you.

For more on effective web writing, have a look at this article or get in touch and let us help. Even if you’ve already started the process yourself, we’re happy to review what you’ve done and offer that objective viewpoint it may need.

Content marketing

If you enter the phrase “top marketing trends” into a search engine, what you’ll find come up in several of the top results is “content marketing”. We’ve been saying it for years – content is king.

Good content will get you more searches, more followers, more customers. But what exactly is content marketing? It is a form of marketing where you communicate with prospects and customers using relevant, valuable, enticing content to attract and engage them.

Where? On your website, social media pages, emails, newsletters, articles, blogs, videos – anywhere you communicate with your prospects and clients.

Why? Because people don’t want to be sold to. Before they spend their money, they want to like you and your business, trust you, receive credible and useful material to help inform their purchasing decision.

How? By developing a content marketing strategy. Content marketing needs to be continuous and consistent, and it’s easier than you may think. Think of content you can publish that falls into categories such as:

  • news, trends, events, who’s who, who’s doing what – anything exciting happening in your industry (but be careful not to publish too many “this is what we’ve been up to” stories; unless it’s relevant to them, people generally don’t have the time to read these)
  • regulation changes, updates to legislation affecting your industry that customers need to know about (and need simplified or condensed for them)
  • stories about good sorts – good deeds, good samaritans, good customer service experiences – people love a good story
  • case studies – let people know of interesting or unique customer experiences that demonstrate real results
  • how-to guides – make things easier for people and they’ll refer back to you often
  • FAQs – offer the answers to frequently asked questions before they get asked; again it’s about making things easy to find and you’ll soon be seen as a credible expert in your field.

Here are a few bits of advice when it comes to content marketing.

As well as talking about your own industry or business sector, also publish content about businesses or industries that lie in the periphery to yours. What else are your clients interested in? Don’t be limited to just talking about your business or your specific industry. You’ll probably either run out of ideas or quickly become boring to your readers.

Don’t be too salesy. You want to attract, entice, engage. It’s okay to include promotions or special offers from time to time, but if all you’re doing is overtly selling, people will quickly tune out and unsubscribe.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that “you shouldn’t give away too much free information”. There is already so much free information out there. Wouldn’t you rather have your prospects coming to you for it?

Not everything you publish has to be your own unique content. Share useful and interesting content you find, but always, always, always give credit to the source of the information. Not only does this reinforce your credibility, but it also shows your clients that you do your research, continue to learn from others, and are willing to share other sources of helpful content.

Make sure you consider your key SEO terms in your content. Content marketing is a powerful way to attract and retain customers without selling. And it is also a way of refreshing your content to improve your search engine rankings.

If you need help putting together a content marketing strategy, or coming up with content ideas, please get in touch with us on Renata@Mathewson.co.nz.