Taking part in the conversation with the “right” #hashtag

This is a guest post I wrote last month for The Lift Blog of Euro RSCG 4D Bulgaria. Euro RSCG 4D Bulgaria is an online marketing communications agency, part of the digital network of HAVAS-owned Euro RSCG Worldwide. I highly recommend you follow them on Twitter @4D_Bulgaria.

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Twitter has been growing quite significantly since its inception in 2006. Last month, the company presented some really impressive statistics about this. Currently, Twitter boasts more than 180 million unique visitors each month and it has over 105 million registered users. And this remarkable and growing environment is producing 140 million updates on average per day. Everyone can share posts without any restrictions as long as they fit within the 140 character limit.

But with such a big growth of new users joining and messages being posted, there is a great chance that your own updates will quickly disappear in the stream and your voice might not be heard. One can try to update more frequently, but this may be a time consuming and costly activity which might fail. So, what can you do to ensure that your message will reach its intended audience? Enter the #hashtag!

What is a hashtag?

A hashtag is basically a keyword. It can be used to easily categorize your messages and put them under a topic, together with updates from everyone else using the same keyword. Clicking on the hashtag or searching for it will take you to a corresponding topic.

Benefits of using hashtags

Using hashtags presents great opportunities for people to start or join relevant conversations about current events or common interests. Following a hashtag can help you find more information and expand your knowledge on a specific topic.

Furthermore, it is a great way of expanding one’s personal and professional network. Adding a hashtag to your message puts your update under a specific category where others can easily find it, like what you are saying, check your profile and decide to connect with you.

Another benefit of using hashtags is the ability to monitor the Twitter stream for conversations relevant to you. Either with the help of Twitter search or a third party application, you can browse thorough the noise and select only the posts that matter. This can be very helpful for brands who want to engage and maintain a conversation with their customers (prospective, current and past) online.

The “right” hashtag

There is another challenge facing users who are using hashtags. With more than 100 million people tweeting, a significant part of them posting more than once a day on various topics, we must accept that there will be many variations of hashtags for different topics. So, once again we can ask ourselves how to break through the noise and make sure we use the “right” hashtag to join the conversation?

Well, first of all, there is no right or wrong hashtag. They have been adopted by users organically and everyone can use and post with whatever tag he or she prefers. One way of ensuring that it will serve its purpose is to stick with the same hashtag over a long period of time so your audience can see it, begin to recognize it and adopt it.

You can also have a look at which hashtags the people you are following are using and take the same approach. Look at those users in your network who are well-connected, very influential and highly-recognized within their field of expertise. They usually have very broad audiences. And there’s no better way to reach out to these audiences by using the same hashtag.

It is up to YOU!

The use of Twitter and hashtags is different for everyone. Regular users and brands have their own unique motivation and purpose for using Twitter – for example, staying informed on current events. Others might want to expand or share their knowledge. Some will want to gain exposure for a new product or service they are launching. For all of these uses and many more there will be thousands, if not millions, of hashtags posted with new updates. So, it is up to you to decide what your goal is, do your research, and join the conversation with the “right” hashtag.

Social media training for your company

Time to learn!

Today, Radian6 published their new eBook called “Training your company for social media.” I just finished reading it and I can honestly recommend it to anyone who is working towards implementation of social media within their organisation. It is concise and to the point. Reading it will not take you more than half an hour and at the end you will have a really smart framework to plan a social media training program.

Download the ebook from here!

In a previous post I’ve written about the importance of educating and integrating social media within the organisation and with the knowledge that Radian6 are providing it is now much easier to start working on these objectives. I took a few notes while reading the book and here I will present you some of my takeaways. Of course, I encourage you to download the full document and read in depth how you can design a social media training course.

Here are my notes:

– Hiring a “digital native” intern won’t solve your problems – even the most skilled social networkers require training

– Employees can be divided in several categories based on technological adoption and probably there are at least two of these groups within your organisation:
– digital native
– savvy technologist
– reluctant user
– digital contrarian
– digital newbie
It is necessary to educate all your employees – Victory loves preparation!

– Track and report results on a regular basis; social media monitoring tools are essential and require training

– Train employees to be aware of the brand’s digital footprint

– Designing your training program will require a clear understanding of the expectations and needs of your different departments – holding conversations about the objectives of social media with the different teams is a must before actual training begins

– Current employees can form your social media training team or if you have the resources you can choose an external advice

– Your training framework should include topics from the very basic concepts of social media to the more complex fields of social media measurement and influence

– It is essential that you trust your employees and give them freedom of expression – as long as it is in line with the social media guidelines you have put in place already

– Mistakes will happen – do not panic, deal with it quickly and in a transparent way

– Be human and provide excellent customer service through your social media channels

– “Keep engagement natural, effective, and … human.”

Do you understand all of these?

I hope you enjoy reading the book as much as I did. I am also curious about your experience with social media training. Have you participated in similar programs or designed a course like this? What can you add? Let me know in the comments!

Timing in the online world matters – lessons from Dan Zarella

Today we are bombarded with content from everywhere. Especially online. Everyone who is actively participating on the internet is competing for our attention. Both content creators and curators are interacting intensely through various means like email, social networks, blogs, etc. And it is becoming more and more easily to start feeling overwhelmed and lost in all this information. Therefore, it is essential to understand and plan carefully when and how you are taking part in these exchanges.

Fortunately, a couple of days ago, Dan Zarella – the social media scientist working at HubSpot, presented his recent findings on “the science of timing” in a great webinar. I’ve been following Dan for quite some time and took part in several of his webinars as a result of which I’ve gained important understanding about the world of social media, email and blogging.

As I said, the webinar I’ll point out in this post is about timing. Timing regarding social networks, email and blogging activity. Here are some of the main points from Dan’s presentation (or takeaways as he prefers to call them):

Social media:

– Retweeting happens most during the afternoon, mostly between 12PM and 6PM
– Tweeting more on a regular basis during the week, don’t worry that your followers will be overwhelmed by your tweets – this will also help you increase the number of followers
– However, if you are looking to gain more clicks to your own content (webpage, blog) make sure you don’t bury these links in other updates you are tweeting/retweeting
– If you are focusing on spreading your content on Facebook, share links during the weekend

Email:

– People read email most frequently during mornings, therefore posting early in the morning increases the chance of your message to be read
– Experiment with emailing over the weekend – open and click rates are higher at that time, yet bounces and abuse reports are also higher. Email gets most attention on the weekends
– Sending more emails increases the click-through rates and decreases unsubscribe levels
– Newest subscribers are the best – they are likely to remember you best and have higher interest in your email

Blogging:

-Similar to email, blogs are most read during the morning, yet one must not underestimate that 40% of people still read blogs at night
– People read more blogs during weekdays
– Yet if you want to have more comments, try blogging over the weekends – people are more inclined to join your discussions on Saturdays and Sundays
– People who link to your content are most active early in the morning, during the week
– More frequent blogging will result in more views and linking

These are in brief the major points of the webinar. One thing you should note is that the times used in the presentation are according to the EST time zone, but I believe that the same time frames can be related to time zones within Europe.

Here is an interesting tool by HubSpot which will show you your most retweetable times and days:

http://TweetWhen.com

And here is Dan’s presentation on the science of timing:

3 PR lessons from the Charlie Sheen saga

Picture from @charliesheen 's Twitter stream

Charlie Sheen. Over the last couple of days you’ve heard a lot about him. The stories have been everywhere – press, TV, internet, radio. Putting aside the players and issues in this story, I’d like to focus your attention on three communication practices which I believe the actor’s public relations team has been doing really well.

Express clearly your side of the story and stick with it!

First, and most important of all, over the last week the actor and his team of publicists have been openly sharing their side of the story. Charlie Sheen, being a spokesperson for himself, tells his story in a transparent, honest and direct way, in a language that is easy to understand by everyone. The message he wants to communicate is very clear, he sticks with it all the time, and repeats it confidently over and over again – he is clean, ready to get back to work, and the twitter hashtags #winning and #tigerblood are well-known nowadays.

In contrast, there has been almost no word from the camps of Chuck Lorre and CBS. Those two parties have missed on the opportunity to present to the wider audience their own side of the story. As a result of that, the public might turn against them in the near future and take the side of Sheen later. Hearing only statements like “no comment” will most certainly not help their cause.

Increase exposure to your message!

Second, the actor’s camp has generated enormous level of exposure for their message. Charlie Sheen interviews have been broadcasted, published and streamed all over the place. And all of them happened in the time frame of 48 hours! Moreover, various different media have been utilised to help increase the exposure levels. You open a newspaper and you read about the actor. You switch on the TV and you can see an interview with him. You tun on the radio and you can immediately recognise his husky voice. You go online and you are overwhelmed by the amount of material streaming across various social networks, blogs and other sites. You simply can’t avoid it – you’ve been exposed to the message. Job well done PR Team Charlie!

Pay attention to new technologies!

Third, Charlie Sheen’s communications team did not ignore the importance of new technologies. In this particular case, the actor’s team acted quickly to get him on Twitter and start spreading the message on the social network. And what a result that was! His account (@charliesheen) has become the fastest growing twitter account ever. In two days the actor accumulated more than 900 000 followers. At the time I am writing this post he has more than 1,3 million followers! No one has ever done that in such amount of time. By starting a Twitter account, the actor quickly expanded his network and was presented with a great platform where he can express all his thoughts. Using this medium, the actor can easily share his side of the story and continue to increase the exposure to his message.

To sum up, going in front of the public with a clear, honest and easy to understand message, using various media to increase the exposure to this message, and adopting new communication technologies has allowed Charlie Sheen to present his side of the story surrounding his personal life to a broad and influential audience.

This is what I find most interesting from this whole story. What about you? Can you infer any other good communication practices from this case study? Let me know in the comments!