As 2015 comes to a close, we wanted to gift-wrap our best advice in a tidy package — our most popular articles, case studies, infographics, and interviews from this year — making them easy for you to find and use.
2015 was a year bringing great change to online marketing, including:
Facebook rolled out photo carousel posts, a unified experience across all devices, and the safety-check feature
Twitter increased their 140-character limit and added emoticons
Instagram now offers advertising
Pinterest rolled out buyable pins to those using major shopping carts
LinkedIn bought Lynda.com and Slideshare.net, becoming a more comprehensive business-to-business platform
It can be tough to keep up with all the changes, and even more challenging to identify which of all those new features are truly relevant to your business.
What Will You Get in This Guide?
The Best of the Best of 2015: Social Media Articles, Case Studies, Infographics and Interviews is a comprehensive look at the state of social media for small business owners, crowdsourced by your peers.
This guide offers the most popular content we published on our blog in 2015, and gives you a choice of how to consume it:
Want a deep dive into a topic? Check out the ultimate guides.
Just want a quick overview? Download the infographics.
Learn better by watching? Review our best videos of 2015.
Like to listen to your favorite podcast while you work out? Listen to our most popular interview.
No matter what business you're in or how you like to learn, you'll find something here for you.
These 10 articles on social media marketing cover overall strategy to individual networks. Mastering social media is a continual process, one that never stops. So even if you "knew it all" last year, what works for your brand this year is completely different.
After 25 years of computer training, and over five here at Socialmediaonlineclasses.com, I've found there's a common thread running through the journey to grow, improve, and innovate: the feeling of being overwhelmed with the constant change in digital marketing.
These articles are address that challenge, and are the most popular here at Socialmediaonlineclasses.com for 2015, as identified by organic searchers from Google:
I'm a huge reader, and I enjoy interviewing the great minds whose books I've read, whose workshops I've attended at conferences, and bringing you the little-known voice you might not have heard of previously.
These interviews cover a broad range of topics most relevant to overwhelmed business owners: how to be uber-productive, what it takes to run a successful crowdfunding campaign, the rise of visual content, and even getting over 70% of your business from Twitter:
Case studies are the powerhouse of content: they prove that success is possible using online marketing, and teach you exactly how to get results.
Because we focus on small business owners here at Socialmediaonlineclasses.com, you won't find the usual Starbucks, Domino's, or REI case studies. Instead, you'll see those small brands that are the backbone of the U.S. economy: photographers, consultants, retailers, artists, yoga teachers, heating & air brands, jewelers, gyms, and more.
These case studies are the most popular here at Socialmediaonlineclasses.com for 2015, as identified by organic searchers from Google:
There's no better way to learn than from someone who's been successful achieving what you need to do.
In 2013, we published a comprehensive list of 13 social media marketing case studies exclusively for small business (all featured SMOC members).
As we close out 2015, I wanted to share even more, all-new case studies: 15 for 2015.
Each of the case studies below features tactics that work exclusively for small business. Each is unique: some offer infographics, other video, others checklists. But all of them offer lessons you can immediately take away and use today:
Every week here at Socialmediaonlineclasses.com we give you a list of our most recent resources with our Weekly Top 5: your lessons, infographics, webinars, and articles. We’ve gathered all those resources from 3rd quarter of the year into one GINORMOUS list for you, making it uber-easy to find what you need to grow your business using social media marketing.
Click on the infographic to download your own full-size pdf version
<< Click on the infographic to download your own full-size pdf version.
“Tag — you’re it!”
In a nutshell, that’s what a social media tag does: allows you to notify a friend or business you’ve mentioned them on that social network.
No, they’re not “it,” but they been talked about. And curiosity will prompt them to check out what you’ve said (good or bad).
Every major social network offers the ability to tag: who you can tag, how you do it, and the effect it has is what this guide is all about.
A tag is not a hashtag: a tag identifies a person or brand and notifies them they’ve been mentioned in a post. A hashtag is a word or phrase describing the content or context of your post and helps people find it.
In the tweet shown below, I’m linking to an infographic on how to use a Google search to find anything online. I used the tag @Google to notify them I mentioned them in my tweet; I used the hashtag #search to increase the visibility of the tweet:
@Google “taps” them on the shoulder to say “you’ve been mentioned;” #search helps people find the tweet
See the difference? A tag notifies one person/brand directly; a hashtag allows a wider group of people to find your content.
1. Tags is a @ symbol used before a name
A tag is the “at” symbol (@) preceding a person’s or brand’s name on a social network. For example, if you wanted to tag Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, you would use @Tim_Cook (Apple is conspicuously absent from Twitter, however). You’ll see over 17 screenshots of tags in this guide (scroll to see them).
2. Tags can be a person’s name
You can tag a person on every social network using the exact spelling of their name on that account. And their account name may be different on various social networks. I’m @mariapeagler on Instagram, but @sm_onlineclass on Twitter. Most social networks will display the person’s account name and avatar as you type, so you can select the correct one.
3. Tags can be a business’ name
All major social networks allow you to tag a business in your posts. However, many limit the ability of a brand to tag a person for privacy reasons (I give you all the details later in this comprehensive guide).
4. Tells them of your mention
A tag tells the person/brand that you’ve mentioned them in a post and identifies you as the person who did it.
5. They get a notification
When you’re tagged on social media, you get a message in your notifications area identifying who tagged you; click on it to see the post itself.
6. Gives people a “heads up”
A tag is literally a “heads up — you’ve been mentioned” courtesy. Social media can be a noisy, overwhelming place, and tags notify users of they’ve been named in a post in case they’ve missed it.
7. Tags are public; notifications are private
Because tags are visible in a social media post itself, anyone who has permission to see it will be able to see your tag. However, the notification you receive from the social network is private.
8. Works on personal & business accounts
Tagging works on both personal and business accounts for every major social network (Slideshare is an exception currently. However, since their purchase by LinkedIn, I expect tagging will be added as a feature soon).
You can tag Twitter users when you mention them in a tweet. A specific type of mention is called a reply. The difference between the two? I clear it up in #10 and #11
10. Mentions is a tag in tweet body
A Twitter mention is when you tag someone in the body of a tweet. When you tag another Twitter user, they’ll get a message linking to your tweet in their Notifications tab.
Mention example: I tagged author Ekaterina Walter in the body of this tweet; she got a msg linking to it in her Notifications tab
The Power of a Mention: I tagged Evernote in a tweet, which notified them. They saw it, retweeted it, and over 400K people learned of my brand in just one day.
Want to mention someone at the beginning of a tweet, but it’s not a reply? You can do that too: just type a period at the beginning of the tweet, like this Pantene did here:
11. Replies begin a tweet
A Twitter reply is usually a response to someone else’s tweet. Use a tag at the beginning of a reply; by doing so, the only people who will see it in their timeline will be those who follow both you and the other user.
Because I tagged @Ross_Behrens at the beginning of this tweet, only Ross and the people following both of us will see it
12. Use tags in tweets or photos
You can tag someone in a tweet or by tagging them in a photo you upload to Twitter. Here I uploaded an infographic to Twitter and tagged the business I featured in it by clicking on Who’s in this photo?:
13. Search Twitter using tags
You can search for a user’s tag natively on Twitter or by searching for their tag on Google. Searching for @RisingStarRes on Google search returns Lynda Spiegel (see her tag in #12).
14. Use “via @WSJ” to credit
An easy way to credit the source of content or a link in your tweet is to end it with “via @username.” So the tweet “On ‘Big Bang,’ hiding jokes are a science http://on.wsj.com/1PT0T5J via @WSJ” tags the Wall Street Journal and also gives them credit. While they use their own shortened & branded URL, most brands don’t, and this is a simple way to source them.
15. Use mentions as testimonials
An easy way to provide a public testimonial is to tweet it and tag the brand in it. Easy for you to do, and great publicity for the brand. In the tweet below, @thedreamregister offered a testimonial about her membership with Socialmediaonlineclasses.com and tagged us in it:
16. Tag up to 10 people in a photo
Tagging people in your photo? You can tag up to 10 of them on Twitter.
In Socialmediaonlineclasses.com, you get classes on every major social network, infographics, webinars, and 1:1 coaching with me. I hope to see you inside Socialmediaonlineclasses.com.
17. Use @ in caption text
The area below the photo in Instagram is called the caption, and this is where you can tag a person or brand using the @ symbol.
18. Can use anywhere in caption
You can tag an Instagram user anywhere in the body of the caption; unlike Twitter, it doesn’t matter where it appears. The effect is the same: the user gets notification they were tagged on a post.
19. Can tag people in a photos
You can also tag other Instagram users in a photo by clicking on the image and adding their username, as shown below:
Tap the screen to add a tag to a photo on Instagram
20. Use tags to link to other Instagram accts
Old Spice created a simulated game by tagging its other accounts in an image and setting up the scenario in the caption:
Instagram created a game-like post by setting up a simulated environment and tagged its image with its other accounts as the game’s next steps
21. Tag users & add emojis
Add some extra life to your Instagram captions by tagging another user and adding emojis to reinforce your message. Instagram users love their emojis, and it gets the conversation going.
22. Use tags to showcase products
If your brand offers multiple products and each has its own Instagram account, tag them in your images. Those tags will act as a hyperlink to take users to the product accounts.
23. Host a Follow & Tag contest
Want a simple contest for Instagram? Require users to 1) follow your account, and 2) tag a friend on your post. That both gains new followers for you and generates more visibility.
24. Tag wisely using post etiquette
Instagram tends to have a lot of spam tagging and hashtags, so set yourself apart by being different: only tag those people, brands, or influencers who are relevant to your account. Don’t tag Oprah in hopes she’ll see you and promote your next book.
25. Can tag people from profile
Facebook allows you the most freedom in tagging on your personal profile: from here, you can tag both people and brands.
26. Can tag only business from biz page
From your business page, you can tag only other businesses, for privacy reasons. Remember that your Facebook posts are public, and your fans may not want their clickable tag appearing in your post.
In this Facebook post, I tagged the authors of a post I shared. I was able to tag Orbit Media Studios’ business page, they saw the post and responded to it, as did my fans. Notice this post didn’t get a huge reach — only 21 people. It didn’t need to, because it reached the right people through social media tagging:
27. Can tag people in photos
From your personal profile, you can tag both people and brands in a photo. You cannot do either from your business page. However, the UEFA Champions League cleverly gets around that restriction by telling its fans to tag themselves in this photo:
While you can’t tag a person from your business page, you can suggest your fans do it themselves
28. Can tag in comments
Tagging is also available in post comments. While you cannot tag a person from your business page, people can tag their own friends in a comment on your page or even your ad. It’s an easy way for them to share content.
Men’s Health magazine suggests tagging a friend and liking their page. From the 55,000 Likes and almost 5,000 comments, I’d say it’s working:
29. Groups can tag their members
Facebook groups allow its members to tag each other in comments, so they get notifications of when they’ve been mentioned. In large groups, this allows members to stay engaged when there are far more posts than they’ll ever be able to read.
30. Fans can tag friends in comment
An easy way to get more visibility for your posts is to encourage your fans to tag their friends in the comments on a post. SHAPE magazine does this in their squat challenge:
31. Ask fans to tag you biz in contest
Tag contests are popular on Facebook too. Good Morning America had Garth Brooks surprise a Mom at her front door on Mother’s Day, and an easy way to promote the story was by suggesting fans “tag a mom you love in the comments.” While that didn’t enter them in the contest, it did increase the viewership of and buzz around the story:
GMA gets greater visibility for their Mother’s Day contest by encourage fans to “tag a Mom you love”
32. Notifies you when tagged
No matter who does the tagging, you get notified in your Facebook menu when you’ve been tagged. It’s a smart way of cutting through the noise on Facebook to say “you’ve been mentioned!”
33. Tag using the @ symbol
Tag people and brands on LinkedIn using the @ symbol, as you do on other social network.
34. Tag in status updates or comments
You can tag LinkedIn users either in a status update or in comments on your own or others’ status updates.
35. Tag a person in your network
LinkedIn limits you to tagging only those people you’re already connected with in your network.
36. Tag a business
You can tag any business having a page on LinkedIn — no restrictions.
37. Tagged name gets notification
The LinkedIn account you tagged gets a notification in the upper right of their Main Menu.
38. Tagged name links to profile
When you add a tag to your LinkedIn status update, that tag becomes a clickable hyperlink.
39. Reply to people who tag you
It’s good etiquette to reply to people who tag you on LinkedIn. They’re providing engagement, and you want to add your voice to the conversation and say “thanks!”
This robust conversation on LinkedIn uses tags to directly address the participants
40. Great way to start conversation
Tagging is an excellent way to start an intelligent conversation or ask for input on LinkedIn.
41. Tag using the @ or + symbols
Google Plus allows you to tag other users with either the @ symbol or the + sign.
42. Can also tag using email
You can also tag someone on Google Plus using their email address. As you enter it, an autocomplete list will appear, and you can select their name from it.
43. Can tag people & businesses
You can tag both people and brands on Google Plus. You can also tag people who are not in your Circles.
44. Can tag in posts/comments
You can tag Google Plus users either in your posts or in comments (on your own post or in other’s posts).
45. Tag people in Google Photos
Photos or images you upload to Google Plus are managed by their Google Photos application, which allows you to tag both people and businesses:
46. Feature called Tag People
While Google Photos calls this feature Tag People, you can also tag a business in a photo, as shown below:
47. Tagged name gets notifications
You get notifications you’ve been tagged in an image in your Notifications icon at the top right. By clicking on it, you can see the images as well approve or reject any mentions you don’t want:
48. Choose where to receive notifications: desktop, mobile, email, sms, or push notifications
Google Plus has the largest number of notifications options of any social network: you automatically get notifications on desktop and mobile, but you can also have them delivered via email, sms on your smartphone, or by push notifications.
49. Tag using the @ symbol
Pinterest allows you to tag other users using the @ symbol: to tag me, you’d use @mariapeagler.
50. Tag in pin description
You can tag other users in the pin description, shown below the pin photo:
I was able to tag Marybeth because I follow her on Pinterest
51. Tag in pin comments
You can also tag other Pinterest users in comments on a pin. While it’s unlikely to be as robust a conversation as you would have on Twitter or LinkedIn, those users will get a notification of your tag and see your mention.
52. Can tag followers
Pinterest allows you to tag people who you follow. As I type @marybeth, Pinterest displays followers whose names match that and allows me to choose from them.
53. Can also tag businesses
Want to tag a business on your Pinterest pin? No problem! You do need to follow them first: you can tag only those brands you follow.
54. Notifies you when tagged
As with other social networks, Pinterest notifies you when you’ve been tagged either in a pin or a description.
55. Great for contest entries
Run a contest on Pinterest and require entrants to tag your brand. You gain a new follower and get notified they’ve entered your contest.
56. Cuts through visual clutter
Pinterest is overwhelming to some users because of all the visual stimulation (an artist friend says there’s just too much to look at!). So getting a notification helps to cut through the visual noise and gives a user a “heads up” when they’ve been mentioned.
57. Be innovative to grab attention
How can you be creative in using tags on social media? Can you create a “game” like Old Spice? What if you tag people or brands you mention in a blog post? Start small and have fun!
58. Tell a story using tags
Use tags to tell your brand’s story: tag your clients when you include them in a case study. Tag your vendors to recommend them. Tag influencers to say how they’ve inspired you.
59. Host contest; entrants must tag you
Tags serve multiple purposes for contests: they gain new followers for your brand, reduce the workload (since you get notifications), and gain greater visibility for your brand.
60. Use your tag in branding
Use your tag in your branding across the web. Every infographic I do (including this one for social media tagging) includes my Twitter account tag @sm_onlineclass. Make it easy for people to tag you.
61. Give credit with a tagged shout out
Impressed with an article? Tag the author. Shared a great story? Tag the person or brand it’s about. Had a great experience at a restaurant? Take a photo of your meal and tag them on Instagram. Tagging is the EZ button for testimonials and reviews.
62. Use tag on your products
Can you include a tag on your product packaging (or the product itself)?
63. Use on SWAG giveaways
If you give away promotional freebies, be sure to include your social media tag on your products. It’s a reminder of your generosity and the product/service you offer.
64. Tag relevant influencers (wisely)
Yes, I included this one before, but it bears repeating: if you’re tagging an influencer, be sure you have sufficient reason to. Don’t spam them. Be helpful, be relevant, and be authentic.
What’s your social media tag?
Click HERE to download the full-size infographic[/ninja-popup]
Every small business can brand themselves and expand their influence using social media tags.
Go through this post again and identify which tactics best fit your business. You don’t have to completely change the way you market your brand; instead, simply start using a tags in your social media posts, visual content, and contests.
Use this infographic as a “to do list” of tactics, and experiment with a few to see which ones generate the most buzz and results for your brand. Don’t forget to let me know which ones worked for you, using the hashtag #smtagprimer.
Every week here at Socialmediaonlineclasses.com we give you a list of our most recent resources with our Weekly Top 5: your lessons, infographics, webinars, and articles. We’ve gathered all those resources from 2nd quarter of the year into one GINORMOUS list for you, making it uber-easy to find what you need to grow your business using social media marketing.
I’ve waited quite a while to debut this, as I wanted it to be the best social media certificate available anywhere — university, private, online, offline — at an affordable cost.
So here are the details:
What is the Online Social Media Certificate?
It’s an online certificate program designed for people who want to be professional social media managers, for agencies who need training for their new hires, for consultants who want to add social media marketing to their services, and anyone who wants proof they are on the leading-edge of what works in social media marketing today.
The certificate program includes 56 hours of classes, webinars, articles, and a final exam. The entire curriculum is shown below (click to download the PDF):
The all-inclusive program includes classes on EVERY major social network, webinars on strategy & management, case studies, mobile marketing, visual content, and more.
Plus, you get 1:1 coaching with founder Maria Peagler, who will mentor you in your studies and in landing your dream job and/or clients.
Finally, once you pass your final exam, you can be listed in our social media certified consultants directory.
How Long Does the Program Take to Complete?
Our certificate program contains 56 hours of instruction in multimedia classes, video webinars, articles, and infographics. However, it’s completely self-paced. How long it takes you to complete depends on your skill level and experience. Some people take two hours to complete a class, others need two months. You go at your own pace. You have one full year from your date of enrollment to complete the program.
How Much Does the Program Cost?
The online social media certificate program at Socialmediaonlineclasses.com costs $897, which is all-inclusive: the entire curriculum, coaching with founder Maria Peagler, and your final exam. I’m proud to offer a superior training program at an affordable cost that doesn’t place an undue burden of student loan debt on our members.
What is Required to Earn My Certificate?
To earn your certificate, you must take a final exam which is approximately 100 questions, and score at least 75%. You have only one opportunity to take the exam and pass it. You can purchase additional opportunities to take the exam for $150 each.
How is Your Certificate Program Different Than Those Offered Elsewhere?
Excellent question, and I’m glad you asked! Our program is unique in these ways:
entire curriculum is up-to-date with what works NOW in social media marketing, not six months ago or last year
you get 1:1 coaching every month with founder Maria Peagler
you learn how to get ROI on every major social network for your clients
you learn from a teacher who DOES social media marketing every day to earn her full-time living
you learn search engine optimization, mobile marketing, visual content, and other topics not covered by other programs
all this at a cost not requiring you to take out student loans
Why Do I Need to Renew My Certificate?
Because social media marketing changes so quickly, it’s imperative that your skills reflect the latest tactics, techniques, and strategies that work for social networks as they operate now, not as they did last year. And employers and clients need to know that your skills are up-to-date.
Most major certifications require retraining, including CPR, lifeguarding, and other critical skills.
When you renew your certification for $150 each year, you get access to the entire curriculum for an additional three months so you can update your skill set.
When Can I Start?
Right now. Our program is live, and you can proudly earn & display your certificate within 30 days when you enroll today.
Maria Peagler: Let’s sum up what it takes to sell on Instagram. The easiest thing for you to do is just post to your website or your blog or wherever it is on social media and just say, “Hey, on the blog today here’s what I’m doing. On Facebook today, here’s what I’m doing.” Just remind people, “Hey, there’s something new going on here. Here’s where you can find this.” Something that’s not quite as easy but it’s still pretty easy is something called micro content. This is what I do. I do a lot of info graphics but those are really too big to post on Instagram.
I do a very small version with one fact on it and I do a shortened link that people can remember to type in their URL in their browser. Because you cannot link to anything on Instagram on your post unless it is in your profile. That’s the only thing you can do, so I do it this way. Then, finally it’s more involved but do like Fox and Fawn and give people an EZ Button. They came up with a really really smart way for people to buy directly from them on Instagram by having their credit card on file and just saying, “Ring me up.” I just think it’s genius. They are doing really well.
The key to getting Instagram sales is having a clear photo. Here’s Elise’s journal photos and she’s got details about when and where to buy. They sell out within a day. Be very detailed in your description. Fox and Fawn in their profile gave you everything that you needed to know. They don’t put holds on items, no returns. Call their telephone number to purchase, where they are. They’re very detailed in their descriptions. Things sell out within an hour. This sweatshirt sold within an hour. Give people an easy way to do it. Theirs was a comment with, “Ring me up.” That is Instagram.
Now we’re going to move on to Pinterest which works completely differently. Pinterest works on both the mobile and desktop so there are no limitations there. The one thing that you really need to understand is Pinterest drives traffic and it drives a lot of it. If you are looking to get traffic to your website, Pinterest will do it for you. It is the number one driver of traffic of any social network. More than Twitter, more than YouTube, certainly more than Instagram. It is a huge driver of traffic to your website.
There are a couple things that you need to do on Pinterest. One is to have a really good image. Again, it doesn’t need to be professional but there are some things that you can do to get a really good image that gets a lot of likes, re-pins and traffic. Here’s what it is. You are actually going to get this template that you can use or give to your graphic designer. This is one of the goodies you’re going to get.
I got a call from a floral shop owner in a small town, and she was scared . . .
One of the HUGE online floral brands was running Google ads that made them “appear” to be local.
They had a big budget, an ad agency . . .
And they were taking away her business.
What could she do?
We developed a strategy in her personal coaching sessions with me (included with her membership), she took classes here at Socialmediaonlineclasses.com to learn search engine optimization and tactics only local businesses can use. She developed a unique strategy based on her shop and her location, enabling her to compete against those bigger brands and take away THEIR business.
How? That’s what this post is all about —
1. Don’t Try to Win Shoppers on Price
If you’re s small brand who is competing against an online retailer or big box store, the price battle is one you’ll lose.
Ultimately, however, you’ll come out the winner.
Because shoppers who buy based on the lowest price are NEVER loyal: they go with whomever has the lowest price at the time. They’re also demanding, difficult to please, and rarely satisfied.
Let someone else have those clients — you don’t need the headache.
So first, realize you won’t win over everyone, nor do you want to.
2. Offer Specialized Products the Big Brands Can’t
Every floral shop offers wedding and funeral bouquets. But what don’t they offer?
Floral arrangements based on the colors of local high school and college teams
Themed arrangements for the local festival and celebrations
Participation in local cultural events
Specialized same-day delivery to local hospitals
Last year a family friend was in a horrific accident and recovering in an Atlanta hospital. I wanted to send a special floral bouquet, but because I’m over an hour away, I didn’t know which florists specialized in delivering to that hospital or even if she could receive flowers.
I made one phone call to the hospital, and found out that yes, this patient could receive flowers, and they even recommended a local florist who specialized in same-day deliveries: Peachtree Petals.
Peachtree Petals has a dedicated page on their website telling you which local hospitals they deliver to. They even have a same-day count-down timer to let you know how long you have to place an order.
They offered a dedicated website page for local hospital floral deliveries, reassuring me that they did deliver to the hospital I needed, and could do so within the SAME day.
Later in this post I’ll share related resources you can use for powerful tactics available only to local businesses.
Here’s another incredible small business: a local Alpharetta, Georgia bakery called Mama Bakes Safe Cakes. While that may sound like an odd name, any mother whose child has food allergies can immediately identify with what this unique bakery has to offer: allergen-free baked goods.
You can find cupcakes in any grocery store, Wal-Mart and Target across the country. What you can’t find is a bakery that can assure you that their baked goods were prepared in an allergen-free environment and are safe for your child to eat.
Specialized bakeries can charge prices for one cupcake that would buy six cupcakes at a grocery store, because it’s challenging to find bakeries that specialize in allergen-free products. Peace-of-mind for parents comes with a higher price tag they are more than happy to pay.
Score one for the little guys!
3. Show the People Behind Your Small Business
Who’s the face of Home Depot, Starbucks, or Target?
Here’s where small businesses can win BIG: let your customers get to know the people behind your business.
The secret to capturing the hearts of your customers is your PEOPLE. They are the ones who greet us as we come through the door, who ask us how our families are doing, who know what we want for dinner before we even order. All of these special touches make your store feel like HOME when we walk through the door.
No big box retailer can come close to that.
The Woodbridge Inn is a small restaurant in Jasper, Georgia, located in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. Owner Hans Rueffert is carrying on the tradition his father Joe started in running the business:
Hans competed in the Food Network Star reality competition, does local cooking shows, and has fought a fierce battle with stomach cancer. Locals know Hans, his family, and his story because he freely shares them:
One evening this winter my husband and I were enjoying dinner at the the Woodbridge Inn when Hans came out with his new baby Heidi, and introduced her to every single table. We talked food, family, and connected over a great meal prepared by great people:
Peachtree Petal’s Facebook page shows their talented designers participating in at the High Museum of Art’s “Art in Bloom” event. No online retailer can show this kind of local support!
Peachtree Petals participates in local cultural events. You get to know the people behind the brand.
On Mama Bakes Safe Cake’s Facebook page is a “thank you” from a runner delighted to be greeted with allergen-free cupcakes after finishing a local road race:
Ultimately, big box retailers don’t know your town’s people, their stories, nor will they win their loyalties with low prices. Connection, incredible service, and specialized products will set your small business apart and allow it to thrive, even when you hear the FEE-FI-FO-FUM of giant big-box retailers approaching.
No worries. You’ve got this.
Small Business vs Big Business Checklist
Use this handy checklist as your guide to offering a specialized experience no big brand retailer can match:
Every week here at Socialmediaonlineclasses.com we give you a list of our most recent resources with our Weekly Top 5: your lessons, infographics, webinars, and articles. We’ve gathered all those resources from 1st quarter of the year into one GINORMOUS list for you, making it uber-easy to find what you need to grow your business using social media marketing.
Today I’m coming to the rescue with four no-fail hacks you can use on ANY social network to increase your engagement.
Let’s get started —
1. Use Video to Get Higher Engagement on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter
In 2015, video has the highest reach of any post type on Facebook. To be clear, that’s video uploaded to Facebook, not linked to from YouTube. Reach is the gateway to higher engagement, so you’re guaranteed to increase both using video.
Video is still unique on Instagram and Twitter: we’re used to images on Instagram and text-only tweets, so video is unique and attention-grabbing. Use it and you’ll see your engagement skyrocket. On Jimmy Fallon’s Instagram page, he has only one video, but it gets more engagement than any of his photos:
The sole video on Jimmy Fallon’s Instagram page has more Likes & Comments than his photos
Instead, repurpose your content into smaller pieces, called micro-content.
Here’s an example: for 2014, we gathered all of the resources we published (in addition to our classes) and created one long resource post that included over 100 links:
While that list is highly actionable, I knew that not everyone who read the post would get through the entire thing. So I was determined to get more mileage out of it than just one blog post.
I repurposed that list into an infographic, allowing me to post the list on Pinterest in a visual way. Instead of listing every resource, I pulled out several and highlighted them in this infographic:
Repurposing the text-only list allows me to share it on visual social networks like Pinterest
That long list of links would never have made it onto Pinterest, but the infographic turned those resources into highly shareable and engaging content perfect for this visual social network.
Finally, I took one resource from that list and created micro-content to share on Instagram and Twitter:
I took one tactic from the list of 100 and created a small visual for it
Creating micro-content from that list engaged part of my audience who would never have read that long list of resources. I repurposed that content into different forms, eliciting more engagement from my followers.
4. Share Other People’s Content
This is a tactic often referred to as a best practice in relationship marketing, but it also pays off in terms of engagement.
This post got more organic reach, likes, and shares than any other post on my page last week. The cute photo Entrepreneur used also made it highly “shareable” and reinforces #2 on this list — visual content.
Engagement Hacks Checklist
Use this handy checklist as your guide to getting higher engagement no matter which social network you use:
Share this Image On Your Site
Which Hack Will You Use?
None of these hacks are difficult: you don’t need to be a coder, graphic designer, or videographer to do them. Each of them is within reach of small business owners who want more engagement from their audience.
Pick the hack that seems most natural to you or that will appeal to your audience the most and start there.
Click to download a full-size version of the infographic
<< Click on the infographic to download your own full-size version.
Hashtags are ONE constant in an ever-changing social media world. So what are they and how can they help you in your online marketing?
Rely on the Ultimate Guide to Hashtags infographic and this blog post, where I demystify the hashtag and everything you ever wanted to know about it but didn’t know to ask. Browse the explanations of each tactic, why it’s important, and what it can do for you.
Remember to share this infographic with your own network, using the #hashtagprimer hashtag.
1. Hashtag is a # symbol used before a word
The hashtag is the pound symbol (#) preceding a word used online, in television, and in print media. For example, the hashtag #BreakingBad identifies the television show and would display on-screen during episodes.
2. Hashtags were created by users on Twitter
Hashtags were invented by Twitter users who were frustrated over the lack of a robust search feature to find tweets based on topics they were interested in. Creating the hashtag made it easier to search Twitter for topical content.
3. Hashtags offer a simple way to organize & search for content
Hashtags provide an excellent way to make your posts easily found by others. For example, #SXSW15 identifies a post about the South by Southwest conference in Austin for 2015, making it easy to find tweets about the event, who’s attending, and more.
4. Twitter turns a hashtag into a hyperlink
Twitter turns each hashtag into a hyperlink that, when clicked, will show all the recent tweets for that hashtag. It’s a great way to see what others are saying about that topic and to find people with common interests.
5. Hashtags are popular with the media and fans
All types of media — online, network, cable, and print — quickly adopted the hashtag and use it encourage fans to tweet about live events and shows. You’ll often see a hashtag at the bottom of the screen when watching your favorite show.
6. Hashtags help to brand your messaging
Hashtags provide an easy to way to brand your content, whether using your own hashtag or one identifying it with a popular trend. Look at how four different brands use variations of the #superbowl hashtag to brand their tweets:
The NFL and the SuperBowl use the official #SB49 hashtag for SuperBowl 49
AdAge uses the standard #superbowl hashtag to brand their article
StubHub created their own hashtag #SuperBall, branding an event surrounding the SuperBowl
Using just the right hashtag can give your message a completely new twist. #awkward, #winning, and #fail add an ironic twist to a tweet, such as “Best hashtag ever for an @NFL press conference #flexball #fail,” when the Gillette Flexball was shown on the backdrop of the Patriots “deflate-gate” press conference:
8. Use local hashtags
Using a local hashtag for your city makes it easy for people to identify where you’re located, and easy to find you in search results. Using a hashtag like #ATL, #NYC, #LA, #CHI, and others immediately give your tweet its own “geolocator.”
Where to Use Hashtags
9. Twitter is the king of hashtags, especially #FF FollowFriday
Twitter is the dominant network for using hashtags. It’s where the hashtag was born, raised, and continues to thrive. Twitter etiquette is to use one, two, or at most three hashtags. Any more than that is #overkill.
10. Facebook started recognizing hashtags in 2014
Facebook jumped on the hashtag bandwagon in 2014, and now allows its users to search using hashtags. Similar to Twitter, the etiquette here is to use one to three hashtags at the end of a post. More than that is seen as spamming your fans. Note: In the past, Google has shown Facebook hashtagged content in its search results, as shown in the image below. This screen shot is from 2014, and as of 2015, they have discontinued it; but with Google, you never know if it will pop up again:
Google displayed hashtag search results from Facebook & Twitter, as shown here. Clicking on the Facebook entry took you to the search results within it, as shown in the screen below
11. Instagram users make serious use of multiple hashtags
If hashtags originated on Twitter, Instagram users win the award for overuse of them. It’s not unusual to see Instagram posts with up to 25-30 hashtags, making the image easily found when people search. I don’t recommend using that many: 3-5 well-researched hashtags for your topic are certainly #enough.
Oprah uses just one hashtag to promote her upcoming cruise. But the commenter reaching out to her post is using far more (for his own purposes)
12. Google+ automatically assigns hashtags to your posts based on your content
Google+ is unique from every other social network for this one reason: it assigns your posts hashtags based on the content in them. You can still use hashtags of your own in the post, but if you don’t, Google+ tries its best to give your post at least one hashtag based on the words you used in the post.
Notice my post doesn’t contain a single hashtag, but Google+ assigned it the #webinar hashtag based on its content
13. Pinterest unofficially recognizes hashtags
Pinterest doesn’t natively use hashtags, but many people use multiple hashtags at the end of their pin description as a way to get found in search. Why not? It can’t hurt.
14. Google displays the results of a hashtag used in search
If you search Google using a hashtag, it returns results from social networks and website/blog content.
A Google search for #sm returns results from social networks and the web
15. Tumblr users tag their content using hashtags
Tumblr bloggers use hashtags to identify their content, make it easily found in search, and add it to what Tumblr calls a “tag channel.” According to Pete Cashmore of Mashable, “Tumblr is getting into the real-time search game, allowing users to contribute to a tag channel and find others who share their interests. It’s a move that makes Tumblr more public: in its early days it was a fairly closed community.”
In Socialmediaonlineclasses.com, you get classes on every major social network, infographics, webinars, and 1:1 coaching with me. I hope to see you inside Socialmediaonlineclasses.com.
How to Use Hashtags
16. Don’t use spaces in hashtags
If your hashtag is more than one word or a phrase, omit the spaces between the words, as shown below in #17.
17. #socialmedia not #social media
If you want to use the hashtag for social media, the correct usage is #socialmedia, not #social media. You can also use the abbreviation #sm instead. However, be sure to research if you’re using the correct abbreviation. Many hashtags use the same acronym, and you want to be directing people to the right content.
18. Use hashtags at the end of a message
While a hashtag helps to identify your content, it isn’t critical to conveying your message, so use it at the end of your message. You don’t want to force people to wade through multiple hashtags to get to the heart of your tweet or post.
19. Abbreviate long phrases
Hashtags are especially helpful on Twitter and Instagram where you have limited space, so it makes sense to abbreviate your hashtag if it’s a long phrase.
Coca-Cola uses the abbreviation #MLK in their Instagram post about Martin Luther King Jr. Day
20. #tbt for Throwback Thursday and #FF for Follow Friday
Throwback Thursday, or #tbt, is a social media tradition of posting a photo from a previous era (think 70’s bell bottoms or the 80’s ripped t-shirts). Follow Friday, or #FF, is a Twitter tradition of listing people whom you recommend others follow for their great tweets.
Johnathan uses #FF for Follow Friday to give his post context: these are the people he recommends you follow (and shows that rules are made to be broken, like using hashtags at the beginning of a post!)
21. Create your own hashtags
There’s no rule about who creates or owns a hashtag (even though Coca-Cola is trying to trademark a couple), so feel free to brand your business by creating your own hashtag.
I branded my Slideshare presentation with #college2career to immediately identify it’s purpose
22. Audi created #WantAnR8
A great example of not only creating your own hashtag but building a buzz around product demand is Audi’s #WantAnR8 campaign. Audi, its dealers, owners, and wannabe owners all use the hashtag:
23. Use at events #SXSW15
A widely adopted use of hashtags is at events: conferences, sporting events, and concerts. South by Southwest uses the hashtag #SXSW15, abbreviated with the current year’s event. Simply use the hashtag in your post making it easy for others attending or shadowing the event to follow what’s happening.
24. Learn popular hashtags
It’s important that you understand the most popular hashtags in your industry. Every field from accounting to consumer goods to schools and universities use hashtags to brand their messages. The best way to learn which hashtags are appropriate for your market is to follow industry leaders on social media and observe how they use them, and which hashtags appear frequently.
Examples of Innovative Hashtags
25. #RT gives a shout out on Twitter as a retweet
One of the most common hashtags is #RT on Twitter, which is a retweet of someone’s tweet you liked. It’s considered a recommendation of their post, and some of the most retweeted content are funny and ironic tweets.
26. #NYC, #ATL, #austin all identify cities in a tweet
Use a local hashtag to identify yourself or your brand as being located in a city and proud of it!
27. Fashionistas use #ootd to show off their “outfit of the day”
Beauty and fashion bloggers use the #ootd hashtag to share their outfit of the day. It’s a great way for readers to find fashion inspiration, and the bloggers gain new followers.
28. #socialmedia, #entrepreneur
Hashtags identifying your industry are a great way to give context to a post. #socialmedia and #entrepreneur are just two of the hundreds of hashtags that identify yourself and your content as relevant to your field.
29. Television encourages viewer engagement for #breakingbad, #idol, #xfactor
Television shows commonly display their hashtag on screen during an episode, encouraging viewers to live tweet about the show. Networks often generate more buzz by making the show’s stars available afterward to chat with viewers on twitter.
30. Recommend colleagues with Follow Friday #FF on Twitter
A Twitter tradition is to recommend new followers, colleagues, and those you admire by tagging them with the Follow Friday hashtag. The tweet “#FF @MarketingMel @PattyFarmer @EbonyLove @EkaterinaWalter awesome #interviews” would recommend those entrepreneurs as people I’ve interviewed and recommend.
31. Hashtags help raise awareness and funding for #curechildhoodcancer
Hashtags aren’t limited to for-profit brands. Causes like #curechildhoodcancer have run highly successful fundraising campaigns using a branded hashtag. One of the most successful non-profit campaigns was the #icebucketchallenge for ALS in 2014.
32. Charlie Sheen’s #winning is best known, most ironic hashtag #fail
Probably the most ironic, and well-known hashtag is #winning, used by Charlie Sheen during his personal meltdown. What #hashtag do you want your brand to be known for?
Branding Your Business with Hashtags
33. Southwest paints #bagsflyfree on their airplanes
Southwest is famous for not charging travelers for checking a bag, so they display the #bagsflyfree hashtag in big bold letters ON their planes. Where better to advertise than at the airport to travelers who DID pay to check their luggage?
Happy customers love to share their Southwest #bagsflyfree experience
34. Lancome encouraged celebrated their clients with #BareSelfie
While Dove is famous for using real women in their television and print ads, Lancome brilliantly encouraged women to take a selfie without makeup and tag it #BareSelfie, as part of a marketing campaign for a new serum. It generated 500 photos with the hashtag, and website sales were converting at four percent.
35. Lexus teamed with Instagrammers with #LexusInstaFilm
Lexus collaborated with over 200 Instagrammers to generate a stop motion film using Instagram photos. Tagged with #LexusInstaFilm, the campaign generated 1,000 new followers on the social network.
36. Coke so successful with #smilewithacoke they’ve applied for a trademark
Generations fondly remember commercials & jingles singing Have a Coke and a smile, and the newest version for the 21st century is #smilewithacoke. Now they’re applying for a trademark to protect it.
37. LiquidWeb hosting offers helpful #lwtips on Twitter
One of the best ways to connect with potential customers is by being helpful, and LiquidWeb hosting does that on Twitter by offering #lwtips
38. LinkedIn encouraged users to predict what the year would bring #BigIdeas2015
LinkedIn tapped into the “new year, new predictions” habit of many bloggers and thought leaders with their #BigIdeas2015 hashtag. They started the post series with big names like Richard Branson, then encouraged their users to write their own LinkedIn posts using the hashtag:
39. Dell computers sets up #DellLounge at industry trade shows
At its major trade shows, Dell Computers sets up an elaborate lounge for people to stop by, see their latest innovations, and take photos of themselves tagged #DellLounge. They team up with movie studios to show their movies on Dell computers, with charities who need exposure, and more, all in the lounge. They make #DellLounge a social destination at trade shows. Their marketing strategy is brilliant, resulting in trade show attendees generating massive buzz for Dell.
40. Who doesn’t love to share about a Wendy’s #Frosty?
Do customers love your products and share them with their friends? Then create a hashtag for them! Wendy’s uses the #Frosty hashtag on Twitter to announce the proceeds of coupon books going to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption:
41. Use relevant hashtags
Stick to hashtags that are topical to your content. Don’t resort to “hashtag spam” by using hashtags that are popular but have nothing to do with your message.
42. Twitter etiquette allows one to three hashtags
Since a tweet is a brief 140 characters, limit your hashtags to only those most relevant to your content: from one to three hashtags.
43. Instagram reigns with up to 30 hashtags
Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per image (yes, really). Why you need that many is frankly beyond me, unless you’re trying to over-promote yourself. It’s not unusual to see Instagram images with 10 – 20 hashtags.
44. Use hashtags at the end of your message
The most important element of your message is the content, whether text or visual. So don’t force people to wade through your sea of hashtags to get to the good stuff — because they likely won’t.
45. Keep hashtags short
As much as I would love to use my brand name in a hashtag, #socialmediaonlineclasses.com is just too long. So I stick to #sm or #socialmedia. Some Instagrammers use long hashtags like #curlyhairdontcare, but they’re often tagging personal photos instead of brand images.
46. Use them to brand your content
No matter what social network you’re using, you can use hashtags to brand your content. I’m using #hashtagprimer for this post, and LinkedIn used #BigIdeas2015 for their post series.
47. Use hashtags to brand your event
Event marketing routinely takes advantage of a hashtag to promote the event, the people speaking & attending, as well as the great images and takeaways attendees love to share. Make sure that your guests know the appropriate hashtag to use at the event by announcing it at the beginning of each session.
48. Use hashtags to brand contests and run them across multiple platforms
YesToCarrots ran a great promotion called #YesToColor, and announced it via email. I received this email from them asking customers who had purchased from their online store to enter the contest and use the hashtag #YesToColor. Notice they did not specify which social network or online platform to use. It didn’t matter. They could search for the hashtag using Google, HootSuite, SproutSocial, or other social media marketing management tools to find all the entrants and the buzz they generated:
Search Using Hashtags
49. Makes content easy to find
Want to find the latest entries in Jimmy Fallon’s hashtag of the week? Search Twitter for it or click on the hashtag from Twitter to see the entries. Here are the tweets for #WhyImSingle (the hashtag for Valentine’s Day):
A Google search displays the results for the #whyimsingle hashtag
See a tweet with the #whyImsingle hashtag? Click on it and Twitter shows you all the tweets using it
50. Use hashtags in search engines
Notice I searched Google for the #WhyImSingle hashtag? It shows me the results not just on Twitter, but across the web from sources like HuffingtonPost, YouTube, Tumblr and more. Doing a hashtag search from a search engine doesn’t limit you to one particular social network, so it’s great for finding hashtags across platforms.
51. Search for content within a social network using a hashtag
Looking for a hashtagged post within a social network? Most let you search within the platform for hashtags. The results will vary by network and their privacy policies. For example, Facebook will return hashtagged content from people you’re friends with and public pages. You won’t see hashtagged content from people you aren’t friends with.
52. Hashtags are clickable in almost every major social network
Just as I clicked on #whyImsingle in Twitter, you can do the same to find inspiration for #weddingbouquets in Pinterest. In fact, you can click on a hashtag from almost every social network and it will display posts using it:
53. Find messages across online channels
Searching for a hashtag from a search engine returns results from multiple online channels, not just social networks, as shown in #49 and #50.
54. Motivated users find you
Hashtags make it dead simple for people looking for your brand or content to find you. Be sure to clearly announce which hashtags you’re using and people will find a path to your brand.
55. Great for contest entries
Running a contest but don’t want to limit it to just a single social network? No problem. Tell contest entrants to tag their #entry using your hashtag, and you can search for them in Google, Bing, Hootsuite, or other social media management tool. You’ll get more buzz and more entries.
56. Use in email & chat to make topics easier to find
While you don’t get any marketing buzz from this tactic, some people do use hashtags for their own purposes in email and chat. Using a hashtag #Introduction in the subject line of an email makes it much easier to find later than searching for “introduction” which will likely return too many results.
Marketing Using Hashtags
57. Brand your contests using a hashtag
Follow the excellent example from YesToCarrots in tactic #48: brand your contest using a unique hashtag. It immediately makes the contest buzzworthy. They were able to run the contest across multiple social networks, allowing customers to post where it was easy for them, all using the same hashtag.
58. Hashtags provide cohesive cross-platform messaging
Every social network has its own etiquette and rules: Twitter is limited to 140 characters while there’s almost no limit for Facebook. Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags while Twitter discourages more than three. By using a single hashtag for your marketing campaign, you can follow those guidelines and still successfully brand your message.
59. Use in visual content: images, video
Smart brands use hashtags even in their visual content, like images and video (notice #hashtagprimer on the infographic on this blog post?). While it’s not searchable or SEO-worthy, it does provide a cohesive marketing message, and educates your audience on the proper hashtag to use when mentioning your brand on social media.
The Nobel Prize organization branded this video of Patti Smith signing Bob Dylan’s Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall with the hashtag #NobelPrize:
60. Let people tell their stories
The best writing & marketing tells just enough to get people motivated to tell their own stories. Fiction authors know this, and often leave out important details in a story to let readers form their own stories and meaning. Do the same with your marketing: people had diverse reasons for #IWantAnR8, but the sentiment was the same. Why they wanted one was the power of that marketing campaign (tactic #22).
61. Domino’s #LetsDoLunch offered a discount for all customers
Domino’s UK ran a savvy hashtag promotion: for every customer who tweeted #LetsDoLunch within a specific timeframe, they took one pence off the price of a pizza. The resulting price went from £15.99 to £7.74 ($24.56 to 11.89), and everyone else ordering during that time got the discount too (including people who didn’t tweet). The key to success was a group effort and a sizable resulting discount.
62. Know your reputation: #McDStories
Before you run a hashtag promotion, be clear on what your brand reputation is. If you have too many negative stories for customers to tell, don’t encourage them. McDonalds asked people to share their #McDStories on Twitter, and the result was horror stories of disgusting food and terrible service. What they had hoped to be a successful hashtag promotion turned into a bashtag fest.
63. Use on SWAG giveaways
If your business gives away great SWAG, brand the items with a hashtag, motivating the lucky recipients to thank you publicly on social media. You’ll likely see lots of photos and happy people with your giveaways.
64. Identify your brand as local
Know the phrase, “all politics is local?” The same can be said for business: “all business is local.” Take advantage of your brick-and-mortar location by identifying your brand as local using a hashtag. If you’re traveling on business or doing a promotional tour, definitely use the hashtags for the cities you’ll be visiting.
What hashtags are a fit for your small business? Are you using them?
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Every small business has a tremendous opportunity to increase their visibility using the simple hashtag.
Go through this post again and identify which tactics best fit your business. You don’t have to completely change the way you market your brand; instead, simply start using a hashtag in your social media posts, visual content, and contests.
Use this infographic as a “to do list” of tactics, and experiment with a few to see which ones generate the most buzz and results for your brand. Don’t forget to let me know which ones worked for you, using the hashtag #hashtagprimer.
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