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“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:
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).
9. Use @ in Mentions & Replies
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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!”
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:
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?
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.
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