I have many clients where the first question they ask is, what is a hashtag and why on earth do you need it?

WHY? Because it may be the greatest gift ever given to people who want to share the same experiences. Really. That little # might be one of the best little tools ever to be invented…for those who love to interact on Social Media.

Let me back up for one minute.

If your idea of Social Media is to just post about yourself and how awesome your VW-022618-02company is, then you are missing the SOCIAL aspect of Social Media. (You should also stop reading this blog, because I’m mainly going to be talking about the massive benefits of getting out there and interacting with your prospective clients and customers.)

Back to the point…

Hashtags are keywords that help you get in on the conversation. (For more information on just what a hashtag is and how to use them effectively, check out my blog on the topic HERE.) That is the key piece here and focus of this blog – getting in on the conversation.

This week is an excellent example of how to jump into the social fray because the Twitterverse is all kinds of crazy with the current political atmosphere. The current US President just fired his Secretary of State and there is a major political battle in Pennsylvania that has turned into a nail biter. Combine that with a planned school walk out, a poor dog dying on United airlines (yes, this happened and it’s horrifying), Pi Day, Stephen Hawking passing away and a new movie from the world of Harry Potter….you have a VERY BUSY social calendar to keep up with and it’s only Wednesday!

And that is my point.

At any given time, someone, somewhere is sharing about a subject that you may be passionate about. Are you a Veterinarian, dog walker or heck, anyone who has a dog? The United Airlines conversation is somewhere where you can share your opinions. How about anyone involved with customer service? Join the United conversation and talk about employee training. Maybe you don’t want to get involved in the controversial topics – head to entertainment or your hobby.

Are you obsessed with fitness, love personal development and leadership books (guilty as charged), enjoy wine and beer, sports of every season, video games…there is literally a conversation going on about just about every topic at any time of day, EVERY DAY. And hashtags? They help you find them.

Twitter is the best place to find out what is the trending topic of the day. If you travel to Twitter you will see what is trending (based on your preferences) at the moment you look. If you look 2 hours later, there will be a different list, changing every hour (or minute) based on the day and what may be happening. Besides the list (located on the right hand side of your home feed) there is a Moments tab at the top of the screen that will allow you to see the trending stories of the, you guessed it, moment. Click on one of those stories and you will see the top tweets that are associated with it. At any time you can respond to one of those tweets, re-tweet it or use it as a source for information to file away for a later date.

There are a couple of other reliable sources that I use for this purpose besides Twitter.

You can determine popular hashtags for a specific subject by using top-hashtags.com or hashtagify.me. Hashtagify.me looks like it has launched its latest beta version and at first glance it has some excellent promise for being a very helpful tool in finding hashtags, and their relevance, to you and your brand. There is a paid version that offers more perks, so review to determine what may be helpful for your brand.

So now you have your top hashtags…you are ready to get social!

WAIT! Don’t start just yet…spend a little bit of time “listening”.

VW-020518-02I know, I’m being contradictory, but while people are out there, ready and willing to engage in conversations, they are also sharing their opinions, about you and your industry at large. They are supplying you with important information. What do they want from you? What is important to your potential consumers? Remember 96% of people that are talking about your brand online don’t actually follow you on social media. (via CoSchedule) They are out there, talking and waiting for you to respond to them.

So spend a few days recording data. What hashtags truly affect your ideal client? This is a key aspect and one of the main reasons why I love hashtags. You can dial in on the big hashtags, but then start looking at what hashtags your customers are using. For example – are you an interior designer in Chicago? Then the #interiordesigner would be important, along with #interiordesign, but what about #chicagointeriordesigner or the suburbs of the ideal clients you are looking to attract – #lakeforestillinois, #lakebluff, etc. (I go into this a bit more in my previous hashtag blog I mentioned earlier.)

Once you have spent a little bit of time listening and have identified the topics that you are both passionate about and others that you believe are important to your potential clients and customers, add something of VALUE to the conversation. Either respond to another person’s tweet/post or use the hashtag and put your own thoughts out there. And remember, don’t tweet or post and run. Keep tabs on the conversation and respond to comments, this is the FUN part!

Often we focus so much on the posting part that we forget that Social Media was intended to be a medium for people to connect, share opinions and relate with one another.

Enjoy being on Social Media – it really is so much more than a Like or a Follower!