Hashtags are used all over the internet. They originally come from old metadata tags used in the first chatrooms in the 1980s as a way to group channels and conversations. Although the premise is the same today, the world of hashtags has expanded across most types of online communities.
Social media for tour operators involves creating, using, or adopting a hashtag to promote your offerings. Hashtags get the conversation going about your business online. New and old audiences can be reached with hashtags to promote their brand or a new product.
Creating your company’s hashtag
There is a lot to consider when creating a popular hashtag for your tourism business. This process needs to be done carefully to ensure it catches on and doesn’t create a negative buzz around your business. The first thing to consider is creating a hashtag that is catchy and not spammy. Sites like Twitter will penalize accounts that use unrelated, spammy hashtags. And users will recognize an unrelated, spammy hashtag right away and not engage.
There are a few methods to creating a catchy hashtag for your brand – especially if your brand is somewhat small and unrecognizable. Often your business’ name is a good starting point, but not always. Your business may have a common name, or not properly demonstrate what your company does. In these cases you can:
- add your location to your business name;
- try variations of your business’ name with descriptive words;
- use your company’s catchphrase or tagline instead.
You’ll want your brand’s own hashtag. Once you’ve decided on something that’s catchy and speaks to your brand, search around online to see if the hashtag is already being used. If it is already associated with another company, you’ll only be promoting them more by using it. The important channels to search would be Twitter, Instagram, Google (Google+), and Facebook. Type your potential hashtag in the search bars on these sites and you’ll be able to see if there are already conversations surrounding the hashtag or other relatable topics.
Not every hashtag is a good idea!
Think through your hashtag and consider what you see on the Internet. Ask for feedback on the hashtag to see what others intuitively think of when they read the hashtag. An example of a unique hashtag developed by a worldwide recognizable brand was McDonald’s #McDStories. McDonald’s social media channels were flooded with negative stories customer shared about their experiences eating their food. One can only imagine how graphic these McStories got.
President Obama ran a very successful social media campaign during his 2008 election race using #AskObama. After getting into office the hashtag #ThanksObama was introduced by the Whitehouse and did not go as well. Hundreds of thousands of sarcastic conversation ensued, #ThanksObama!
There are marketing horror stories about companies adopting a hashtag that has a negative connotation associated with it. Do your homework and make sure that your hashtag isn’t used to promote anything controversial. Also, check that the words in your hashtag don’t run together and can be read differently. Like the tourism organization Chose Spain’s hashtag, #chosespain.
Launching your hashtag
Before you launch your hashtag, create some great content around it first. Have several photos and posts ready to go with your hashtag so when people notice it and search for it, they will find a “story” or conversation-starting and will jump onboard. Make sure the hashtag is clear on your homepage, about page, and social media profiles. Add it to photos like a watermark, write it in your new content, and in email blasts and newsletter if you use those. Don’t forget to promote offline too; add the hashtag to your print materials, storefront, or any of your business’ swag.
Hashtags are viewed and used differently on the different social media channels. Twitter is where hashtags really took off in popularity. Twitter users started using hashtags as a way to organize and find the conversations they were looking for. But tweets are limited to 140 characters, so it is best to limit your hashtags to 1 or 2. On the other hand, Instagram is where hashtags go wild. Your post’s characters aren’t as limited on Instagram and it is acceptable and common practice to add as many as 30 hashtags.
Because Facebook’s search feature is so robust, hashtags were only recently introduced. Facebook’s algorithm is designed to “learn” what you’re interested in and only shows you news and stories related to what you engage with. Although hashtags on Facebook are picking up momentum, it is smart to limit your hashtags to a maximum of 2 for your posts, or people will see them as spammy and not engage – hiding your posts from your audience’s newsfeeds.
It might be good practice to also adopt an already trending hashtag that is relevant to your business. Look at your local tourism organizations to see what hashtags they use. There are likely a few organizations in your community that promote events and activities and the area and use consistent hashtags for people to find information.
An example of a famous and successful hashtag is Charmin’s #TweetFromTheSeat. They recognized that 40% of people aged 18-24 use social media while in the bathroom. What a great opportunity to get them talking about you!
A featured client of Checkfront uses hashtags well within their social media marketing, #RedCatCatamaran. RedCat Mega Catamaran Panama has a unique enough name to use it as a hashtag. Their name also gives the reader a good idea of what the company does. They also adopt other trending hashtags that make them a part of more conversations such as visiting Panama, and sailing: #SailingPanama, #VisitPanama.
When used effectively, creating a popular hashtag can generate a big buzz around your tourism business — especially if travel influencers start using them. It is a great way to engage with your audience before and after they become your customers.