Hashtags: Use Them. Don’t Abuse Them.

6a00d83452b15969e2019103899b98970cFacebook hashtags are real. Last week the company introduced a feature that enables users to use the # symbol to add context to their posts and make those posts searchable on the network. Facebook is the last of the four mainstream social networks – Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ being the other three – to join the hashtag party.

For some, this may look like a move to compete against Twitter. I happen to see it as a positive thing for content creators and audiences (if content creators put strategy first and don’t overdo it). Below are quick pros/cons of hashtags as well as two strategic opportunities to seize if your business is leveraging social media as part of its integrated communications strategy, which it should be.

Hashtag Pros:

  • For content creators, consistency will not only make it easier to draft copy for various social media channels but it also makes it possible to track campaigns across those platforms and report on the conversations that take place.
  • Using topic or industry hashtags (like #socialmedia when you share this post with your social networks) within your posts can help you reach and engage with new audiences that may not be following you but are following certain conversations.
  • Twitter allows brands to use sponsored tweets in order to stand out in hashtag conversations and I don’t doubt that Facebook will extend that service to brands soon too. If you don’t already, you may want to set aside a bit of budget to pay to trend.
  • Google+ now automatically adds relevant hashtags to posts in order to add context to its search engine, among other things. Hashtags across all social networks will play a bigger role in SEO as we move forward.

Hashtag Cons:

  • #HashtagsLikeThisOneThatOnlyMakeNoise or #posts #like #this #one #that #also #make #noise. Always remember your strategy. If your blog post is about Facebook hashtags, do a bit of research to identify which hashtags are already in use. If people on Facebook don’t use the #Facebook hashtag, then don’t be redundant and hashtag the term people are actually talking about. It may even be #socialmedia, and you didn’t even know.

Opportunities for companies using social media:

Thought Leadership. Hashtags can be a great ally when working towards building thought leadership for a company spokesperson. Think of it as SEO and work with them to ensure their tweets and posts consistently include relevant hashtags. Slowly but surely, you will see their content climb up the list of results on Twitter, Facebook Search and elsewhere.

Consider sitting down with your spokesperson and discussing their interest and areas of expertise, build a set of key words that are associated with those topics, search for associated hashtags, then develop plans to help them become more active in those conversations.

Industry Leadership. Influencers use hashtags to talk about industry trends to make sure their audience understands the context of their posts and to make sure their followers can search the hashtag for others’ thoughts on the matter, including their own. A sure way to turn off influencers and inhibit the development of your industry leadership, is using branded hashtags that are best suited for events or promotional campaigns where engagement, relationships and two-way conversations are not the primary objectives.

The first step for brands looking to be part of social conversations should be to listen, identify hashtags used by influencers on topics that are relevant to their business, and then contribute to those conversations with content and commentary of their own.

For example, when I wrote a post about metrics I didn’t share it on Twitter with the hashtag #LPPmetricsrule. I did my due diligence, identified the #measurePRhashtag where conversations are already taking place, contributed my two cents, and subsequently engaged with peers on the subject.

Has your business used hashtags for events? Twitter chats? Industry conversations? What did you learn about how the people of social media use and respond to them?

Austin’s Tech Scene: A Vintage–wearing Hipster with an Old Soul

6a00d83452b15969e2017ee419aaa7970dThere is no denying that startups and hipsters are “so hot” right now. And while Austin is certainly a trendy city, its roots are far deeper than they seem to go when it comes to tech.

Austin is home to many of our clients including CleanFUEL USA, LANDesk, Lumension, National Instruments, RADVISION (Avaya), Scuderi Group and Skyonic. Moreover, the city’s tech core (pun intended) is comprised of chip makers like Freescale (one of my agency’s clients), Samsung, AMD and 3M. You may have heard thatSamsung said it would invest $3-4 billion to make chips for mobile devices in Austin, and that the company is in talks to double its $13 billion investment in the city. High tech dollar bills, y’all.

Tech and Austin go together like grandma’s secret recipe salsa and breakfast tacos.

It should not come as a surprise that the city’s rich tech tradition both attracts and continues to educate creative and talented tech entrepreneurs, leading to the perfect storm raining tech startups. If you’ve ever attended (or heard of) SXSW InteractiveAustin Startup Week, or any tech community event, you know what I’m talking about – thousands upon thousands of people gathered to talk and do something about digital innovation.

These are only a few of the reasons why USA Today named Austin to its list of top ten cities for technology startups, and why my agency, Lois Paul and Partners, has an office right in the center of it all. We live and breathe the tech (and pollen) that’s in the air.

“Kristen Wiig is not on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, or any other social networking site”

Most of the brands and businesses I know have some sort of social media presence. Those that know how to do it right can really make my day, and those that do it all wrong usually end up paying the price for failing to understand the nuances and sensibilities of social communities and channels.

“Right” and “wrong” can mean different things to different people, but most have generally been able to recognize train wrecks when they see them. Think McDonald’s #McStories and, a little further back in the day, Kenneth Cole hijacking the #Cairo hashtag during political unrest in Egypt to introduce its Spring collection.

The posiblity that social media could go wrong is often cause for hesitation. But most brands decide to participate because the cost of not reaching out to their constituencies via social media, and/or the idea of what could be gained from it more often than not come out to be greater than choosing to not get involved with social media at all.

So when I visited Saturday Night Live cast member Kristin Wiig’s barely-even-a-website and read the short, but decisive note on the home page, I was slightly taken aback:

Kristen Wiig is not on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, or any other social networking site”

After wondering why a celebrity who could potentially gain so much from interacting with her fans would choose not to participate in social media, I concluded with a simple — Power to her. I respect making the decision to not half-ass it.

What do you think? Missed opportunity?

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Business And Pleasure

It has been QUITE some time since my last post. Long story short:

  • I earned my master’s degree
  • I backpacked around South America (read about some of those adventures here)
  • I moved from Washington, D.C. to Austin, Texas
  • I started a new job
  • I finally finished furnishing my new aparment
  • I have reunited with old friends and made new friends
  • Work, work, work

It’s been a little more than eight months since I started working at my agency and I can’t say enough about how much I’ve been exercising my public relations and social media muscles in this relatively short period of time. I have had the opportunity to work on a number of projects ranging from traditional public relations, to digital communications, and all that is in between that ties those two approaches together. I’m learning a lot. And quickly.

I do regret that I have had no extra time to dedicate to my personal social media projects. Until a few days ago, I was doing nothing about the fact that my personal social media activity had slowed significantly. I didn’t want to feel exhausted by turning my life into a 24/7 social media frenzy, and I didn’t want to exhaust others who prefer to limit their personal use of every social network that isn’t Facebook.

But two days ago, I jotted down what must have been my 37th idea for a blog post and realized that my attempts to leave social media at the office were futile and made no sense. The fact that social media is a personal hobby of mine is the first reason I chose to study and later work in my field.

I’m excited to get back to mixing business with pleasure. Last night I imported my WordPress blog to Posterous (a “one platform to rule them all” sort of decision).

I’m back!

How to Leverage Social Media to Enhance Everyday PR Activities

pr-social-mediaLast week I had the opportunity to lead a peer training session at our agency where we discussed, what you will come to realize is one of my favorite things – social media.

This was especially significant for me because for one, it’s only been four months since I started working at Lois Paul & Partners and our agency’s culture of creating opportunities for co-workers to learn from each other manifested itself in yet another way. As a new employee, I was very honored to be asked to develop this training session.

The session was a reason for me to talk about social media and share the many joys it brings to my professional career, including the ability to develop better relationships with brilliant journalists and bloggers, and to help our clients build communities and connect with their customers in more meaningful ways.

Though there is a lot to cover when it comes to social media and public relations, this particular session focused on how PR professionals can leverage social media to enhance the things we do every day. I covered some of the most popular social networks and tools we should be aware of, given our portfolio of clients in the clean energy, healthcare and technology industries. And to make the presentation as practical as possible, I provided a few tips for each of those networks and sites for both the PR pro and the client.

After our peer training session, the Austin office updated its Twitter profiles, and together with the Boston office, exchanged some best practices. The bonus experience of bonding with my Boston peers was most welcome. I realized yet again how happy I am that I found my true calling in public relations. Social media is broadening our horizons and we will continue to learn about  how it can enhance our core responsibilities.

The peer training presentation is embedded below. I would love to hear from fellow PR pros who are already doing some or all of the things I mention there, as well as hear about new ways people are using social media to boost day-to-day PR activities like media relations and issues management. What do you do to make professional communications always relevant and exciting?