8 Key Elements For an Effective Hashtag

When it comes down to storytelling, travel brands have a clear edge over organizations in other industries: we sell experiences, memories. And whether people travel for business or leisure, they tend to share these moments on social media, in real-time, via their always-on mobile devices.

One of the big trends that has been shaping how travel stories get told is through repurposing of this content, whether it was originally shared on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. Destinations, hotels, restaurants, transportation companies, attractions… every stakeholder in the hospitality realm can tap into the potential stemming from photos and videos shared online.

But how do you find the good stuff? How can you even know if people are talking about you on their blog or via their social accounts? One word comes in handy: hashtag!

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8 Key Elements

There are obviously many elements to consider when implementing an effective online campaign, across platforms such as your own website, blogs, newsletters, social media and even offline. But having a compelling hashtag is a key component that should not be under-estimated.So here are eight important elements to consider when you are about to choose a hashtag or launch a campaign centered around one.

Easy to remember

While this may be rule #1, it is often forgotten. Or perhaps I should clarify: a hashtag should be easy to remember for users, not for the marketing person that came up with it. A good example? Discover Los Angeles launched its campaign highlighting the fact there is something to do every day of the year, it came up with #LA365.

A word of caution when using acronyms: they may be easy to remember, but they can also mean different things to different people. For example #TIFF which could stand for Toronto International Film Festival… or just a short for Tiffany…

Intuitive & Significant

To segue from the previous point, a hashtag should be intuitive… for users, first and foremost. When the village resort of Mont-Tremblant, in Canada, wanted to focus on a strong hashtag across its various social networks, it realized users were already using #Tremblant. Thus, it went ahead with this hashtag.

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You will also want to make sure the hashtag is significant, meaning it resonates to its target audience. Such is the case, for example, with #DallasBIG, reinforcing the notion and campaign message that everything is big in Dallas (or Texas, for that matter!).

Multilingual

Not always an easy task to cater to different languages, but as a born and raised Montrealer in the French-speaking province of Quebec, I know how important it is for brands to appeal to as many travelers in their native language as possible. That was the thinking behind #QuebecOriginal to promote the destination, with a hashtag that works as well in French or in English (or even in Spanish).

Brand-related… or not!

Here’s another trap we marketers tend to fall into: we always want to make it about us, with reference to our brand. Me, me, me, me! Of course, having a hashtag relating to the brand name should help enhance its awareness, but must we include the whole DMO or hotel name, for example? Not necessarily.

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Many destinations will infer their name subtly, like #AlwaysSF (in San Francisco) or #MTLmoments (in Montreal), but Marriott Hotels launched a successful campaign around the #TravelBrilliantly hashtag, and continues to spread it across its various social accounts.

Think offline

Even if you came up with the best, most intuitive and easy to remember hashtag, not everybody thinks the same way online or offline, in particular across different cultures and languages. It is therefore important to help travelers discover and use your hashtag, rather than leaving them on their own.

mtlmoments

This can mean including your campaign hashtag on destination brochures, at the reception desk, in the elevator or on table tents, on interactive walls during festivals and events or even at photographic hot spots across town. This is what Tourisme Montréal has been doing since 2013 with its #MTLmoments initiative, placing red frames across the city in popular spots, now boasting more than 200,000 media tagged on Instagram alone!

Research

Before launching a campaign and placing all your bets on what seems like a winning hashtag, please do some research to see if your stroke of genius did not occur already in the past. Perhaps many times, and by many users… and sometimes in a context that could be harmful to your brand!

How do you know if a hashtag is already being used? Simply try it in the search box in Twitter or on Instagram and see what comes up? There are more sophisticated tools that can allow you to go back in time to see mentions around a keyword, but a simple search usually will do the trick.

Short & Simple

This is a rule of thumb that remains valid across pretty much all social networks, but even more so when it comes to hashtags. Less is more, folks. Some scientific (ahem!) research published on AdWeek in 2014 said the ideal length of hashtag was 6 characters, but in my experience anywhere between 6 and 15 characters is a valid range. More than that, well, is just not user-friendly in particular on Twitter where we have that 140 characters limit, not to mention if you want to be retweeted.

Consistency

Last but not least, it can be tempting to come up with subtle variations according to seasons, or perhaps niche products or audiences, yet it usually pays to stick with a strong, consistent hashtag. Just like a brand should stick to a strong tagline or signature, travels brands ought to find the right hashtag and run with it consistently through time.

This doesn’t mean a destination won’t want to run individual campaigns with #restaurantweek or #operafestival for example, but ideally this will take place concurrently with the destination, hotel or attraction core hashtag as well.

What are some of your best (or worst) experiences with hashtags in the travel sphere?

TBEX NOTE:  Come see Frederic speak at TBEX North America 2015 in Ft. Lauderdale. His session title is:  Why Travel Brands Must Embrace Visual Storytelling.

Author bio:  Frederic Gonzalo is passionate about marketing and communications, with over 19 years of experience in the travel and tourism sphere. Early 2012, he launched Gonzo Marketing and works as a strategic marketing consultant, professional speaker and trainer in the use of new technologies (web, social media, mobile). He writes a regular column on etourism for TourismExpress and PAX News magazine, and collaborates to influential sites such as Social Media Today, Business2Community, Skift, Tnooz and ehotelier. He was ranked most influential blogger for etourism and travel in the province of Quebec (Canada) and among most influential bloggers for marketing & social media in Canada in both 2013 and 2014.

From 2008 to end of 2011, Frederic was Vice-President, Marketing at Groupe Le Massif. He spearheaded Marketing, Sales & Communications for Le Massif de Charlevoix development project, crafting the strategic planning to turn the ski hill of Le Massif into a year-round destination including on-hill accommodations, introducing a touring train between Quebec City and La Malbaie, and the opening of the hotel La Ferme in Baie-Saint-Paul (summer 2012).

Between 2005 and 2008, Frederic worked in the loyalty and relationship marketing fields, first at VIA Rail Canada where he was at the forefront of the VIA Preference Program for frequent train travelers. Then, with Fido Rewards, where he worked on the relaunch of this unique loyalty program in the Canadian telecom industry landscape.

From 1995 to 2005, Frederic worked at various levels of the hospitality and travel sector, including front line in various Club Med resorts (1995-1998), managing PR & Entertainment at the winter resort of Valle Nevado, Chile (1996-97), sales agent at inbound tour operator Receptour Canada (1999), Sales representative for international markets at Tremblant (1999-2000) and finally managing international market development for VIA Rail Canada (2000-2005).

The #1 Thing Every Travel Blogger Should Be Doing on Twitter

 

There are a number of things bloggers should be doing to showcase themselves and their blogs on Twitter. Here are three of the most important:

  1. Have a Clear Profile Picture: People want to see what you look like, especially if you’re providing travel advice or if a DMO or brand is potentially interested in working with you. It’s also much easier to relate to a photo than it is to an icon, or the dreaded egg symbol which displays when someone doesn’t upload a profile picture.
  2. Stunning Header and Background Photos: This is an excellent opportunity to highlight your photography skills and these are areas that someone sees every time they click on your profile.
  3. Bio That Reflects Your Writing Style: Whether it be humorous, factual or poetic, your bio makes it easy for people to see whether they want to connect with you and for DMOs and brands to quickly analyze whether you might be a potential fit.

But there’s also another thing that very few people are doing on Twitter. Not only is it a missed opportunity, it can be done in a matter of seconds.

A Pinned Tweet

 

pinned tweet example

A pinned tweet is a tweet that stays at the top of your Twitter feed. It will be the first tweet that everyone who clicks on your tweets will see. It’s a great opportunity to expand upon your bio and brand yourself.

You can take an existing tweet and pin it as shown below:

 

pinned tweet how to

Or even better, you can craft a new tweet that reflects why someone would want to follow you and what type of tweets they can expect from you. It’s worth including a photo as well since tweets with photos receive five times (source) more engagement than text only tweets.

A pinned tweet allows you to show what type of impression you want to make, without leaving it up to chance, where your most recent tweet is shown, which may not even be to your content, but a retweet of someone else’s content.

Unlike pinned posts on Facebook, pinned posts on Twitter stay until you change them, and it’s worth changing them regularly to keep your Twitter feed looking fresh.

This one simple, easy step is one you can’t afford not to take!

Join Laurel at TBEX Athens for more tips when she speaks on Twitter Tips for Advanced Users on Saturday, October 25th at 10:45.

Author bio: Laurel is an award-winning travel blogger at MonkeysandMountains.com, named after two of the things she loves most. She’s also Chief Conversation Starter at Monkeys and Mountains Media, which provides the travel industry with solutions to getting the most from Twitter in the minimal amount of time.

Live from TBEX Cancun: #TravelSkills Chat

 

Are you a travel blogger or someone who dreams of being one?

If yes, then pop in on our “pop-up” #TravelSkills chat with @Gogo TOMORROW at 8 am CT (9 am ET).

Topic:  How to Live the Life of a travel blogger!

Chris and Johnny are live at the Travel Blog Exchange in Cancun this week with 500 of the best travel bloggers in the world! Chime in on the chat to gain inspiration and learn about how to get started as a travel blogger, how to grow your blog, dealing with travel burnout, find advertisers or other partners, and more!

We will be live from #TBEX so if you are attending TBEX Cancun, you’re invited to come to the Speed Networking/Expo Room (rooms B And C) where we will be having a Twitter party with breakfast and prizes!

TBEX Speaker Post: Twitter Chats: A Great Way to Network, Learn and (Sometimes) Make Money

 

How to use twitter chats in your tourism business

For every person who is active on Twitter and loves it, I find another who says, “Yes, I have an account, but I really don’t get it.”

What if I could find one thing that pleases both? Something that helps the tweeting aficionado step up his/her game AND that helps the 140-character-challenged twoosh with joy (a twoosh is a tweet that is exactly 140 characters.)

I’m talking about Twitter chats.

Chats Are For Beginner AND Advanced Users

For the 200 million active Twitter users who already sling the “@” and “#” with abandon, a chat is an opportunity to plug into discussions and networking with entirely new groups.

For those who still think Twitter is a time-suck about what you ate for lunch, chats are a surprisingly efficient way to do a huge amount of learning and professional development in a short period of time (one hour) plus meet and network with other chat participants. That’s important because the value of Twitter is in finding and following smart people, then learning from them.

Breaking news: we are ALL smart, so don’t be intimidated and don’t spend forever lurking. Jump in!

Chats Are Good For Market Research

When I co-founded Tourism Currents with Becky McCray, I needed to learn a lot….fast….about the tourism/hospitality industry and specific issues related to destination marketing. One way to do that was by listening carefully to the people in our market, so we began following hashtags from tourism conferences and participating in #tourismchat when it launched in early 2010. What we’ve learned there – directly from the people in our industry – has been invaluable to growing our business.

If you’re interested in learning more about a topic or finding experts in a field, there’s a chat that can help you. Here are a few examples:

  • #TNI / Travelers’ Night In and #TTOT / Travel Talk on Twitter are full of travel enthusiasts.
  • #AgChat is popular with farmers, ranchers and those who live in small towns and rural areas.
  • #BuiltHeritage appeals to those interested in historic preservation.
  • #SoloPRchat is helpful for independent public relations professionals and consultants.
  • #BeerChat is for anyone who wants to know more about the burgeoning craft brewing scene.

Chats Can Make Money….With Some Caveats

What a lot of people don’t know is that Twitter chats also offer an opportunity to get paid for connecting brands and audiences. For example, one of the biggest and longest-running chats is author and consultant Mack Collier’s #blogchat – it has had a series of sponsors including Paper.li, OfferPop and Club Med.

Mack is very careful about who sponsors the chat. If he doesn’t think a particular brand can bring value to his #blogchat community or just isn’t a good fit, he doesn’t accept the sponsorship.

He says,

“My advice is if you want to monetize, make sure there’s a clear benefit to your community from doing so.  I have turned down several sponsorship opportunities simply because I didn’t see how the sponsor’s involvement would benefit #blogchat and make it worth the community’s time.”

Twitter has a long cultural history of being rather resistant to advertising, and users are often ruthless in calling out excessively spammy intrusions into their Twitter feed. Always serve and protect your audience above all; you don’t want your chat to be seen as selling your community’s eyeballs to the highest bidder.

BIO:  Sheila Scarborough is co-founder of Tourism Currents (training in social media for tourism and hospitality) and a proud founding blogger with the Perceptive Travel blog. Hear more about chats in her session How to Create & Use Twitter Chats Effectively.

Photo credit:  Jay-P via flickr

How to Turn Twitter into a Feed Reader

 

I hate feed readers. Always have. Frankly, I just don’t have time to read every single post by every single blogger I like, not even close, so I only log into my feed reader once every day or two. Because I follow so many people, that means that every time I log in, my feed reader shows a billion unread posts. Some days, it looks so daunting to clear ‘em all out, that I just close my browser without reading anything.

I keep TweetDeck running all day though. I thought to myself recently, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could combine Twitter and feeds to make a column just for people’s new blog posts.

I mean, I know a lot  of bloggers out there tweet their links, but they often get lost in the shuffle of conversation. And not everyone has their Twitter account tied to Twitterfeed (or a related service). And some people tweet links to multiple sites, both their own and others, or tweet links from the archives, etc.

It gets confusing. Yet, somehow I don’t think it will work to contact every blogger I like and saying, “Hey, will you create a separate Twitter account JUST for your feed so I can follow that account and put it into a group just for feeds?”

But, duh…I can do this myself. Kind of. With a little hacking (and I use that term loosely, because this involves no actual hacking, just ingenuity), you can turn Twitter into a Feed Reader!

STEP ONE: Create a new Twitter account. I’m using @allisonsreading, for example. If you don’t want people to see what you’re reading, set this account to private. If you make it public, I also recommend putting your real Twitter ID in the profile with a message that you won’t be replying/tweeting from this account – that it is purely links. DO NOT follow anyone from this account or you’ll be missing the entire point of setting up this account.

STEP TWO: Sign up for Twitterfeed, or sign in if you already have an account.

STEP THREE: Authenticate your new Twitter account with Twitterfeed.

STEP FOUR: Add a new feed by going to a site you like to read, clicking on the RSS button, and copy/pasting that URL into Twitterfeed. For most sites, the blog URL, followed by “/feed” works too if you can’t find a button.

STEP FIVE: Click on the advanced options link in Twitterfeed and add the site’s name or blogger’s name to the prefix box. This will make it easier to see who wrote the link that’s being posted. Personally, I also change the settings so it only tweets the title, not the title and description, but you can do whatever you want. You could also put the blogger’s Twitter ID in the prefix or suffix box so it pings the author, but that’s totally up to you.

STEP SIX: Repeat this for all the blogs you’d normally add to your feed reader of choice. Manually doing this takes a long time. Someone out there who is smarter than me should totally run with this idea and automate the service, as I bet it would make a lot of money if marketed correctly.

STEP SEVEN: Open TweetDeck or whatever you use and add your new Twitter account. Create a new column for “all followers.” Since you aren’t actually following anyone, it will only show your tweets. AND GUESS WHAT? Your tweets are ONLY the feeds you want to read!

Voilà! Your very own feed reader directly within Twitter. I’m currently in the “add all my feeds to Twitterfeed” stage. Seriously, someone should create a service to automate this process and thread it through feedburner (so as to not mess up bloggers’ feed counts).

If there are certain blogs that you love so much you HAVE to read every single post or you like categories, you could easily make more than one extra Twitter account and have multiple columns going on TweetDeck.

There are definitely some downsides to this kind of feed reader. Definitely the manual input is a drag. Beyond that, you’re also likely going to miss posts as they fly by if you add more than a handful of feeds. This is more for someone like me who just wants a non-intimidating way to look at what was recently posted by my favorite bloggers when I have a moment or two to read something.

Fun Possibility: You could add this account to your blog’s sidebar instead of a traditional blogroll! I hate blogrolls because they get outdated to quickly and tend to grow at an alarming rate. This way, you don’t have to keep track of broken links and you’re still promoting the sites that you like to read. It also takes up less real estate on your sidebar and is constantly changing, so people are more likely to quit. I would LOVE to be on someone’s “blogroll” this way instead of being on a traditional blogroll.

Also…income stream possibility? Create an account just for Sponsored Feeds and place the widget on your sidebar (clearly marked as “sponsored” of course). People would pay for their feed to show up on your sidebar this way. This is just a really just a random thought I had – I haven’t looked into it at all to see if this would break any sort of Twitter rules or be a no-no with Google. Look into it before you run with that idea.

Will someone please pay me to just sit around and think of ideas? In all honesty, I’m sure that some smart cookies out there are already doing this, but I haven’t seen anyone talking about it, so I wanted to pass on the idea!

Hope it helps some of you – RT this post if it does (feel free to cc: @allison_boyer – I’d love to know who is using this idea!).

Note:  This post was originally published on the NMX blog in Dec 2010. Since then, I’ve seen a number of other people using this technique or a similar technique to make Twitter a feed reader!

Three Ways for Bloggers to Get More Out of Social Media

 

For most of us, being on social media goes hand in hand with blogging. Even if it’s not a conscious marketing effort, chatting with friends on Twitter and Facebook or posting photos of food in jars to Pinterest is fun. That fun can easily translate from “Oh, I’m going to check Facebook for ten minutes” to “Holy wow, where did the last three hours go?!?” if you’re not careful. And I’m guessing you’ve got more important things to do on your blog (or, y’know, your laundry) with those three hours, right?

Now, assuming you’re using social media to help promote your blog, you can’t just quit using it altogether. What you can do is get disciplined about the time spent on social media, utilize some of the great tools available now that make social media work more effectively for you, and – overall – approach social media with the right attitude.

1. Dig Into the Numbers

One of the keys to effectively using social media is knowing what your audience responds to most. But when your audience gets beyond Mom and Uncle Frank, it’s a bit harder to talk to each of them. The good news is that with tools like Facebook Insights, SocialBro, Pinerly, and Google Analytics (among many, many others) your community is talking to you whether they know it or not. Learning to interpret what the numbers are telling you isn’t always easy (I’m so averse to numbers in general that I still contend Google Analytics looks like binary code to me most of the time), but with such a rich source of information on your community at your disposal, you’d be crazy not to at least try to read those tea leaves.

2. Scheduling (Not Automation)

Some of the most useful new social media tools I’ve seen in the last year or so are the ones that allow you to schedule updates in advance so you don’t feel compelled to check Twitter every 19 seconds. I’m an enormous fan of Buffer; I hear HootSuite now has an “auto-scheduler” function that may be similar, and most Twitter clients allow for manual advance scheduling. Scheduling gives you the ability to plan out the next few days of your social media posts in one go. You’ll still check back in regularly to get into the conversation, but you no longer need to babysit your social media accounts. While I’m a big fan of scheduling, however, I happen to think automation is absolutely the wrong way to go. If you read something you genuinely like and think your audience will also like, by all means add that to your schedule. But to sign up for a service that auto-tweets stuff to your accounts without you even knowing it? That’s not cool, man. Turning your community over to auto-pilot is, to my mind, the beginning of a slippery slope toward treating your community like numbers instead of people. And that’s never a good thing.

3. Be a Resource

Being on social media requires being social – otherwise, I’d contend, you might as well not bother. That means striking a balance between the “megaphone” end of the spectrum and the “wallflower” end. CNN is a news resource, right? They’re allowed to be more of a megaphone because, well, they’re CNN. You are not CNN. Don’t be the guy at the party who dominates every conversation without really adding anything to it. In addition to making time on a regular basis to actually reply to people, being a resource also means posting things that are relevant to your community no matter where it comes from. That generates goodwill among other bloggers whose links you’re promoting, and it also makes you a resource to whom your community will turn when they’re looking for information – which is the real value.

Also? Patience, Grasshopper

I’m not quite at the age when I’m repeating myself out of sheer forgetfulness, but I find myself repeating one particular phrase over and over lately – “there is no magic pill.” I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that everyone who gets onto social media in order to build up their blog audience wants the numbers to increase exponentially from now until the end of time. This is not going to happen. Building community (and therefore traffic numbers) on social media is a slow process, like building community is anywhere else. There are things you can do to get from zero to 60 more quickly and efficiently, but I die a little inside every time I hear about people wanting to buy Twitter or Facebook followers. (Please, just … no.) You can’t expect instant miracles from your social media efforts, but you can expect a return on your genuine investment.

Oh, and hey, you’re following us on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, right? Good.

What do you think?
How do you make the most of the time you spend on social media? What tools or methods work best for you? Share in the comments below!

Creative Commons photo by dougww on Flickr