The hashtag started with Twitter in August of 2007, invented by Chris Messina. Linking words with the pound sign, made it easy to find and follow specific topics. The idea caught on in October of that year, when people started using #SanDiegoFire to update followers of the surrounding forest fires.
Since then, the hashtag has spread: now compatible across all forms of social media and becoming a part of our culture. They are a new way to shape your voice more clearly.
Because the hashtag has taken pop-culture by storm, photographers must hop on board and use these community-building links to their advantage.
Before we get started, apply these general rules to using and creating hashtags:
- Search the hashtag before using it and determine what it is associated with
- Use/create hashtags that are shorter and easy to spell
- Limit the number of different hashtags you have associated with your business
- Check out what hashtags are trending
Now that we have gone over the basics, here are 6 things to do with the hashtag in order to thoroughly integrate your photography brand into the social media realm.
1. Create Your Brand Hashtag
Use your company name or tagline to create a unique hashtag. Something that’s easy for clients to find and use. Use this hashtag in every post you create, across all social media platforms.
2. Use Event & Campaign Hashtags
Get your audience involved in events or campaigns that your company is running or supports. You can even challenge people to use your hashtag with posts containing certain content. You can use this strategy to show your clients what your company believes and stands for.
REI launched #OptOutside this fall, in protest against the insanity of the Black Friday propaganda– encouraging their followers & employees to go outside. It is a perfect example of showing what REI stands for, and relates to a huge anti-Black-Friday audience.
This also applies to events you might be shooting. Hashtags have become a common part of weddings and other events so coordinating that with your social media accounts could prove to gain more exposure for your photos.
3. Use Relevant & Thoughtful Hashtags
#smile #sunshine #photography #pictures #justinbieber #everypossiblehashtagicanthinkof
If you have a friend who uses 23 hashtags every post, you can relate to my strong annoyance. This is called hashtag spam. We must stop this abusive behavior.
Instead, use hashtags that relate strongly to your content, that make sense, and represent your photography and brand. For example, challenge yourself to use only 4 hashtags: your brand hashtag, your event/campaign hashtag, a hashtag related to the content, and a tag related to your location.
4. Use Your Hashtags in all Social Media Platforms
Be sure to consistently integrate your brand and event hashtags into more than just Twitter and Instragram. Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Vine, and even Tumblr, should all include your unique hashtag – showing brand consistency and building brand recognition across the board.
To take it another step, start applying your hashtag on other brand material: signs, business cards, posters, website, t-shirts – you name it. The more you display to the public eye, the higher the chances of building your community of followers.
5. Reach More People by Connecting with Recent Clients
When you work with different clients and companies, you have the potential to advertise to all of their friends and followers by sharing your work with them.
Post the work you have created for your customers, comment on your positive experience working with them, provide a link to more of your work, and use your hashtags wisely.
When you shoot a wedding, think of everyone in the bridal party – do you think any of those women will need a photographer at their wedding? Probably. If you post a photo and tag the bride along with the bridesmaids – not only have you advertised to those 5 women, but to all of their friends.
I won’t do the math, but that’s a lot of people, especially when you are putting the photo onto multiple platforms. Be sure to comment on the great time you had and include the wedding hashtag!
6. Invite People to Use Your Hashtag
Get creative in offering challenges with prizes for clients who interact online while using your hashtag.
Example: “Free large print of this photograph (the awesome picture you post) for the next 5 people who share this with their friends. Use #(yourbrand)”
People love free stuff, your product will be out in the market (and people will brag about getting it for free), and your brand will spread to further audiences who you wouldn’t reach otherwise.
With consistency, creativity, and quality work, you’ll have the whole community talking about you. Start thinking about hashtags, how you want to represent your photography brand, and how you want people to join in the conversation.
For more great marketing tips, check out The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick.
Joelle Reynolds has been working in management and marketing for over 10 years. She believes that relevance and consistency are two key aspects of a successful marketing plan.