Keep Calm and Hashtag On

To all the hashtag haters out there, sorry but I suggest getting used to them, because the hashtag is here to stay… or at least for the next few years.

hash shirt

Hashtags are all the rage these days, and the digital wave is moving faster than ever, so grab your surf board and get ready to get wet, because as brands (whether personal or professional brands) we are all going to be forced to live up to the promise of digital.

The internet has not only revolutionized the way people consume products, but it has completely changed how we are consuming content and information, and most importantly how we are forming relationships with each other and with brands. #justsayin

With people taking more digital actions everyday, it is vital for brands to be developing digital relationships with their consumers. Consumers now know what is possible from a digital relationship and are frustrated when these relationships with brands aren’t available.

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The #1rule is “don’t forget to be human”. Digital promises business and customers a nirvana where relationships are not one-to-many of a brand relationship but the one-to-one of a personal relationship. Brands need to maintain a personal touch in a digital world. People want to be talked “with” not “at” – and that’s where many brands get into trouble. They haven’t made the shift. Brands need to be speaking the same language as consumers; they need to become the “friend” instead of the “parent”. Brands need to be engaging in social media conversations and share content that is relevant, interesting and useful to their audience.

hash boom

What better way to do that than by “riding the hashtag”? I’m actually quite fond of the hashtag. It adds a kick with some personality. They are quick for communication, easy for linking, and good for community building. I don’t see any problem with a person or brand using them, but in the right way.

Just don’t be one of these…

That being said, even though brands should be interacting with consumers online and present in social media conversation, or even creating these conversations (via hashtag or other), brands must remember to be intelligent, non invasive and personal when doing so.

In a digital world especially in social media, brands often play the role of the annoying guy who will not stop texting you. Brands often become just like that guy who thinks that just because he has your number that its ok to keep bombarding you with texts even though you never respond. Brands must be extremely careful only to engage with consumers during the right moments and the moments when they ask for it, otherwise they run the risk of turning off their audience. Looking too egger is never attractive. Brands need to learn how to interact impactfully but in moderation, while still being current and maintaining an active presence in social media – Not exactly an easy balance to find, but certainly necessary to try.

Just like that annoying guy again, brands make the mistake of over indulging once they do get your attention. Patience! Once you finally agree to interact and go on the first date, they want it all at once. “Good things come to those who wait”. Brands need to learn how to put on the breaks and take a moment to develop that relationship with their consumers online first, before trying to sell them on it. Its just plain and simple human psychology: people are more willing to give something to you when they think that you have given something to them first.

Oh and don’t be like that idiot guy who send out the mass “_______ what r u up to tonight?” text and just drops in your name or my favorite – the classic replicated voicemail with the name changed.

This is a mistake that is made far too often in digital. We are all smart enough to recognize when brands are doing this, so just don’t do it. Don’t just personalize, CUSTOMIZE. Sure automated responses get the job done, but they also make your audience feel like they are interacting with a robot. Brands need to bring the customization into the digital conversations with their customers. Its digital for crying out loud! There is tons of data out there. How hard is it to look at someone’s profile before writing back to his or her comment? Or even just try reading the actual comment and responding specifically to it, instead of sending a generic reply. It’s pretty simple, yet so many brands don’t do it, and that’s where they get in trouble. People don’t like it, plain and simple – it’s received as disingenuous and that’s a bad thing in the social media world.

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Today’s online population expects and craves “real” interactions with brands… and they are willing to give their loyalty to brands that make them feel special and provide that personal touch to their relationship. The digital world provides an excellent opportunity for brands to enhance those interactions with existing and potential customers, and gives them the ammunition to take those relationships to the next level, if done smartly.

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