#Hashtags offer an online vehicle for small firms to broaden their exposure and engage with customers.
By Harvey Meyer
IF YOU’VE EVER seen the number symbol
(#) in front of a word in a Facebook or Twitter
post, you’ve seen a hashtag. And business
owner Shreyans Parekh is hooked on them. In
fact, he says that hashtags have supercharged
his company’s promotions.
His 45-employee firm, Koyal Wholesale,
is a Los Angeles–based wedding and event
supplier that gains revenue jumps from sponsoring a popular wedding-planning TV show,
David Tutera: Unveiled, hosted by celebrity
wedding planner David Tutera. Koyal’s show-related hashtags on Twitter, Facebook and
elsewhere act like gasoline, further igniting
sales, exposure and customer engagement.
“Immediately after the airing of the show,
we saw spikes in our Twitter engagement of
15 to 20 percent. For our Facebook audience,
engagement was up 10 to 15 percent,” says
Parekh, Koyal’s co-founder and director of
marketing and business development.
Although hashtags were not featured on
the show itself, Koyal’s name was mentioned
several times in conversation on the show and
Koyal’s logo was displayed several times. That
prompted a number of viewers to search for
Koyal’s website. Once on the website, people
were directed to Koyal’s pages on social net-
works such as Twitter and Facebook, where
Koyal’s hashtags were promoted. And that,
according to Parekh, is what led to an increased
buzz about the company on social media.
“I don’t think that many small businesses
understand hashtags’ vast potential,” he says.
So how does this popular little number
symbol work, exactly?
To find established hashtags, such as
Parekh’s business, a curious customer would
enter #koyalwholesale in the search function of
the social media site (note that hashtags don’t
include spaces). Search results would yield all
Facebook or Twitter posts that include #koyal
wholesale. Alternatively, if you see that someone has used a hashtag in a post, you can click
on it to yield the same results.
If you want to use a hashtag, simply type
it in your own post. For example, “I love shop-
ping at #koyalwholesale.”
If you want to establish your own unique
hashtag, it’s a good idea to search for it first to
make sure no one else has used it. Once
you’ve determined it’s not already in use, sim-
ply type the new hashtag in your post.
Hashtags offer another online vehicle for
small firms to broaden their exposure and
engage with customers. Some businesses
deploy hashtags to mention promotions, such
as #johnshardwaresale; make industry observations; provide links offering helpful tips to
targeted audiences; and communicate with
customers in other ways. Because hashtags
can be linked to a firm’s Facebook or Twitter
page—where its products, services, promotions, etc., may be exhibited—they could lead
to revenues. Best of all, hashtags are free.
“Utilizing hashtags and social media can
help small businesses cost-effectively build a
following locally, regionally and nationally,”
says Barry Sloane, a Costco member and co-founder of New York City–based Newtek
Business Services, which supplies a variety of
services and financial products for small and
mid-size companies. Hashtags help as a “great
equalizer,” enabling small firms to compete
against larger firms, he says.
In 2007, hashtags emerged as a staple on
Twitter, which began to hyperlink tweeted
hashtags to Twitter search results for the
hashtagged word or phrase. Later, Twitter
launched “Trending Topics” on its front page,
which displays hashtags rapidly gaining popularity. Earlier this year, Facebook enabled
hashtagging on public-setting posts, further
broadening its appeal.
Hungry to learn more about hashtags?
Here are some do’s and don’ts involving the
social media vehicle.
Study and experiment. Find hashtag-
gers in your industry who are tweeting and
posting, including competitors. Which
hashtags generate discussion or offer business
insights? Check Twitter’s and Facebook’s
trending topics to discover what issues, espe-
cially those associated with your industry,
When choosing a hashtag, check Twitter
or Facebook to see if and how it’s being used.
Tinker with hashtag names that offer wide
Putting the to use for your business