Since social media has become a large part of our everyday lives it has trickled down and effected tourism and food experiences. While vacations, travel and food exploration used to be something you did, it’s also now something people with their friends and the public online.
When we run our food tours we often see people snapping photos of their food or friends throughout. When the sharing is happening all around your business, it’s an opportunity to jump into the conversation and encourage more customer sharing and engagement. There are a number of ways to do this, but today we’re going to focus on the power of a good, unique hashtag.
What is a Hashtag?
Before we getting into choosing and using a hashtag as part of your social media plan, we’d like to touch on the benefits of using hashtags in general. Let’s start with the basics by defining what a hashtag is. According to Twitter “The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.”
Hashtags are used in all kinds of context to categorize conversations around events, live Twitter chats, media stories and so much more. Within every industry there are often many hashtags used regularly, and if you do just a little digging into the food and tourism industries you’ll find a slue (see #foodie and #travel, as a few simple examples). Hashtags are especially great for local engagement in the city where you run your business (see #chicagofoodie and #chicagofood).
Hopefully you’re already taking advantage of hashtags like this. Doing so can gain more visibility for your tweets in Twitter’s search as well as help your brand become a valued member of your industry’s online community.
Creating a Hashtag
Now that we’ve gotten the basics out of the way, it’s time to get into why creating a unique hashtag for you brand could take your tours to the next level.
Why Designate a Brand Hashtag?
The best part about hashtags is that it’s a practically free social media marketing tool that with the right usage can provide a huge benefit to tour companies. Between Instagram and Twitter, tourist are already sharing their experience in timely images and posts. Giving customers a specific hashtag to share their experience under can help organize and encourage more activity, making tracking engagement easier and increase exposure for your brand name.
Is a Hashtag For You?
Whether you have a ton of activity online during your tours already or not much the answer is probably yes. If there’s already activity, a hashtag can encourage more and if no one is interacting, a hashtag can kickstart activity by reminding tour goers to share.
Is There Any Risk?
Unlike other social media marketing options like Twitter or Facebook ads, implementing a business hashtag isn’t going to eat up your money. In fact it’s completely free. The main risk is that you implement it and no one uses it, but that’s not going to break the bank or hurt your company in any way. Below are our tips to hopefully avoid a flop, but in general there’s no good reason not to go for it.
How to Get a Hashtag Going
Choose An Appropriate Hashtag
Your first step to creating your new hashtag is making one up, which can be a little trickier than you think. What you choose should be descriptive, but concise and easy to remember. To get ideas, look at what your tourism competitors use (if any), what hashtags have been trending in your industry and what your current audience is using. Plus look at some bigger brands who have successful hashtags.
Once you think you’ve come up with something good, here are some basic questions to ask:
Is your hashtag already taken? Do a Twitter search on your choice. You may be surprised to find it’s either already in use by another business or by the general public. This can usually happen if your choice is something generic like #ChicagoFood.
- Is your hashtag branded? Part of the reason to promote a hashtag is for brand exposure. Try your best to choose something that is both unique and descriptive of your business. This could be as simple as incorporating your brand acronym in the hashtag.
- Is you hashtag really long? Long hashtags pose several problems. The main one being Twitter’s character limit. The longer your hashtag, the less your tour goer can share. Long hashtags can also be tougher to remember, clunkier to type out and more difficult to read. Good: #Chifoodtours Bad: #Foodtoursofchicago
- Can it be misconstrued? Check the general meaning of your hashtag and spelling to make sure words don’t run together in strange or negative ways.
Build a Strategy Around it
Just choosing a hashtag won’t make it a success. Be sure to build a marketing strategy around it that includes usage, exposure and engagement.
Some Key Basics
- Define how to use the hashtag, especially if you have multiple people tweeting.
- Use it consistently yourself and promote it to customers.
- Incorporate it into other marketing efforts like collateral, emails and tour guide scripts.
- Engaging with customers using the hashtag to create conversation.
Exposure Your Audience
The number one challenge of implementing a new hashtag is making your audience aware, so pay special attention to finding ways o exposure your customers to the hashtag. Incorporate it into your tour materials, even if it’s just slipping a card in your booklets that says “Share the Food Fun!” with the tour hashtag. Beyond visual exposure, have your guides remind people during the tour to share under the hashtag.
Use It For More Than Posting
Run campaigns using the hashtag that give some sort of incentive for sharing. For example, offer special deals to those who share while on the tour or even award a best hashtag tour photo of the week on your site. With a hashtag in place you should be able to incorporate it into your website too, by showing the feeds from Instagram or twitter. The key is to get creative and make people excited to share!
More Helpful Resources
There’s a lot of material already out there on using hashtags for your business, more than we can even cover here. Below are a few pretty good resources to get you thinking even further.
How do you use Twitter as part of you marketing plan? Have you tried implementing a hashtag yourself? Share your experience in the comments or tweet us at @Foodtourpros!