You may know the # as a “pound” symbol. In this case, the correct name for the symbol is “hashtag.” In 2007, Twitter followers began using hashtags to form small discussion groups around individual topics. Fast forward eight years, hashtags are now used on every major social media platform, except LinkedIn. Today the hashtag is not used to form small groups, but to categorize and search social posts.
What can hashtags do for my dental practice?
First, Facebook has nearly 1.5 billion active monthly users. Twitter has over 300 million, and Instagram has nearly 300 million (statista). Even if you have a strong presence on social networks, your followers are a very small percentage of the overall users. Hashtags can help you reach many more of them.
Second, many of today’s internet surfers are using social networks as their primary search engine – finding news, reviews, businesses and much more without ever going on Google, Bing or Yahoo. Millennials use hashtags as interchangeably as search queries. Hashtags can help you target all the people in these groups who are interested in dental services, without paying a dime.
Currently when you post to your social sites, your friends and followers can see the post. Hopefully they’re being actively engaged and “like” or “share” your posts to their networks to give you more exposure. But, when you add a hashtag to your post, they get opened up to everyone.
Hashtags for Dentists
If you post a photo of a beautiful smile and add #BestSmile to your post, anyone who searches #BestSmile will see everything containing this hashtag. Likewise, if you add #Dentist, anyone searching for a dentist will see all posts with this hashtag. Twitter, Instagram and Google+ have all found that hashtags improve engagements – as much as double. Simply put, hashtags increase the eyes on your message and they don’t cost a thing.
Effectively Marketing with Hashtags
Hopefully you’re smiling now. But before you rush into putting hashtags on everything, here are six tips to keep in mind.
1. Think locally. Obviously you’re not trying to reach all 300 billion users on Twitter. But you would like to increase the number of qualified targets seeing your posts in your local area. Consider tagging your posts with your city, neighborhood or state. For example, #sandiegodentist
2. Be specific. #Dentist is bound to pull up so many posts your practice may get lost. But when you get more specific you’ll find less competition. Think along the lines of #TeethWhitening, #FightCavities, #ToothAche, or #BestFloss. This is just a beginning – keep brainstorming!
3. Be topical. You need to reach your market where they live. What are they thinking about or doing today Halloween is around the corner so maybe using #HalloweenCandy, #CandySmile, #ToothFairy or #MomLife would speak to the here and now.
4. Don’t use entire sentences. Some people get cute and turn sentences, such as #TrickortreatingattheSalemStreetDentistry into one large hashtag. Or they place hashtags in front of each word. Both are incorrect. Try to use hashtags for dentists, but use ones that people will actually search so keep them short and catchy. And stay away from overly common words.
5. Keep it relevant. Always make sure your hashtags are relevant to your dental practice, your post and to your target audience. There are a lot of sites that can help you analyze your hashtags. Tagboard gives you a good overview of how each hashtag currently is being used on several networks.
6. Be judicious. A common rule of thumb is too many hashtags leads to less interaction. Keep it to one or two hashtags. More than two hashtags drastically lowers interactions. There is one exception to this rule – Instagram. Here you get to go wild. The highest interactions on Instagram come from posts with 11 or more hashtags.