Every small business is threatened by obscurity. This is especially true in our industry, one dominated by brands like Dave and Buster's and Chuck E. Cheese's—names most consumers know very well.
So how do you stake a claim in your local community when you're competing against brands that your prospective guests know and trust? Answer: use hashtags on social media.
Using hashtags can help you connect with local influencers, earn media attention, and communicate directly with the families you want as loyal customers. In fact, when used correctly, hashtags can tip the local balance of power in your favor. So let's take a brief a look at how you can use this underrated tool to your advantage.
First, what are hashtags?
Essentially, they're words or phrases preceded by the pound (#) symbol. Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake put together a helpful, hilarious "tutorial" which explains how hashtags are commonly used on social media:
Hashtags are most popular on Twitter and Instagram. Yes, you can use them on Facebook, but I think FB users hate hashtags or don't understand them, judging by this list of memes.
The function of a hashtag is to create a conversation around a specific topic. For example #BirthdayPartyIdeasForKids:
Notice that you can "follow" a hashtag. It's a brave new world out there for small businesses. Hashtags are a great opportunity to put yourself on the map in your region.
Avoid common mistakes when using hashtags
Not using any hashtags. This means you're limited to reaching your followers—if they happen to be on social media when you tweet or post.
Using hashtags nobody is using. This means that nobody will see your content, so you might as well not be using a hashtag. Use a tool like hashtagify.me that will tell you which hashtags are popular in the conversations you want to join. Simply search for a word or phrase you'd like to hashtag; hashtagify.me will show you the top 10 all-time most popular hashtags based on the word or phrase you search.
#yourcityname - This gives you a chance to reach people who are in your area. You might catch the attention of local influencers or media outlets, too.
#sportsteamname - With the NHL playoffs in full swing, you have a good shot at reaching people who live in or near your town and love their hockey team. You could, for example, try to offer some kind of incentive to get people into your facility, based on the number of goals the #sanjosesharks score.
#yourattraction - Although this one alone won't reach people in your area, combine it with #yourcityname, and then you're in business.
You may never have the massive audience of Justin Timberlake or the marketing budget of his record label. But you have access to social media and you can use hashtags. Applied effectively, that's a deadly combination that will increase your online visibility. The fact that world-class entertainers like Timberlake embrace the hashtag is all the evidence you need.