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If you spend any time online, you’ve no doubt seen a hashtag – a word or phrase preceded by a “#” symbol. You’ve probably even seen them on TV, billboards and magazine ads.
But what are they and why are they spreading? Most importantly, how can you use them for music marketing?
Hashtag: What the heck is it?
Even though hashtags have been used in the technology and programming fields for many years, they only started being used by the general public a few years ago on Twitter. Over the past year many websites and social media platforms have adopted them, including Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin, and Kickstarter.
Therefore, it’s high time you learned what they are and how to use them!
Think of the online world as a stadium filled to the brim with chatty people, all talking at the same time. Then imagine giant hashtag signs hanging from the rafters over various sections. People gradually gather in specific sections to talk directly to others, rather than screaming across the field.
If you stood in the middle of the stadium it would sound like an incomprehensible noise. But if you walked through the various sections you would hear people engaging in real conversations because they are now talking to others interested in the same topic.
When you use the “#” symbol before a word or phrase (with no spaces) in your social media updates, it becomes a clickable link. When you click that link you are taken to a page that shows only updates that use that hashtag. It’s a great way to filter out the noise and see only the discussions that pertain to a specific topic.
The cool thing about using hashtags is that you can observe and join global conversations on virtually any subject, or start one of your own. If you have something to say, you can tweet your thoughts, type in the right hashtag and send it out. Other people can search, read, retweet, like, comment and reply to them.
Hashtags are a particularly intriguing tool for music promotion. From getting the word out about your latest album release to promoting your next tour to staying in touch with your fans between shows … hashtags are a simple, effective and FREE music marketing tool. Major record labels and marketing gurus plan massive hashtag campaigns. Why not invest a little time now into planning your own hashtag marketing strategy?
Six Ways to Use #Hashtags for Music Promotion
1) Live tweets and updates during a show
Create a hashtag for your band or album, and ask your fans to use your hashtag when posting social media updates during a live show. To get people in the room to really do it, you’ll need to use both visual and verbal cues. Spell it out for them verbally over the mic, but also have a banner or large sign with the hashtag spelled out (along with your website address and other info you want to convey).
2) Brand it, baby!
Create a fun, short, unique hashtag that represents your band, musical theme, or current string of live shows. Think about the name of your album, a character in one of your songs, your most popular track, or an abbreviated version of your band name. Consider putting this hashtag on your blog, website, press releases, album covers and more. Of course, don’t be obnoxious doing this. Just be sure to make people aware of your strategically planned hashtag.
3) Encourage fan-generated content
Have you seen major companies asking people to tweet or post pictures of themselves drinking a Coke, flossing, or making a funny face? With just a bit of effort, they get regular people to do their online marketing for them – for free!
There’s no reason why you can’t do this too! For example, you could ask people to take pictures at your show and tweet them out using your hashtag. Even better, offer a free prize for the best picture, like a free album, tickets to the next show, backstage passes, or a gift from a sponsor. But to win, they have to use the hashtag when they post their photos.
4) Engage new fans
This one will require a bit of research, because you’ll need to figure out which hashtags are of interest to your ideal fans. Then, spend some time conversing with people using the hashtags you discovered. But be smart about it. Your conversations should not necessarily be about self-promotion, they should be about the topic at hand.
Your first objective is to make friends, gain followers, and get shared and retweeted. Pique interest first, and people will visit your profile page on Twitter, Facebook or whatever social site they discover you on. Then, hopefully, they’ll visit your website. (Please tell me you’ve got an artist website, and you include a link to it on ALL of your social profile pages!)
Here are some tips on where to start your search for the best hashtags: Causes you care about, news stories that resonate with your message, musicians you and your fans admire, and venues you want to play.
5) A live Q&A Twitter chat session
Major celebrities do it, so why not you? Make it a planned event, promote it well in advance of the chat, and give it a unique hashtag like #ask[insert artist name here]. If your band’s name is long, you might want to abbreviate it so it consumes the fewest characters possible. It might help to get a few friends and supporters to kick off the conversation by posing the first few questions.
6) Respond to users who use your hashtag
I know, this might seem like a “Duh, Bob” point, but I know damn well that many well-meaning musicians will forget about this. Simply encouraging your fans to use a specific hashtag of your choosing is a great start. But you can make this a lot more effective by being responsive. People who take the time to actually use your hashtag do so because they want to interact with you and other fans. So acknowledge them, retweet, respond, and have fun with it.
#Hashtag fail: How NOT to use them for music marketing
I wouldn’t be doing you any favors if I didn’t also tell you how not to use hashtags in your music marketing efforts.
• Using too many hashtags is annoying and will turn off followers. Pick one or two per tweet or update.
• Try to avoid always attaching hashtags to the end of your update. You’ll get a better response when you cleverly incorporate the hashtags into your tweet, such as “Soul #Massage Is Like a Guided Meditation You Can #Dance to www.SoulMassageMusic.com.”
• Don’t use irrelevant hashtags. Throwing #Kardashians into your update when your music has nothing to do with them would be dumb. Research and understand how people (your ideal fans) use hashtags before you start spitting them out.
• Don’t be a “character hog.” There are only 140 characters to work with, so keep your hashtag short and sweet.
If you haven’t yet tried using hashtags for music marketing, you may be missing out, especially since more and more prominent sites are using them. Give it a shot. It just might help you attract and engage more fans.
Start getting some hashtag practice right now by posting this to Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and more:
Hashtag #MusicMarketing: How to Use #Hashtags to Promote Your Music http://bob-baker.com/buzz/hashtag-music-marketing via @MrBuzzFactor
How have you used hashtags for music marketing? I welcome your comments below!
Sources of inspiration for this post:
5 Ways Your Business Should Use Twitter Hashtags
12 Tips for Effective Twitter Hashtag Marketing
How NOT to Use a Hashtag
Why User-Generated Content Is More Important Than You Think
5 Best Social Media Campaigns with User-Generated Content