It’s funny how the internet can change how we think about simple things. Fifteen years ago, “#” meant either “number sign” or “pound symbol” to just about everybody. Thanks to Twitter, “#” now means “hashtag.” While hashtags started on Twitter, they have moved to Instagram, Pinterest, and even Facebook, and will doubtlessly continue to be one of the most important concepts in social media. And, if you use them right, they can be one of the most important advertising tools for your restaurant.
As a quick reminder for anyone not familiar with hashtags, they work fairly simply. By putting the “#” symbol in front of a word, you turn that word into a “hashtag.” When you do this, your post gets connected to every other post that has the same “hashtag” attached to it. For example, one of the most popular hashtags is “#ThrowbackThursday,” where people post pictures of themselves when they were younger once a week. All you have to do to use the hashtag is attach the text “#ThrowbackThursday” to your own posts, and every time someone clicks on that hashtag they have a chance of seeing your picture/post. It is a simple enough concept, with enormous marketing potential.
Think About Hashtags Like an Advertiser
Hashtags can be fun when you get the hang of them. It’s easy to get carried away and tag all of your food with buzzwords like “#delicious” and “#yum!”, but hashtags like these, while fun and mostly harmless, won’t give your posts the exposure that you want. If you really want to use hashtags to help market your restaurant, and unlock their full potential, you have to think like an advertiser. This means keeping visibility in the front of your mind.
Every time you use a hashtag on any picture or post that you put on social media, you should ask yourself one question: will using this hashtag help me reach more people? If the answer is no, you can use it anyway, but be realistic with yourself and realize that you won’t be helping your marketing goals. Most of the time, shorter posts are better, so using hashtags that aren’t helping you achieve visibility is a waste of time and space. Here are some do’s and don’ts for using hashtags like an advertiser, which will help you keep the principle of visibility in mind.
DO Look For Things That Are Trending
When you visit Twitter, there’s a small box on the left hand side of the page that will tell you what’s “trending.” Facebook has a similar box on the right hand side of their page. Both of these boxes contain similar information: what’s “trending” is what other people are talking about on that social network. If you can think of a way to hashtag your pictures and posts in a clever manner incorporating what’s “trending,” you have a chance of getting a lot of exposure from being part of the larger conversation.
DON’T Make Up Your Own Hashtags
Making up your own hashtags can be a fun way to build visibility around your restaurant and make your posts more unique. However, unless your audience is familiar with your hashtag, it will not boost your visibility on a larger scale. Unless you make up a great hashtag that catches on, you will probably be one of the only people who uses it. Any time you use a hashtag that other people aren’t using, your posts won’t get seen by a very wide audience.
DO Research Upcoming Trends
By typing search terms related to food in Twitter, you can see what people are talking about before it becomes a “trending” topic. All you have to do is punch in the keywords you are curious about, and then click the button that says “live.” From there, you will be able to see a feed for any keyword. IF you notice that people have been using that keyword recently, start hashtagging it! One of the best ways to gain visibility from hashtags is to start using them as they become more popular.
DON’T Rely Only on the Biggest Hashtags
There are a few standby hashtags that relate to the restaurant industry that you could probably put on every single one of your posts if you wanted to. But, doing so won’t necessarily raise your visibility at all. There’s such a thing as “over saturation” of hashtags. If you use a hashtag that MILLIONS of people are using, the chances of someone else seeing what you post isn’t too high. Your posts are likely to just get buried.
Hashtagging Like an Advertiser is a Balancing Act
You want to use popular hashtags, but not ones that are SO popular that your posts will never be seen. Like everything else with social media, experiment! If you use a hashtag and notice that your post is getting a lot of engagement, use it again. Just remember that if you want to think like an advertiser and get as much as you can out of hashtags in a marketing sense, visibility should be your number one goal.
Rafi Cohen, a graduate of Baruch College & Brooklyn native is the Co-Founder @ Orders2me, an online ordering platform that gives restaurant owners all the features they need to grow their business in the digital age.
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