Marketing gurus seem to throw the term "Hashtags" around, but everyone still looks confused. A proper hashtag strategy can create communities, grow Instagram pages tenfold, and connect profiles to audiences outside of their followers.
This strategy applies to any business in any industry. But this article is specifically for Restaurant & Catering operations. Many Restaurant Executives nowadays are too focused on the day-to-day operations and can lose sight of the digital world's importance and its massive impact it can make.
In this article, we'll explain why a proper Hashtag Strategy is essential, explain the origins of the Hashtag, and provide what we think is the best hashtag strategy to be ever made.
What are hashtags and why does it matter?
Let's go back and discuss the origins of the "Hashtag." The popular character's first appearance on the internet was in the Internet Relay Chat in 1988, or IRC. IRC was a network where users communicate through various channels, labeled by now the famous character- the #. Let's say we wanted to create a channel and only discuss pizza, and therefor the channel would be labeled as #pizza. #Florida would be a channel of users talking about Florida.
Later on, a user on twitter suggested that they adapt the hashtag practice to index discussions based on keywords beginning with a #. In twitter's early days, the founders thought it wouldn't work, but it's 2020, and hashtags have taken over by a storm.
Now that we know about the origins of the hashtag.
Why does it matter? Like Twitter, LinkedIn, and many social platforms, Instagram hashtags work by organizing and categorizing video and photo content. To get right into the numbers- a post with at least one Instagram hashtag averages 12.6% more engagement than with a post without a hashtag. Having a public Instagram account and adding a hashtag to a post, that post will be visible on the corresponding hashtag page.
A hashtag's primary purpose is to allow users to discover content and connect with users who haven't connected to you before.
If you can walk out with the number one thing and disregard the rest of this article, is this: If you want to win on Social Media, use it for its intent: to be social. Many accounts are very selfish. They want to post a photo of their dish and leave the app without engaging with their followers. Then two months down the road, become confused as to why they are not growing.
Gary Vee's $1.80 Strategy
Gary Vee, one of the most influential "Marketing Guru" of today, discussed his very strategy to grow any Instagram Page from Zero to Hero.
This idea was predicated on building community.
The $1.80 Strategy is leaving your personal .02 cents on the top 9 trending Instagram posts for ten different hashtags related to your business. By the end of this, you have left a full $1.80 of thoughts online. Not only can this apply to Instagram, but Linkedin, Twitter, etc.
To even get more practical, let's discuss how we can do this for restaurants in 3 Practical Steps.
1. We first discover the top ten most essential hashtags within the restaurant.
Let's say you're an Italian restaurant. So what you would do is search #italian.
Then you look at the top bar with the related hashtags and jot them down.
#italianfood 12.7m post
#italiancuisine 856k post
#Italianfoodporn 384k post
#tagliatelle 489k post
#italianrestaurant 1m post
#italianpasta 228k posts
Spend time searching for the lesser-known hashtags that still relate and can make an impact.
2. When you find a post, identify who that person is, identify the account, understand the user, and then engage. By paying attention to who they are, you can grab a deeper sense of how to talk to them.
Changing the mindset from "growing your Instagram" to "building relationships" truly impacts the way you build your community.
3. Don't ever get lazy with the process and comment spam. Be there to help, admire, or even ask questions. You can even DM them and mention their post, respond to their story, and give something valuable.
Tips and Reminders
The process is simple, but this may be a bit overwhelming and you may be wondering if your ability to do this yourself. Here's a couple of our suggestions:
Each comment shouldn't take over a minute of your time. So to best do this, scatter little 15 minute blocks throughout the day to just engage. Whether there's downtime in the restaurant, lunch break, etc.
If you're super busy, you can give this task to other managers, or your social-savvy employees. Trust me, someone in your team is probably on their phone a little too much, so might as well win from it.
If you're outsourcing your marketing to an agency, ask if they can do it.
There's a pretty big chance, you might walk away not implementing a single piece of advice from this. But please, if it was one thing you remember, is to be social.
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