daniSocial media is one of the best ways in which people stay in touch, get key messages out, and engage with an audience. It’s the new generation of communications and when it comes to PR and marketing, although many individuals and companies are becoming more aware of its benefits and how to use it, only a handful are using it to its full potential. For example, you may know what the best time of day is to tweet and how many tweets you should post each day, but have you considered the use of keywords, tags, and hashtags to ensure you have the highest chance of engaging with you audience?

Whilst many businesses and marketers use keywords within SEO (search engine optimisation) and SEM (search engine marketing) the benefit of incorporating keywords, tags, and hashtags across an entire PR and social media campaign has to date been largely ignored. This could be caused by many automation services, not encouraging them or analytics tools not reporting them. But that could soon change as marketers become more social media savvy.

So in plain English, what exactly are keywords, tags, and hashtags?

A keyword is simply a word or short phrase that people use to search for something. They are the basis of all internet marketing activities and businesses can benefit from employing them in their social media content strategy. Whether it’s Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, or Facebook, your content needs to be found by your target audience and keywords are essential.

A tag (in its simplest form) is a label attached to someone or something for the purpose of identification or to give other information. When using this within a website it allows an author to add free-form tags to a post, which will then place the post into categories.

The same can be said for a hashtag and its use in social media. Hashtags grouping similar content together make your content easily accessible to people who are looking for related things. For example, if you are looking at your Twitter feed and see #healthIT; when you click on it, it will take you to a page with all the tweets and people who have used it. Hashtags will keep your posts appearing in the relevant streams.

Four simple steps to optimising you social media keywords:

1. Determine your keywords, tags, and hashtags. You may think you know what your keywords are but the truth is they could be very different from the types of words that your target audience uses. For example, you may call your solution an integration platform but your potential customer might call it a portal. Do a bit of market research to find out how your customers perceive you. Ask them what they would type into Google if they were to search for you or your product.

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Keywords will be the significant details that your content is about. You will usually find keywords in the title, body, and meta tags (hidden tags created by HTML) of your current content. Write down keywords and phrases that describe your products and services (including your brand and business name) and start from there.

2. Check you are on the right track. By figuring out what your keywords are, you will learn more about your audience and your target SEO. Judge the value of your keywords. Does it make sense to be using certain words to draw people in? Will those people find what they are looking for if you use them? If so, then you are on the right track. Don’t be afraid to go back and revisit your keywords, it’s difficult to get it right first time and keywords will often change and evolve. You can check this by using a tool such as Google Analytics, which will show what your current and potential customers are typing to find businesses like yours. Any free keyword tool (Likealize, Mentions, Addictomatic, Social Mention etc) will help you with and allow you to analyse your keyword data in great detail.

3. Start using them across different platforms. Once you have established your keywords, tags, and hashtags you need to start applying them across all of your existing platforms. For example, if you are writing a blog about great uses for open source, your key phrase would be ‘opensource’. And when promoting this on a platform such as Twitter, your message could be e.g. “New #blog on pros and cons on taking #technology #opensource in the #publicsector.”

4.  Use a different approach for different channels. Although the messaging needs to remain consistent, it is likely that different target audiences will be present on different media channels. What this may mean is the need for slightly different keywords for various social media platforms. Something that works for Twitter may not work for your company page on LinkedIn.

Consider the following when using the three most popular platforms:

Twitter is essentially a ‘real time social networking’ site, a place for sharing information as it happens. It enables users to send and read short 140-character messages. You want to share great information that isn’t directly tied to your company. You answer questions and converse with customers, which in turn can lead to people wanting to find out more about your company. Use your keywords, but be selective. Don’t just put a hashtag in there just for the sake of getting noticed. It will put people off.

Groups are indexed by Facebook’s search engine. Your group description should be accurately filled out and provide the right information for those you want to target. When posting on your group, Facebook is more useful for sharing photos and videos of your products. This appears to drive more people into interacting with you. Two good questions to ask yourself are what interests you on Facebook, and will that be transferable to your business? If so, post a picture or a video of your product and use the keywords for that specific product in the description. Hashtags are also available on Facebook and make it easier for people to find your content. Another great example are infographics where by linking the correct keywords you will drive in more people.

LinkedIn is targeted at a more professional audience and has a different demography altogether. However, people follow your company page as a way to engage and interact with you. In your company profile you should include a number of relevant keywords to increase your chances of ranking high in the appropriate LinkedIn searches. The people you target on LinkedIn are different from those on Facebook and Twitter, so your keywords will be slightly different. You are promoting your business to professionals and not the general public. You might want to add keywords that are more technical or industry-specific.

By connecting your keywords, tags, and hashtags and following the listed four steps you are getting closer to using the social media platforms to their full potential, and ensuring that your visibility on social media increases.

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