Cast Too Wide a Net and Valuable Fish will Slip Through

An image of a large fishing net with a whale breaking through and dollar bills slipping through the holes.

As any angler worth his or her salt knows, if you’re not using the right bait and equipment, it’s far more difficult to catch fish. And, when it comes to your business that can mean many missed opportunities to put food on your plate.

The arrival of hash tags on Facebook shines a new light on the value of search marketing. And while there will be those self-professed gurus and wizards willing to sell you a bill of goods, the fact is that common sense and quality content will always reign supreme.

It’s always tempting to try to insinuate yourself into the largest possible conversation. A quick look at the list of popular tags on hashtags.org list the usual suspects: #news, #health, #business, #marketing, #socialmedia, #startup, #education, #climate, #volunteer…

Chances are that your business, products, or content will fall under one of those banners, but will you see any reward for your effort?

Yesterday at 10 a.m., for example, an estimated 1,449 tweets per hour included the hashtag #marketing. And that pales in comparison to #socialmedia, which registered approximately 4,500 references at the same time (and that number jumped to 6,600 just one hour later!).

It’s hard enough to stand out from the crowd. With competition like this, it’s almost impossible to get noticed. Chances are your tweet will be buried rapidly in the streams of those following those particular hash tags.

With only 140 per Tweet, characters are at a premium. So why waste them on wild hopes and dreams when there are realistic targets that could benefit your business.

When it comes to branding, less is often more – at least in terms of target demographics. There are marketers and communicators that will advocate broadcasting your message to the broadest possible audience; I’d rather focus on broadcasting it to the people who are most likely to act upon your content – as long as they can see it.

I once worked with a company that loved nothing more than ‘targetting’ e-mails to its entire subscription base. Buy a lipstick once, get every new beauty and skin care product notice for life…

What this tactic does is not only waste resources (if you’re paying by the e-mail), but it can also impede your future efforts. If your customers continually receive content that’s not relevant to them, they’ll eventually tune you out. So when that one message that might resonate comes by, they’ll miss it.

The marketer’s worst enemies are the block/ignore/unfollow/unlike buttons on social. And if you continue to deliver content that doesn’t match the customer’s needs, they’ll tune you out.

But what if you target your messaging to behaviour? Personally, I’d rather send out 100 e-mails to people who are directly interested in a product and have 10 purchases, then send out 1,000 to people who may fit into a stretched demographic, but return only one purchase – and who knows how many Spam reportings, blocked e-mails, or unsubscribes?

Focus on those specific terms that are relevant to your customers. They could be local distinctions, brand names, or more-focused terms. The #ldnont hashtag yesterday reached a peak of 75 estimated mentions yesterday around 1 p.m., which may not seem like a lot, but for a local company looking to get its message out to local traffic, that’s an accessible group, which could lead to viral distribution through referrals, retweets, and mentions.

Sure, 7,000 may sound like a better target, but how many of those people are actually going to see your content? By the time your Tweet is posted, dozens more bearing that same hash tag are on its way and your message is lost in the shuffle.

And these are issues that arise when you only have 140 characters to deal with and space is at a premium. Imagine what you could do on Facebook (where it’s been reported that the limit is a whopping 63,206 characters for a status update). With virtually no restrictions on space, expect to see a flurry of #status #updates #featuring #keyword #stuffing #for #no #other #reason #than #it #can #be #done #and #why #run #the #risk #of #missing #a #potential #hashtag?

Some social gurus will say don’t worry about it. I say remember what you’re doing.

You’re marketing. To people.

You need to provide them not just with content that they want to read – you have to provide them with readable content. A stack of hashtags is visually jarring and off-putting. Most people know they’re being marketed to – they just don’t want it so painfully obvious. For the most part, the relationship between consumer and company is akin to a fan. And while few expect true friendship, you don’t want to abuse that relationship.

Just like in SEO, there is no magic formula – instead, it’s all about creating quality content that your reader wants to read and share. It’s about providing value on the page that matches its promise. And it’s about targeting your message to people who are going to value it.

Remember, the bigger the net you cast, the more likely those smaller fish are going to slip through. And while you may catch a whale one time in a million, the successful marketer knows how to find and mine those smaller ponds to ensure you fill your plate each and every night.

Questions Answered

What hashtags should I use?

How do I use hashtags on Facebook?

What are the best hashtags?

How do I choose which hashtags to use on Twitter?

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