“What should our hash tag strategy be?”
It’s a question I get from clients at least a few times a year. And, it’s one that’s usually met with a swift response.
“We don’t need one.”
Not really. Not in the sense most people are thinking about. Not in 2020. Your time and energy is better spent elsewhere.
I typically cite three big reasons for rejecting the notion that we need a “hash tag strategy”:
1 – It’s not how people use social media
Not really. Think about your typical user behavior. Heck, think about YOUR user behavior. How do you use Instagram, for example? If you’re like most, you scroll your feed, looking and engaging with friends’ posts all day. Or, increasingly now, you scour your Stories. Do you search by hash tags for content? Maybe from time to time (notably, during a conference or sporting event, like I do during #kubball). But for most, I would argue that’s pretty rare outside of those situations (side note: I looked for stats to support this claim but found NOTHING on the internetz). Does that warrant you building out a full-blown hash tag strategy for your Insta account? Definitely not. Does it warrant using up to 30 hash tags on your posts? Um, no. It’s just not the way people use social media channels.
2 – On other platforms, it matters even less
You could make an argument (a week argument, but an argument), that people do search by hash tag on platforms like Instagram and Twitter (again, during conferences and sporting events). But, LinkedIn? No way. Facebook? Nice try. No, the “hash tag strategy” is really only relevant to Insta, Twitter and, if you’re on the progressive side of things, TikTok. So, when you say we need “hash tag strategy” what I really hear is “we need a content strategy on Instagram.”
3- It wreaks of desperation
You’ve seen the posts. The ones with the text and maybe a URL then about 25 hash tags. Or, in some cases, it’s a comment by the brand with those same 25 hash tags. Either way, I tend to think this looks desperate. It looks like exactly what brands are trying to do: A desperate attempt to try to curry more followers and likes. Plain and simple. Half the time the bulk of the hash tags the brand is using have nothing to do with the brand or its product/service!
Bottom line: Forget hash tags. At least in the sense of using hash tags to gain more followers and engagement. If you really want to use hash tags in your posts, confine it to 1-2 branded hash tags that you use regularly. At Sleep Number, we use #TeamSleepNumber in all our Employer Brand posts. It helps us curate and search for all that content under ONE hash tag. And, it gives the brand a hash tag to use that they can OWN. And, it builds COMMUNITY.
Or, by all means, when you’re exhibiting at an event like #CES2020, use the hash tag to be a part of the larger CES conversation. No doubt.
But beyond that, use that time you spend adding or brainstorming 20-some hash tags for each Instagram post and put it toward creating better content! We could all stand to re-double our efforts on the content front anyway!
The news feed, as we know it, will be gone in five years.
Controversial? Somewhat. But, I’m not actually saying that to be a contrarian. I think we may see a shift soon. Here’s why.
First, just take a peek at the current news feed. What do you notice–immediately? Unless you’re lying to yourself, the answer is quite easy: Ads. And, a lot of them. And, it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. According to a recent CMO Survey, marketers expect social media ad budgets to increase by 89% by 2022. Of course, that same survey said that nearly 3 out of every 4 users (74%) think there are too many ads. And that number was 78% for adults 35+ years old. Yikes.
Second, another big shift we’re starting to see is the move from public-facing social media to private social media. In other words, moving from the public news feed to texts, DMs and private groups. This is where social media is going. If positioned among public social media platforms, WhatsApp, Messenger and WeChat would be among the top five platforms in terms of monthly active users.
Also: social media use is generally driven by younger people’s behaviors (in terms of what’s coming next). And, what are those behaviors right now? Well, young people watch a lot of YouTube. If my 15-yo son’s behavior is any indication they also send a lot of private messages. Via Instagram. Via Snapchat. Via text. It’s really all they do. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my son comment on a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter post. Ever. Those are both passive and one-on-one behaviors–not one-to-many.
Finally, for young people (granted, this one tilts male), gaming is the new social experience. Why get together IRL, when you can hook up and play Fortnite virtually for hours on end? This is a relatively new social construct. And, the more time these young people spend on gaming, the less time they’re spending on traditional social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Insta.
So, the ingredients are definitely there for the news feed to gradually lose relevance. I say gradually because this definitely won’t happen overnight. It’s a 5-7 year process. But, I think it’s starting now. And, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if social media marketing looked completely different in five years as a result.
In fact, we’re starting to see what social media marketing 2.0 might look like.
Just look at what Crocs is doing with TikTok. This is the next-level visual creativity that will be needed from branded to get attention in the next 5-10 years. Because, this is the kind of visual content that’s getting attention NOW on TikTok. It’s hard to do. It’s influencer-driven. And, it’s time-consuming. And, it’s happening on a platform that is decidedly NOT built on the traditional feed model.
Just look at what Nike is doing with Fortnite. They recently unveiled new “skins” on Fortnite complete with Nike Air Jordans. If you’re a Fortnite player, you know skins are everything. They are the way you differentiate yourself within the game. A status symbol, of sorts. So, this is a perfect way for Nike to insert itself into the game–and “conversation”–without appearing like an ad. This is next-level social media (more like digital) marketing.
Just look at what Playstation is doing with gifs. Gaming is the new basement experience for today’s youth. Instead of gathering in-person, many kids prefer to sit in front of their own computer screen playing Xbox or Playstation with friends over head sets. And, while they’re playing, they’re definitely communicating–but, usually it’s via text or direct message. Playstation identified that trend and with this collection of gifs is finding new ways to work itself in to the discussion among gamers. Again, this is what social media marketing 2.0 looks like.
Tell me if any of these scenarios sound familiar:
- You are asked to lead the revamp of your corporate web site. It’s a big task. It involves collaborating with many stakeholders. It involves working with numerous vendors. Recoding. Revamping. Rewriting. And multiple rounds of revisions. All told, it takes you a YEAR to complete the project.
- You’re in charge of developing weekly social content for your company’s Facebook page. The process of developing a single post usually includes: working with creative to develop a visual (request + multiple rounds of revisions), writing copy (plus revisions and reviews), running the final version by various teams for approvals, proofing and posting. All told, it takes 4-5 hours per each piece of content you post.
- You’re in charge of managing the organization’s Instagram page. It’s a highly stylized page. Each post requires essentially a full-on photo-shoot and rounds of approvals and tweaks. Even items in the Story feed take up to 2-3 hours with approvals and edits added in.
These scenarios should sound familiar, as many of you are living these situations each and every day! And, I know you can feel the pain that goes along with these arduous processes. And, they are arduous (actually, that’s the nicest word I could use to describe it!).
The truth is: it’s taking us WAY too long to develop social and digital content in the modern digital era.
The value equation is way off. Consider the following:
- People are consuming more content than ever before online. According to Nielsen, the average American spends more than 11 hours per day consuming content. Now, not all of that is social and online content, but a pretty significant portion of it is. The rate of content consumption is higher than ever. Translation: People are consuming AND forgetting content faster than ever.
- The feed moves too fast to spend hours and hours refining content. See Jessica Smith’s tweet above. Yes, your social content is important. Yes, you want it to be accurate. And yes, you want it to be on brand and on message. But, keep in mind, if you’re posting content organically, you’re posting content that will be largely gone within a few hours. A FEW HOURS!
- Cost per piece of content is way too high. Consider the example above. If it takes at least 10 hours to produce one piece of content (that’s probably on the high end, but still), let’s try to assign a value to that. If we assume, a blended rate of $175 (that’s probably generous, by the way), you’re talking about $1,750 per piece of social content. If you produce 10 pieces of content per month (again, probably conservative), that’s a whopping $17,500 per month for content development. Would you pay a consultant that much? If you answer yes to that question, you’re not managing your content budget effectively! And P.S., hire me and I’ll get that number WAY down! 🙂
So, what can and should we do about this?
For starters, most brands would be wise to produce far less content. I’ve done a lot of social media audits over the last 5-7 years and one theme hasn’t changed: Brands are producing WAY too much content. For example, some higher ed brands I researched on behalf of one client were posting to Twitter a whopping 50+ times per month! Not surprisingly, they weren’t see much in the way of results for those 50 posts.
More importantly, we all need to ease up on the approval process–A LOT! Social content typically has a shelf life of a few hours–at most. I’m talking about the organic stuff. So, make sure there are no typos. Make sure it’s on brand. But, for the love of all that is holy, please do not have 26 people review your Facebook posts! You just don’t need to. Focus on accuracy. Focus on brand. Focus on creativity. But, also focus on SPEED!
Actually, I’m just going to stop right there. Because if half the brands just did those two things well, we’d be in a completely different place with social media marketing right now.
So get to it social media marketers!
About a month ago, I finished teaching my first class at the University of St. Thomas. This was a bit of a dream of mine. Not only to teach, but to teach at an institution like St. Thomas–a school I’ve come to adore over the last 10+ years.
Going into the experience, I thought I would really enjoy teaching. I was wrong. I LOVED teaching. It was everything I thought it would be–and so much more. Yes, it was hard work. But, it was rewarding work–especially when multiple students tell you the class “was the best I’ve had at UST so far.” Yes, it was time-consuming. But, it also got me out of the house three days a week on arguably the most beautiful campus in the Twin Cities. And yes, it wasn’t the most lucrative thing in the world (side rant on that coming soon). But, I learned so much from the students. And, from the people I asked to be a part of the class with me.
In fact, as I reflect back on the semester, I learned a few key lessons I’ll be taking with me into my second semester (which starts in just a few weeks!).
I’d actually never heard many of the guest speakers I asked to speak in class speak!
Case in point: My friend Brian Bellmont. Now, I’ve known Brian for 10 years now. I’ve worked directly with him. I’ve been at events with him. But, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard him speak. To anyone that knows Brian that’s probably not all that surprising. He’s one the most humble people I know. Which made it all the more rewarding to hear him talk about his career progression and accomplishments. I learned a number of things about him I never knew (for example, he was a relatively famous writer for the now defunct Twin Cities Sidewalk)! In fact, I was taking notes! Really listening to what the guest speakers I asked into class had to say was one of the big hidden learnings of the entire semester.
Case studies definitely kept me current
One big component to class was case studies. We had eight classes during the semester where I brought 2 current case studies from the real world into class for discussion. And when I mean current, I mean CURRENT. We talked about the South Dakota “On Meth” campaign. We talked about the Barbie Dream House idea on AirBnB. We talked about REI’s new hard copy Uncommon Path publication. And, preparing for these classes forced me to keep current–even more than I usually am. It really forced me to look harder at case studies–something I don’t normally do. But, I found it more interesting and challenging than I thought going in.
Keeping students’ attention is a full-time job
Any professor will tell you this–keeping today’s student’s attention is not easy. In fact, I got all kinds of advice on this topic before the semester began. Most of it boiled down to two simple ideas: Keep things moving and change formats frequently. So, that’s exactly what I did. I tried not to talk all the time (hence, the case study days!). I tried to incorporate in-class exercises to break up the monotony. And, I tried to bring in people who weren’t me (i.e., guest speakers) so they’d hear another voice. I even tried other tactics to build repoire. Even the simple idea of pulling up a desk and sitting down in the middle of the room made a big impact. It seemed to break down a wall. When I was “lecturing” in the front of the room the first few class periods, I probably came off a bit too “professorial.” Once I sat down in that desk, I was almost a peer (not that that was my intention). It was interesting to try new things in the classroom, almost constantly, as an experiment to see what held their attention, and what didn’t.
Have a plan, but be ready to adapt. Quickly.
I think my 10 years as an entrepreneur prepared me well for this line of thinking. I had a syllabus and a plan going into the semester. But, I was also open to changing that plan quickly, if it needed changing. And, it did. For example, it quickly became apparent to me that the kids LOVED the guest speakers. I mean, my ego was bruised for a moment, but then I realized: they don’t just love the speakers, they love what they represent–the real world. So, why not broaden that and get the kids outside the classroom for a tour so they can see what the real world actually looks like! That’s exactly what we did–taking tours of Best Buy and Padilla. And, my guess is that was one of the best parts of the class for many of the students. And it would have never happened if I wasn’t open to adapting on the fly.
One semester down. One to go! And, I hope many more after that. For now, I’ll keep sharing learnings and what’s happening in the classroom, as long as it’s interesting!
The last couple years, I’ve written a simple post listing out the people I’d love to have coffee with in the New Year. It’s not designed to be a comprehensive list. After all, I had coffee with 60+ people in 2019!
But, it is an “aspirational” list, of sorts. A mix of mostly new people I’d like to get to know combined with a few people I’ve had on my list for a while.
Before we go any further, I should hold myself accountable for my 2019 list. Here’s the list of folks from that list I DID have coffee with in the last 12 months (all new people to me):
- Greg Bury, Medica
- Marie Yarroll, Cargill
- Monica Wiant, US Bank
- Brett Weinberg, Allianz
Four wonderful people that I truly enjoyed meeting. But, 4 of 16? 25% That’s unacceptable! I failed in my 2019 mission, it seems. But, before I consider 2019 a complete networking failure, I should also reflect on the 20+ wonderful new people I met through pure chance or other invitations:
- Jody McArdle, MN Ovarian Cancer Alliance
- Brett Boyum, Marvin Windows & Doors
- Emily McAulliffe, formerly CMO at Further
- Laurie Bauer, The Vomela Companies
- Dennis Cass, independent content strategist
- Morgan Riddle, Love your Melon
- Rebecca Lechner, Room & Board (and now, PR Rock Star!)
- Sarah Manley, marketing strategist
- Matty O’Reilly, restauranteur (Republic, Bar Brigade, Sandy’s Tavern(
- Kathy McCarthy, Meet Minneapolis
- David McCoy, US Bank
- Xiawon Guan, University of St. Thomas
- Rob LeMay, United Health Group
- Jackie Krings, Andersen Windows & Doors
- Ryan Pena, Be The Match
- Susan Hagen Garcia, Public Library of Science
- Stacia Vogel, Gray Plant Mooty
- Justine Perez, US Bank
- Aaron Keller, Capsule
- Alex Mensing, Be The Match
- Stefanie Tschida, independent consultant
- Aimee Jordan, Fairview
- Katie Dohman, content strategist
- Elise Bartlett, Life Time
Now, on to 2020! Here’s my list of folks I’m hoping to have coffee with in the New Year. Hoping to do better than 4 for 16 this year!
Ali Kaplan, Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine
I’ve actually met Ali in-person (at mutual friend Natalie Bushaw’s home in Eagan). But, I’d love the chance to sit down and chat with her in 2020 (specifically to talk podcasting!).
Dustin Smith, Carmichael Lynch
He’s a Tommie. He works in social media in this town. Seems like a guy I should know. And who knows, he may be asked to speak at a UST class!
Isaac Risseeuw, Minnesota Orchestra
Another interesting job–leading social for the Minnesota Orchestra! I’d also like to talk to Isaac about his work at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, as I’ve researched their social media efforts in the past on behalf of one client and thought they did a wonderful job!
Dobby Gibson, Land O Lakes
I was recently introduced to Dobby through mutual friend, Emily McAuliffe. Given my background with Employer Branding at Sleep Number and Andersen Windows & Doors, I’m curious to hear what Dobby’s been up to at LoL.
Aaron Grote, Great Clips
Aaron’s one of those guys I feel like I should know better given his role at Great Clips. And, I always find his posts on LinkedIn smart and thought-provoking.
Chris Carpenter, Medtronic
Another social media leader I’d love to get to know.
Megan Tuttle, Cambria
Alyssa Greve recommended I meet up with Megan in 2019. It didn’t happen. Doubling down.
Sofia Horvath, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
Interesting job, right? Social media at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. I’m curious to learn more!
Katie Berry, US Bank
We most likely know many common friends including Susan Beatty and Monica Wiant. And, another local social media lead I feel like I should know better! Who knows, Katie may wind up speaking to my spring social media class at St. Thomas!
Amber Campeau, 3M
Managing social media governance for one of Minnesota’s largest companies probably isn’t the easiest job in the world. But, it’s certainly an interesting one! I’d love to learn more!
Erin Noel, American Cancer Society
Floated in the same orbit for a while. Cross paths with her once in a while on LinkedIn. And, I’m sure she has an interesting job given her employer!
Stephen Dupont, Pocket Hercules
Katie Radecke, Andersen Windows & Doors
I’m cheating a bit here, as I’m already in process of getting coffee with Katie in January. I’m allowed one cheat per year, right?
Kelsey Dodson-Smith, Cambria
VP of Marketing for a major airline before the age of 30? That’s someone I want to know!
Laura King, CorTalent
Founder of what seems to be the wildly-popular Marketers’ Community. Looking to cross paths with her in 2020.