How To Get The Most Out Of Instagram With Hashtags

Hashtags help businesses expand their reach, build their brand and establish a community when used properly. Who doesn’t want more of that social media success for their biz!? People and businesses find content, clients, information, customers, partners and contributors through incorporating hashtags into their posts and searching hashtags of interest. The hashtags actually help social media platforms to organize and categorize images, videos and content. Thus the hashtags create a way for your target audience or ideal client to discover your content which otherwise gets lost in the ever-changing newsfeed.

Here’s how it works. Simply place the hashtag symbol (#) in front of a key word or phrase relative to your post and relative to who you are trying to reach. The hashtag becomes searchable by users and allows you to become a part of a larger conversation with a much larger audience.

You are stuck!? OK, 5 Ways to Identify the Optimal Hashtags for your business:

Let’s use an example.

Your business is about healthy eating as a way of life. Your post is about implementing a paleo diet and launching a new avocado oil you are selling that supports this.

  • Categories – Hashtag categories relevant to your post or business i.e. #healthyliving #nutrition #paleodietIMMERSE small SUE files-219-sml
  • Location – Geotag or add locations relevant to your post or business i.e. where you are posting from or the town/city in which your business is based
  • Emotions – Hashtag how what you do makes you feel, how you are feeling that day or how the post topic makes you feel. i.e. #energetic #pure #natural
  • Events – Hashtag the event you are attending/posting from or create a hashtag for an event you have created and are promoting i.e. #UnionSQFarmersMarket #AvocadoBonanza
  • Products – Hashtag your product’s name, type of product it is and what it is used for i.e. #healthfuloils #avocado #paleodiet


3 Do’s of Hashtaging:

Create your own

Hashtags are a great way to generate buzz around what you are doing and your specific brand. You can even identify yours by entering them on Tagboard. I use #Instagallive and you can see the feed here with this hyperlink . Having a custom hashtag allows you to dominate a feed and keep yourself top of mind.

Be relevant. Be aware of the competition. Be thoughtful.

If I am new to the niche, I may not have any idea what the hashtags might look like. However, I might know who the influencers are within that niche. Those may help you know what is trending and also what to stay away from. Once you’ve researched some of your ideas, choose those that are memorable and important in order to create staying power with your followers. Choose a few that can be consistently used and adapted as well. This will make it easier for your customers to follow your conversations.

Refresh to get more mileage

A way to get more use out of older posts that are still relevant is to repost using a combination of fresh hashtags and the ones you have used already.

3 Don’ts of Hashtagging:

No “crashtagging”

Do not just use a hashtag because it has a huge amount of traffic unless it is relevant to your content. For example Nike is one of the most used hashtags but you would be “spammy” if you used that tag on your post about paleo diets.hashtag-300x300

Do not overuse

Don’t weigh your posts down with a crazy amount of hashtags. Your thoroughness will be better served with a more precise selection of 8-10 hashtags regardless of the fact Instagram allows you up to 30. Too many reads like desperate marketing, and is a sure way to lose followers quickly. Some even consider it spam.

Don’t create a long, complex hashtag.

Overly complicated hashtags like #paleodietlifestyleideas are not search-friendly or commonly used, so your post will get buried quickly rather than garnering the attention it deserves. If you want more hashtag yummy goodness please use this link to get my super value-filled hashtag strategy ebook with lots of recommendations on specific hashtags for your business or industry from The Instagram Expert!

This post was supplied by 2014 Social Media Camp Speaker Sue B. Zimmerman.

Sue B. Zimmerman, aka the #InstagramGal and #TheInstagramExpert, is a master at Instagram for Business. She teaches entrepreneurs, business execs, and marketing professionals how powerful Instagram for business can be. Sue B. is the founder of the online Instagram course Insta-Results, the author of the #1 eBook Instagram Basics for your Business, a Speaker and Business Coach. She also is the founder of SueB.Do & Sue B. Zimmerman Enterprise. 


Is It Time to Teach Social Media in Schools?

The recent suspension of 13 students from the School of Dentistry at the Dalhousie University, in Nova Scotia, shed a nasty light on a well respected Canadian university. Nearly 200Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 9.54.19 PM years of history tarnished by the mysoginistic conversation by a bunch of 4th year University students on Facebook. While it highlighted some significant issues around student relationships and professionalism, there was also a glaring issue that stood out; neither the school or the students truly understand Social Media.

Is it time that we start to teach Social Media in schools?

Changing School Attitudes

When you talk about Social Media in a Middle or High School, most people’s thoughts will jump to issues around cyber-bullying. That would be because the discussion about the medium doesn’t start until the cyber-bullying issue pops up. When it does happen, schools will start to bring in a series of experts to talk about Social Media safety and cyber-bullying and, after a short period of time, the schools will sit quietly behind their Social Media and Cyber-Bullying policy and hope that the issue doesn’t pop up, again. Of course it will, but denial is part of the game.

Is it time that we start to teach Social Media in schools?

Social Media Isn’t the Problem

The complaint about Social Media, from parents, teachers and administrators, is that Social Media is a distraction. It is destroying our youth’s ability to interact on a personal level. It is even being attributed to an increasing issue in kids posture, with the bent heads staring at their mobile devices. So why is the solution to ignore and deny access? Some schools are simply throwing up their hands and allowing the devices in the classroom, but telling the students to stay off them. Some parents get upset that they cannot get a hold of their kids, on their cell phones, but then lose their minds when they find out what their kids have been up to, on those same devices.

Is it time that we start to teach Social Media in schools?

The answer, of course, is a resounding “Yes!”.

What Can Change?

The fact is that what kids are doing, today, is no different from what we did, when we were their age, back in the day. Rather than texting, we were passing notes. Rather than sneaking a peek at the latest post on the platform of the day, we were reading comic books or magazines in front of our history books. While we were hiding under the covers, reading a comic book, b7f8b2256782b4d2f09b286ce782c6e0rather than sleeping, they are under the covers, chatting with their friends. Kids haven’t changed. The content, medium and scale have changed.

While some think the answer is to deny kids access to Social Media and the technology, the truth is that this action will be more damaging than helpful. The largest and most prolific Social Network is not even online. It’s school. So denying kids access to the most popular means of communicating in that Social Network, essentially leaves them out in the boonies of the Social conversation. Wouldn’t it be better to bring Social Media education into the picture, to teach the safe and proper use of it?

What advantage would there be? There’s more than a few;

1. Teaching the Teachers. Teachers are a smart group. Not only would they learn how to make sure that their students are using their devices and Social Media apps safely and responsibly, they would probably also figure out ways to integrate them into their education planning.

2. Kids Become More Than Cyber Savvy. Kids can figure out how to use a piece of technology, or an app, in no time. Couple that enthusiasm with education on the safe operation, protecting them from predators and thieves and you have children who are actively involved in their own protection.

3. What They Learn in School, They Take With Them. There is a reason that we teach things like algebra and calculus in school. To prepare kids for University. With the recent incident at Dalhousie, wouldn’t Social Media education be another useful tool in their suitcase?

4. Cyber-Smarts Spread. Remember, schools are the original Social Network and what is learned there is spread through that network. Once they leave the education system, they take that knowledge and spread it around as young professionals. Those Cyber-Smart kids become Cyber-Smart Adults.

If we are learning anything, today, it’s that the same Social Media problems are continuing to crop up in our education system and in the business world. Perhaps it is time to start fixing the problems before they become problems.



The End of Traditional Movie Marketing?

Unless you have been living off the grid, you have probably heard about “The Interview“. TV Tabloid Media star and producer get an interview with the leader of North Korean and are hired, by the CIA, to assassinate the him. To watch the trailer or clips of the movie, you would never guess that this ridiculous story premise would become one of the most talked about movies of the year, and go on to be one of Sony Pictures most downloaded movies of all time (earning $15 Million dollars in just the first 4 days of its release online).

…..and traditional movie marketing had virtually nothing to do with it.

The Social Conversation

The saga begins with North Korea threatening “Merciless Action”, if the movie is released. Columbia pictures delays the release of the movie from October to the all important Christmas Season. Sony being hacked and inter-office emails of executives and not yet released films being shared online by “The Guardians of Peace”. Of all the emails shared, none appeared to have anything to do with “The Interview” or its pending theatre release, yet the hackers demands the movie be pulled from release. Then the various media feeds light up The-Interview-780x390with the news that North Korea may have been behind the hack and that the Guardians of Peace are threatening to release more (and more embarrassing) hacked emails. Within days, the hackers threaten the theatres that release the movie with similar digital attacks and the chains refuse to show the movie. By the middle of December, a week before the Christmas Day release, Sony cancels the release, altogether. Traditional Media, Social Media, even the President of the United States, wade into the conversation, and the conversation is everywhere.

Finally, Sony “stands up” to the hackers and releases the movie for online download (Dec 24) and limited release in independent theatres (Dec 25th). Thousands flock to the theatres and download sites, many feeling it is their “patriotic” duty to watch the film. Seth Rogen tweets that “The People Have Spoken” and a movie that was likely to pass through film history as barely a foot note, earns $16 Million in only 4 days.

The Beginning of the End?

Less than a decade ago, the chances of a mediocre film getting this much attention would have been highly unlikely. The chance of a sitting US President making comment on it, even more so. Today, however, in our Social Media connected world, where everyone can have their say and traditional media can tap every drop of sensationalism out of a story, the film going public ends up driving the conversation…….and it doesn’t cost the film production company a dime. Real or contrived, could we be looking at the end of traditional movie marketing?

Every movie released, today, has a Social Media presence. A Facebook Page, a Twitter account, a hashtag, whatever it takes to get people talking about the movie. The hype around the release of the new Star Wars, Episode VII teaser trailer had fan made versions getting more attention that the actual trailer. Yet none of it compares to the online conversation about The Interview. Everywhere you looked, there was a conversation happening about it. It was trending on all the major platforms. It was getting shared by all the major news outlets and was getting global attention. North Korea even threatened war. Now, as some of the hype is dying down, the conversation starts to turn into a different direction and begins to gain new life; was it all a hoax?

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 7.57.29 PM

One comedian joked that the hacker groups initials were “GOP”, leading him to believe that the Republican Party was behind the hacking. Most, however, are starting to believe that it was Sony’s plan, all along, to get movie that might not see even close to a return on investment, a chance not be a total bomb. “Why would you move a re

lease date and put a movie likeThe Interview up against the likes of The Hobbit: Battle of the 5 Armies“. “Why would a hacker group go from messing with the production company, to threatening “terrorist attacks” on theatres?” and “Why would Sony bend to the hackers demands, rather than just beefing up their digital security?”. Social Media communities from Reddit to Facebook are full of the speculation that all of this is just a brilliant marketing campaign and The Interview remains in the conversation for another round.

What Can Be Learned

We may never really know if this was all just a brilliant ruse or an actual thing, but it has demonstrated a few points worth paying attention to;

1) The Story Sells. Many may not even know the plot of the film, but they flocked to it based on the story surrounding it.

2) Social Media is about the conversation. Regardless of the money spent on building a Social Media presence for your product, if no one is talking about it, it doesn’t exist.

3) Your online conversation is NOT limited to what you put out there. The Online conversation about The Interview was generated by almost everyone except Sony. Regardless of the traditional media junkets and critic screenings, it was the content generated in a thousand different places  that made the difference.

In an industry that is known for copy-cat, follow-the-leader type marketing, it will be interesting to see what the future of film marketing brings. Perhaps The Interview has taught Hollywood the power of the ”Social” in Social Media.

Christmas Caring via Social Media

Christmas time has long been the time of year when people come together to help others. From Christmas Hampers to people facing adversity in their lives, communities around the world can be found supporting their neighbours in need. We see these stories, almost every day, via our Social Media channels. Someone sets up a Facebook Page and the support starts pouring in.

So, why aren’t the organizations that have been supporting those in needs doing more to reach out, through their Social Media channels?

It’s About the Story

When you see the story about someone in need, showing up in your newsfeed or stream, it is almost always connected to a heart wrenching or heart warming, story. It is the story that drives people to give, often generously, to show their support. It is the story that grabs the attention of media and other Social Media users. It is the story that leaves people cheering forNAAGCharity a positive outcome.

Organizations that support those in need, throughout the year or just over the holidays, have hundreds of stories like these and the successes that they have achieved in making a difference. Many of the newer organizations, or efforts, often make good use of Social Media, but some of the older, more established, ones are lagging behind and suffering as a result. These organizations have even more to offer in the story. They have a history to share.

It’s Not a Competition

In my own community, Christmas Hamper Funds and Food Bank Drives  abound, during the holiday season. Almost like clock work, within a couple of weeks of Christmas Day, the news paper features a story about one of our local organizations saying that they may not have enough donations to support their hamper demands and, sadly, they point to other local efforts as “taking away” from theirs. The thing that stands out is that those other local fund and food raisers are using Social Media to draw attention to their work, while this older, more established, organization relies heavily on their “we have been doing this for decades” presence in the community. Communities grow and change and the days of “but we have always been here, so people will come” concept has to change with it.

Reach Beyond Your Community

My favourite example of Social Media making a difference in giving, happened in 2011. Dave Reynolds (@TheDaveReynolds), a local radio personality, held his annual food bank drive to fill the depleted shelves of the organization. Using his ever growing Social Media reach, he engaged his Social Media community, as well as his local one. The telling of the stories of need and success, both on air and online, had a profound impact on his effort. So much so that a goal of filling a 40′ trailer with food, turned into a filling of THREE trailers with food and money donation in the thousands of dollars. People from as far away as Europe and the Caribbean were donating funds to help support those in need in a small Vancouver Island community. So much food was gathered, that the local shelves were so full, there was enough left over to fill the need of another, even smaller community, with empty food bank shelves. Thousands of people gave, engaged in the story presented to them.

Reach a New Generation

If you go into most community support organizations or fund raising events, there is a distinctly “older” group doing a lions share of the work. Beyond the time they may have available to lend a hand, they also have a more personal connection to where they live and drawn to lend support, by friends, family and colleagues through real life communication (Service Clubs, etc). Millennials, however, are more often that not, engaged in similar conversations and groups, only online. Traditional methods of engaging new volunteers are missed, because those volunteers are, quite literally, not where they used to be.

An organization, like a Food Bank, can make great head way by building a Social Media presence and filling that presence with news, information and, most important, the stories of those in need and how they are able to make a difference in those lives. While many will tell you that “organic reach is dead”, during the holiday season it is alive and well, through people sharing the heart warming stories of making a difference in the lives of complete strangers.

In the 21st Century of giving, Social Media has the ability to turn the Global Village into your local support.

Social Media in Politics

Social networking has changed the way we communicate, interact with brands and how political candidates effectively deliver their messages to their voters. It has the potential to shift society, to affect campaigns for every industry and help reach thousands of customers in a cost effective way. Social media is the answer to getting your message out, and best of all, a social presence means results and those results are measurable. It helps to create new relationships, retain loyal supporters, and deliver your campaigns message effectively to your constituency.

Proof in Action

I have had the opportunity to manage several politician’s social media strategies, to help build their online presence and ultimately recruit as many local constituents to their campaigns as possible. I worked for approximately 3 years for BC Environment Minister Mary Polak as her social media manager taking her social media from minimal to being named the 3rd most influential politician on Twitter in BC by Hill & Canada's PM Harper delivers a speech in OttawaKnowlton. Mary created this position for me in her constituency office in Langley and was the first MLA in the province to have such a position. Most MLAs who had bought into the importance of social media usually had their constituency assistants do it at the side of their desks.

Our goal was simply to be innovative about reaching the most number of constituents through social media channels whether Facebook , Twitter or any other sites. I have been actively engaged in politics since I was 14 years old or half of my life so I have gained insights and experience on the day to day life of politics.

What the Future Holds

As we enter into 2015 and begin to think about the upcoming federal election in the fall of 2015, we must reflect the present avenues of public discourse. Social media has opened the accessibility to our elected leaders significantly so we can tweet or comment and get a response or hours. Social Media has also enabled elected officials to engage the public on the most pressing issues of the day to hear what the public is saying about these issues. Social Media has also made politicians even more likely to make their public mistakes even more public. Their sharply worded tweet can be the next mornings headline if they don’t handle even response carefully.

Here are my top 5 tips for politicians, their staff and their upcoming campaign teams.

1) Always practise “safe tweeting”. Always think twice before posting or have someone else even a stranger look at your response to get their feedback

2) Have a social media strategy to identify your goals and objectives but also your main themes

3) Always answer. If you want your social media to be effective then please actually answer the question the best you can. Don’t give spin or a politician answer.2000px-Canada_Fed_election_2011_Ridings.svg

4) Be human. Don’t always post serious or issues based posts.

5) Use social media year round and not just during elections. This will ensure the public knows that your social media efforts are not just an election effort but a genuine effort to engage.

Social Media has the potential for political candidates to not only reach a wide range of constituents but also provide an opportunity for an ongoing dialogue in our modern democracy. While many commentators suggest that Obama won because of his online strategy including social media, his online strategy was part of a greater strategy to get a movement elected. Social media has the potential for incredible offline benefits so consider it and use it.

- This post was submitted by Todd Hauptman, a Public Relations Consultant, based out of Kamloops, British Columbia


From Zero to Viral

For as long as I have been coaching and talking about Social Media, I have been saying the same thing; “Viral Just Happens“. You cannot plan to make it happen. You cannot develop it. One day you are going to create something that resonates with people online and “whoosh!”, off you go! I have seen it happen dozens of times and it is always fascinating.

And Then it Happened to Me.


I typed a post, over my morning Cheerio’s, with the idea that a few of my friends might find funny. What I hadn’t taken into consideration was WHEN I was posting it. You see, the post was about the local ferry system, a hot button topic at the best of times, but even more so at the time I posted. The province was also in the final week run to municipal elections, so people in communities around the coast of British Columbia are watching and reading the Social Media streams about issues that are important to them. Then my 100 word rant hits the stream. 2 hours after the initial post, I returned to my Facebook account to find 800 Likes and hundreds of shares. Uh-Oh.

People are Commenting. Now What?

Late in the evening of the second day the post was online, I was watching the Likes on the post tick over like seconds on a clock. While I was stunned at the reaction to the post, as a Social Media Coach, I was pondering a more important question; now what? I have all these comments to react to. I have hundreds of shares to look at. I have people sending me friend requests like a flood and mainstream media is calling by any means possible. All of it made me realize that creating viral isn’t nearly as important as managing viral. If something you post does go “BOOM”, not having a plan to deal with it makes it an almost wasted opportunity.

So, I dug in and focused on what’s next. I watched the notifications and focused on the comments, versus the shares, looking for comments that would be of value to engage with conversation. I didn’t Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 10.56.01 PMignore the shares, though. I would look for shares on news pages, organizational pages or pages of influencers, then drop a comment on those shared posts. It was time consuming, but had value in that it helped push an already viral post to go even further. I also made sure that any media involved in covering the post, were also sharing it with their audiences. Leveraging the growing network of people and making sure that as many of them remained engaged in to the conversation as possible. Then there was the continued addition of new (and relevant) posts, to be added, in order to enhance the topic.

Traditional media plays a very big part in the marvel of viral. Television interviews with media, such as TV (CTV, Global, CHEK News) and Radio (CKNW 980, CFAX 1070, CBC and CHED 630) and even the local paper, help spread the word even further.

All of this work paid off, but my personal FB Profile Page was becoming impossible to manage…, on to the next phase.

Give Them What They Want.

After spending time reading and replying to so many comments and posts, I found that people were liking, sharing and commenting on the post because it was their chance to voice how they were feeling. I also discovered that there was NO way that I was going to be able to focus and manage the conversation, via my personal Facebook profile. So, after gathering my content, I created a Facebook Page that featured all the content and conversations around the subject of my original post, plus giving those who had been following the conversations, a place to add their own. Prior to the launch, I put out teaser posts and thoughts around what the “next phase” of the conversation was going to be, encouraging the tens of thousands following the conversations to stay tuned for something more for them to engage with. As I had hoped, this, too, resonated with the audience.


But, What If It’s Not Your Post?


It’s not uncommon for people and businesses to try and take advantage of a viral post. My original post was plagiarized within almost an hour of it going online. While News Jacking is not rare, it is rare that it is done effectively. In the case of my post, there are plenty of people and businesses that could leverage the viral nature of the topic, for their own ends. In a post about News Jacking Opportunity, Jordon Caron writes about how businesses can find opportunity in the viral conversation, by doing more than simply inserting themselves into it. In some cases it is possible to become a follow up story on the back of the original, simply by applying some good old fashioned customer service, in a very public manner.

As I write this, I am well into my second week of the post driving conversation. The new Facebook page past 1400 Likes in less than 48 hours and the comment stream continues to grow, by the hour. If there is a lesson to be learned, from these 100 words that lit up yet another dialogue about the Provincial Ferry Service, it is this; You can go from Zero to Viral in no time at all. Engage and Hold On.