On the 8th Day of Social Media, your SIG Leaders gave to you: Eight Helpful #Hashtags!
Even if you're fairly social media savvy these days, you may be wondering "what the hashtag?" or more specifically, what IS a hashtag? For those of you intimately familiar with hashtags, just skip along to the next section.
What the #Hashtag?
Wikipedia does a nice job of explaining hashtags:
"A hashtag is a word or an unspaced phrase prefixed with the hash character (or number sign), #, to form a label. It is a type of metadata tag. Words or phrases in messages on microblogging and social networking services such as Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Twitter, or VK may be tagged by entering # before them, either as they appear in a sentence, e.g., 'New artists announced for #SXSW2014 Music Festival' or appended to it. The term hashtag can also refer to the hash symbol itself when used in the context of a hashtag.
A hashtag allows grouping of similarly tagged messages, and also allows an electronic search to return all messages that contain it."
I often like to tell a little story when explaining hashtags - in the early days of Twitter, there was no easy way to search keywords. Instead, we users would mash together words or phrases with the # symbol, which would allow us to click on that word or phrase and immediately get a list of all tweets mentioning that item, whether we followed the person or not. It was a great way to track topics and meet new people who were also discussing them, as well as participate in conversations happening around them without having to follow those involved.
Search on Twitter has expanded since then, but hashtags have stuck. More than that, they've migrated over to other social media platforms as well, and you can now hashtag pretty much everywhere - an important note here though is that even though that is the case, clicking on a hashtag on Facebook is not going to return you search results for Twitter - you've got to use each tool.
#Hastagging Best Practices
As with any feature of the social media platforms we use, there are best practices to consider. Since Twitter was the birthplace of the hashtag as search tool, they do the best job of explaining what you should keep in mind when using a hashtag yourself.
- "If you Tweet with a hashtag on a public account, anyone who does a search for that hashtag may find your Tweet
- Don't #spam #with #hashtags. Don't over-tag a single Tweet. (Best practices recommend using no more than 2 hashtags per Tweet.)
- Use hashtags only on Tweets relevant to the topic."
Although hashtags are usable on a number of social media platforms today, I still use them primarily on and for Twitter, though these best practices are applicable cross-platform. I'll also add an addendum to Twitter's last point - I always recommend listening on a hashtag first before ever using it in your own social postings. The reason for this is that something that may make complete sense to you, and be entirely benign in your industry, may be used for another purpose entirely, and can cause a great deal of embarrassment for you if you use it unwittingly. So hashtagging, like all other social media posting, should be undertaken with care!
Why Care about #Hashtags?
Now, we start to get to the important stuff - who cares about these hashtags anyway? Sure, it seems fun and funny to make up a hashtag here and there to add to your tweets or Facebook posts (#justsaying), but why should they matter to lawyers and legal professionals? I'm here to tell you that there are PLENTY of reasons.
When I first started using Twitter, there were only a few thousand users, and it was possible to get to know everyone in your industry and read what they were talking about. Now, with millions of users out there, and even more tweets every day, there's no easy way to keep up (although, check out Laura Toledo's post from yesterday with Seven Twitter Tools to Try). Not to mention all of the other social tools and platforms to keep straight. Hashtags can help with that.
Consider, for example, the specialty of law that you practice in or the lawyers you work with practice in - your day-to-day experience tells you what the important keywords are that people talk about. You can use these keywords in two ways:
- Start by listening: Set up a search on any of the sites that you're using for that keyword or phrase using a hashtag and see what comes up. This may take some refining, or you may discover right away that there's a lot of conversation happening around that hashtag. In most third party Twitter applications, you can create a separate column for that hashtag, so that you can monitor it on an ongoing basis without having to do the extra work of searching each time. This will allow you to stay up-to-date on the latest news and hot topics in that area and to identify who the real influencers and amplifiers are in that space. Another way to find out what keywords are the most often used is to follow your firm's clients (and any potential clients you're interested in!) and keep an eye out for any hashtagged words or phrases that they use in their posts.
- Use it yourself: The next step is using the hashtag yourself, so that you can participate in the conversation and get found by the people who should know you. Let's say you've written a blog post that you think would be of interest - use your 140 characters to explain why people will find the post relevant, and add the hashtag so that it can be seen by anyone searching or monitoring that topic.
But wait, there's more!
There are also industry conferences for all of us to attend - you may remember that Laura Toledo talked about a couple of important conferences for legal marketing professionals last week. These days, conference organizers don't just have their own Twitter and other social media accounts - they also use hashtags for the event. When you register for a conference, take a look at the website to see what the conference hashtag might be, and then monitor that to see what people are talking about, get the inside scoop from organizers of the event, and start networking with people before you even get there - these are all excellent ways to leverage your attendance at any event.
Without further ado, let's get to our eight recommended hashtags for this year's 12 Days of Social Media! While there are tons and tons to choose from, we put together eight for you to get you started - if you're not already following these, it's time to start!
We've gone very general here for the most part, since everyone's individual needs and practice concerns are different - but know that hashtags can be found for everything from the very general to the very specific
- #LMAMKT: Of course, we've got to kick off our list with the LMA's hashtag. This hashtag is on its second iteration - we started with #LMA in the earlier days of Twitter, but as more and more people started using the platform, we found that the acronym could be used to mean much more than just Legal Marketing Association (and not all of it pretty). So it evolved to #LMAMKT - here, you will find legal marketers and other professionals sharing all kinds of valuable information, from chapter events and publications, to news on the LMA international level, to substantive articles on the profession and the latest topics and trends. It's an excellent place to meet fellow legal marketers (both in and out of the LMA organization), to ask and answer questions, and to stay up-to-date on the news you need to know.
- #LegalMarketing: This hashtag is pretty self-explanatory - it's about legal marketing. In this stream, you'll find folks discussing legal marketing, trends, tools, tips, and more, much like with #LMAMKT. Although the LMA is inclusive and doesn't restrict its conversation to those who are members, anyone not familiar with LMA will be more likely to use #legalmarketing - this includes those from outside the US and those outside of legal talking about more general marketing ideas. That means there are benefits to following both!
- #LMA15: As I mentioned earlier, conference hashtags can be one of the most valuable types of hashtags to rely on. For this year's LMA conference in San Diego, we're using #LMA15 as the hashtag. The conference hashtag for the following year comes into being almost before the previous year's conference has concluded, and this is the place to be if you plan to attend, or watch the conference virtually. You'll find the latest information on the conference, conversations among attendees, and updates about the venue before the conference even begins. Once people start to arrive, you'll see opportunities to meet up with other attendees start cropping up, information about the sessions and valuable nuggets, and even engagement with the event speakers start to come through the stream. Afterwards, there are recap blog posts and further networking and engagement to be found. It's an excellent resource for attendees and non-attendees alike! (Check out #LMA14 to get an idea of what a post-conference hashtag stream looks like).
- #TechTuesday: #TechTuesday is not unique to the legal industry - and that's a good thing, because we can all benefit from getting tips and ideas from other industries! But the reason I'm bringing this hashtag to your attention today IS because of legal marketing, and particularly Adam Stock and the LMA Bay Area Chapter. The Bay Area Chapter just kicked off their #TechTuesday webinar series this month, which they describe as "a monthly webinar offered on first Tuesday of every month covering technology topics of interest to legal marketers." The first one was very well-received, and we can fully expect many more great things to come from them. Following along with #TechTuesday will give you the benefit of tweets and Twitter users discussing and promoting the LMA's #TechTuesdays, while also allowing you to get some tech tips from around the world!
- #LMATech: #TechTuesdays may be a comprehensive feed for techies, but #LMATech is all about our industry. It started as a conference hashtag for the LMA Bay Area Chapter's Tech conference, which is described as "the largest conference dedicated to technologies that law firm professionals use to identify, attract and support clients." And for that reason alone, it's an excellent resource. But it's expanded to include tweets about #TechTuesdays - so that makes it useful year-round. If you're interested in technology and how you can use it to better support your clients, this is the place to be.
- #LawFirm: Our industry is about more than marketing, as we all know - it seems all of us wear multiple hats, and we can certainly benefit from having a broad understanding of the concerns in our profession. Look no further than the #LawFirm hashtag - here, you can find law firm trends (marketing and otherwise), challenges that law firm leaders are facing, and some of the things that law firms around the world are up to. To add in a bonus (which is quite similar to #LawFirm), I also give you -- > #LawPractice: Similar to #LawFirm, the #LawPractice hashtag stream offers some insight into the broader concerns and trends of the legal profession. The best way to become an invaluable part of your firm is by understanding what keeps your lawyers up at night, and how you can help - and the #LawPractice hashtag is full of smart people who are going to tell you just what it is that they and other law firm leaders worry about.
- #SocialMediaMarketing: This is the LMA Social Media SIG, so I'd be remiss if I didn't include a social media hashtag! While there is also the broader #SocialMedia, #SocialMediaMarketing will offer you the latest and greatest information on how social media is being used in marketing across various industries. Because it's focused on marketing, you'll also get the benefit of people who are tweeting from the perspective of businesses, who need information on tracking, how to use social media professionally, and the newest tools and tricks to make the most of your professional social media usage.
- #ChooseYourOwn: I don't mean that as the literal hashtag, as you'll see when you click the link, but more like those "choose your own adventure" books. Hashtags are changing on a daily, if not hourly, basis, and it's worth keeping up with the latest trends, professional or otherwise. The nice thing about Twitter is that they give you trends to keep an eye on - these can either be the top hashtags/topics around the world, or they can be tailored just for you based on who you follow and what you tweet about. So hashtag suggestion #8 is a Choose Your Own adventure hashtag - look at the top trends of the day, and follow along with one that interests you to learn more about it!
We look forward to sharing the next 4 Days with you - check back tomorrow to see what your SIG leaders will bring you on the 9th Day of Social Media!
And one last point - the 12 days of Social Media are just part of what you get when you're a SIG member. To get full benefits: join the Social Media SIG, join the LinkedIn LMA Social Media SIG private group, join the LMA Social Media Private Group on Facebook and if you're not already a member of LMA, join here. As a member of the Social Media SIG, these posts will be sent to you automatically via the Groups ediscussion Forum.
Happy Holidays from your Social Media SIG Leaders!
Lindsay Griffiths, International Lawyers Network
Laura Toledo, Nilan Johnson Lewis
Nancy Myrland, Myrland Marketing & Social Media
Gail Lamarche, Henderson Franklin
Lance Godard, Fisher & Phillips LLP
Missed any of our 2014 12 Days? Here are the posts you'll want to see!