Is It OK? What Can Satirical TV Tell Us About Hashtags? – -Digital Marketing Strategy For Small Business

john espirian the last leg and hashtags
How does a topical comedy show use hashtags to engage it’s audience?

Is it OK? That’s the question that Channel 4’s topical comedy show The Last Leg asks it’s viewers each week…

Actually no it’s not, not quite. They ask #IsItOK and hundreds respond. It keeps us watching the live show during broadcast and Twitter in the breaks.

So what can a business learn about hashtags and user generated content from this? Our superhero, John Espirian tells us.

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Superhero Tips – What Link Should You Put In Your Instagram Bio?

For most of us mere mortals (unverified by Instagram and with under 10,000 followers) the link in our bio is the one place we can send people to our website.

For the businesses flowing into Instagram hoping that it will provide the audience and reach that Facebook once did this is a hard fact to swallow.

One link to do everything we used to on other networks. To drive traffic to our blog posts, to get downloads of our lead magnets, to sell. Noooooo.

If we only have one link, what should that link be?

Let’s look at the options:

Your website homepage

Solid. You’ve built your homepage to entice visitors into your site, to sell to them. It should do everything you need right?

But what if… the only page you ever linked to on Facebook or Twitter was your homepage? Would that work?

Someone who lands on the homepage of your website has to go looking for what they want. Internet users (me included) are lazy. We’ve been spoiled and we just can’t be bothered to work to get the info we want.

So if not your homepage what?

Your blog page?

If you are talking about your blog posts on Instagram, this could be a good choice. Even if the post people are looking for isn’t your latest one it’s only a short scroll away.

You could encounter the same problem with lazy interneters but by making the info quick to find you will lose fewer people along the way.

If you want to stay hyper-relevant, it’s not always the best solution. Instead, you could…

Change up your links

There’s no rule that you have to keep the same link in your bio forever. You can change it as often as you want. Some people even change it on a post by post basis.

I wouldn’t recommend changing it every day but you can change it to match an offer or campaign you are running. If you are running an event change it to that, if you’ve got a new lead magnet give it a boost by linking in your bio, if you’ve got a sale on, link to your sales page.

Doing this means your link is always hyper relevant but sometimes the Instagram algorithm and hashtag searches will get in the way. Particularly if you make it to the ‘top posts’ section.

Instagram is no longer an ‘in the moment’ network (if you discount stories). People will discover your older posts and when they do, if the CTA on the post is to click the link in your bio you could be directing them to the wrong thing.

It’s a small problem, not enough to recommend avoiding changing up your links, but it’s something to monitor if you see sudden engagement on some of your older posts.

Use a landing page service

I used to love Linktree, a service that creates a landing page for Instagram. You can add a menu of pages you want to direct your audience to, it makes it pretty and gives you a link to post on your Instagram page.

You’d be able to see who clicked what link, and it was simple to change up the menu items whenever you needed to.

I’m talking about it in the past tense because there have been problems with third party landing page tools like Linktree and Instagram.

Last week when people clicked a Linktree link on mobile they’d get an error message and it’s not the first time.

So it’s with a heavy heart I’ve said farewell to Linktree for Instagram (although it would still be useful for other purposes).

What to do instead?

Build an Instagram landing page on your website.

I was being lazy with Linktree. I knew that I should have been sending people straight to my website so I could measure better but I hadn’t gotten around to it.

Talk to your web developer and build a page specifically for people coming from Instagram. You can link to it in your bio and update it with the content you want to show to your Instagram viewers.

The best thing about this? You can measure your success. You can see exactly who comes to your website from Instagram and by using a tool like Google Analytics you can see how long they stay on your site and if they download, sign up or buy from you.

And… you can add the Facebook pixel to that page and re-target the visitors with Instagram ads.

Is this the best solution? It’s definitely at the top of my to-do list now that Linktree isn’t an option, will you put it on yours?

Superpower of the week – Bonjoro

Being human, personal, authentic… all those words are popular in online marketing right now. Making that personal connection with your customers can turn a lead into a sale and that’s what this week’s superpower is all about.

Bonjoro lets you record and sell personalised video messages fast. It integrates with major customer relationship management platforms and you can track result.

It’s a good way to introduce yourself to prospective customers or to welcome new ones. Even better, there’s a free plan.

John Espirian is the relentlessly helpful technical copywriter. A former Microsoft Mac MVP, he writes in-depth B2B web content to help clients explain how their products, services and processes work.

Amanda Webb:

This week’s superhero is somebody you’ll be familiar with if you use LinkedIn, I’m sure, because I’m sure everyone on LinkedIn has heard of you. Welcome to the show, John Espirian.

John Espirian:

Nice one Amanda, thanks for having me.

Amanda Webb:

And today you’re going to talk actually something … when you said you were going to talk about this I was kind of excited because it’s one of my favourite shows. So, tell us about the campaign you want to tell us about.

Okay, well the one that sprang to mind when you asked me this question was Channel 4’s The Last Leg, which is a topical news program and every week they ask their audience #IsItOkay?

So, they’ve got a hashtag behind this campaign, and they’ll ask a topic of the week, or a few topics of the week. They’ll put out a question, it gives them an opportunity to be a little bit edgy and controversial, which is what you’d expect from a Channel 4 show.

And most importantly I suppose it gives them a chance to engage with their audience and get all that user-generated content coming back.

So, I think it ticks the boxes for me, it’s something that’s interesting, that’s question-based. There’s a bit of controversy in it, and other people do all of the hard work, so why not?

Amanda Webb:

So true. And tell me then how do they get people to respond to them? What’s the process that they go through?

John Espirian:

Yeah, so this is where Twitter comes into its own. It’s not my favourite social media platform anymore, but for real-time engagement, it’s pretty hard to beat.

So, they’ll put up a question on the screen, introduce the hashtag, which is #IsItOK, and then ask a question about some political thing, or something else that’s happening in the world, and encourage their audience to send a reply to them, also tweeting their Twitter handle, and answer the question with their thoughts.

And then they’ll display some of that feedback on the show, so that encourages … it’s just a great way to encourage engagement and make the audience feel part of the show. So, I think that’s the way that TV is going more and more. I think it’s just a brilliant way of getting that kind of engagement.

Amanda Webb:

And I remember back in the day, it’s not even that long ago, there’s a BBC show called Question Time, which I know you’ll be familiar with, but a lot of our listeners are in the States, which again, the Last Leg would be comedy, whereas this is very serious panel discussion.

And I remember when the presenter used to read out the hashtag, he was so uncomfortable doing it. But the reason he did it was what Twitter users came up with it on their own. They were having their own conversations, they made up the hashtag. And I think that was the point where the BBC realised oh, this is something we should be doing, we should be embracing the hashtag.

Yeah, that’s right. I think it’s just the way TV is going. It’s event TV, isn’t it? So, if you can get involved, this is where hashtags become really important. You can just jump into the conversation, share your thoughts, and possibly get your opinions on it really, really quickly.

So, yeah, Question Time does it well. There’s a show in the States that maybe some of your listeners over there will be familiar with called Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which is also fantastic, and that mixes news and humour as well. And yeah, these things are an excellent way of getting people involved and understanding the heartbeat of what your listeners, audience care about.

Amanda Webb:

And it’s amazing how quickly these hashtags can take off as well, because it’s clear at the beginning of each episode of the Last Leg that they’re reporting on things people have used during the week. If you look at that hashtag on Twitter, people are constantly tweeting on it, they don’t wait just for the show, which means they’re building a buzz around that TV show all week long.

John Espirian:

Yeah, that’s right. It gives the show a recognisable shape. Whenever you see that hashtag, even though in this case, the name of the show is not mentioned in the hashtag, but it’s something that you associate with that show. And it’s the same with all sorts of businesses really.

If you can find something that’s short and easy to remember, then whenever you see it, your mind automatically goes to who that person or thing is, keeps you top of mind, and it’s a great way of being remembered.

Amanda Webb:

So, how could we implement this as small businesses do you think? Because obviously, this is a TV show, they have a big audience. How can we get people to produce content in this way for us?

Well, I think the best kind of content for things like LinkedIn tend to be based around rather than treating it as a broadcast medium if you encourage questions and engagement, and if you can tag consistently.

You need to of course come up with your hashtag first, which I usually recommend being something that’s quite short, easy to say, and well-differentiated so that you use capitals for the starts of each word, so it’s easier to read when it’s all in one. And include it consistently, and just keep mentioning it in all of your content, and it will eventually become associated with you.

So, I’ve got a few different hashtags that I use, and then when I ask questions, I’ll make sure to include that so that it’s easier for me to then go and find those discussions in the future and see where people have been talking about stuff independently.

Amanda Webb:

Now you’re going to have to tell us what your hashtags are so we can all have a look.

John Espirian:

Well, I use LinkedIn a lot as you know, so all of my LinkedIn tips are tagged with #LinkedInLearnerLounge. That’s one big hashtag. And a copywriting tip is if you can start your hashtags with … if you can use some alliteration, so in other words start each word with the same letter, or include some rhymes in that hashtag, it’ll just make it easier to say and to remember. It’s a bit more catchy.

Avoid making it too long, because I think long hashtags tend to work only when they’re used ironically, or in some other humorous way but if you want somebody to remember something, it needs to be short, two to three words. And start all with the same letter, or introduce a rhyme if you can.

And also, be mindful that someone else might be using that hashtag before, so you should create something that hasn’t been used. So, it’s a good idea once you’ve come with an idea is to go off and search for it, and just see that it either has never been used before, or has been used maybe a few years ago and it’s effectively defunct. Then you’re good to go.

Amanda Webb:

That’s such a good point, isn’t it? Because I remember doing some work for a local arts festival here once, and the hashtag they were using was just the initials of the arts festival. And so many other people were using it as well for different things around the world so that it was impossible to filter the stuff that was about the arts festival. I think that’s a mistake so many people make.

John Espirian:

Yeah. You can’t trademark a hashtag, so you have to make sure that you’re pretty much the only person who starts using it. Obviously, you want to encourage your community then to start using it, but so long as it’s clear that you’re the originator and you’re not cybersquatting on someone else’s good idea, yeah, that’s really important to get that right.

Amanda Webb:

And then just because you’re such a LinkedIn expert, and it’s a question that I see coming up a lot, how important are hashtags in LinkedIn? I know LinkedIn are pushing us to use them, but are they valuable?

John Espirian:

They’re not massively valuable if I’m honest with you. I think they’re better for two things really, brand awareness if the first thing. And secondly is using a hashtag on your post makes it easier for you to discover untagged shares of that post.

So, if someone shares your post without mentioning your name, if you search on the hashtag, you can still find those untagged shares. So, it’s useful for that point of view because you can then go and have a followup conversation or thank them for sharing the content.

But in terms of I’m following a few different hashtags, but the number of times that those hashtags appear in my feed simply because I’m following them is actually very low.

So, if you’re following a hashtag in view of all right, well I’m going to see everything on this topic now, it doesn’t work like that. You’d be better off just doing a one-off search, what’s going on on this hashtag right now? And just put it into the search field, and then you can look for it.

And what that means is that if you’re putting popular hashtags on your posts, kind of thinking about Instagram where your posts are going to get a lot more visibility if you load them with hashtags.

On LinkedIn, that’s not really the case. I have seen some posts that get good numbers, and they’ve got loads of hashtags on. But in general, I think people are pretty much against that on LinkedIn. Anything that looks like a blue wall tends not to fly too well.

Amanda Webb:

That’s good to know, because I know LinkedIn every time I post on LinkedIn it’s telling me, “Add this hashtag, add this hashtag.” And you never really know, should you? That’s the thing.

John Espirian:

I think it’s worth experimenting with, just to see what’s right for your particular audience. I mean I tend not to include more than three per LinkedIn post, that’s more than enough for me. But it might be the case that perhaps you’ve got a younger audience who’s come over from Instagram and they’re just naturally used to it and they don’t think twice of it. So long as you put them towards the end of the post, I don’t really like posts where there’s a hashtag every other word and it reduces readability.

Amanda Webb:

Oh yeah, I hate that.

John Espirian:

So, do put them at the end if you’re going to put quite a few in. But as I say, it will depend on your audience. So, with all bits of advice, test it for your audience and see what works.

Amanda Webb:

And obviously branded hashtags, they’re there for a completely different reason than your visibility as well, so I don’t use hashtags on Twitter, but I do use branded hashtags, or Twitter Chat hashtags. I think the Instagram generation have kind of muddied the waters a little bit there.

Well, that’s great advice, thanks for joining me today, John. Tell me firstly, you’ve got a book coming out in a whole years time, and I love that you’re marketing it already. So, tell me about that.

John Espirian:

Yes. So, the book is Content DNA. I’ve been drafting it for a little while now. I’m hoping that it’ll come out late spring, and it’s about the importance of consistency and congruence in producing a brand that is memorable and referable. So, it will touch on this topic of hashtags.

It’s all about coming up with something that’s short enough and easy enough to remember, and associate with you, so that when someone is thinking about who can I recommend as a logo designer, or a plumber, or a copywriter, or a marketing consultant, or whatever, you occupy that slot of memory because you’ve got some distinguishing characteristic that comes through in all of the content that you create.

So, my idea is that you really need to be the same shape everywhere. For me, that is this idea of being relentlessly helpful. I put it on all of my stuff, it’s on all of my visuals. So, the book is going to dig into how you can do that too, and the value of doing so.

Amanda Webb:

That sounds amazing, I’m going to have to pick that up when it’s out. I know I’ll know about it, because I already know about it. Tell me, where can we find you online?

John Espirian:

Well, I’m lucky to have a very unusual surname, so if you search for Espirian you’ll probably find me pretty quickly. But LinkedIn is my weapon of choice, so if you look me up on there, I’ll be happy to connect and have a chat.

Amanda Webb:

Thanks a million for joining us, you really are a superhero. Welcome to the club, and I’ll put your cape in the post.

John Espirian:

Nice one, cheers Amanda.