Hashtags and Hamburgers

Thursday Jul 18th, 2019


A few years ago, while working for the City of Toronto, I was asked to write a short presentation about social media for people who were new to using social media. The vast majority of the people for whom I was preparing this had never used social media to advertise their businesses. Some had used various platforms to keep in touch with family while others had used them to follow celebrities.

Some questions I had to answer were:

“How does Facebook work?”

“How do you send a tweet, and who sees it?”

“How do you know if your advertising is working?”

“What should I post pictures of?”

“How do you get followers?”


But the most frequent one was:

“What’s a hashtag?”


Many of these questions were process-based, or technical, and were easy to address with a few quick demonstrations. A few other questions, however, required a bit more of an explanation.

If you are a small business owner, marketing coordinator, client care representative or all of the above, here are a few tips:


  • Different platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.) often require different content
    • Facebook posts can be a link to an interesting article relevant to your business
    • Instagram is very visual and relies on engaging photographic content
    • Twitter is best suited to quick, timely information that can start a conversation or ask a question
    • LinkedIn can be useful but ensure you know who your network is comprised of (for example, if you are a Realtor and the only connection you have are other Realtors, you might not get the engagement your posts deserve


  • Address publicly, respond privately
    • You will at some point be faced with a complaint or a similar negative comment that cannot be ignored
    • The complaint/comment was written in a public forum (your reviews section, tagged in a tweet, etc) and therefore the reply should be as well
    • The way you reply to the comment or complaint is very important. Always address the issue as soon as practically possible and thank the person for taking the time to share their thoughts.
    • The reply should invite the complainant to contact a designated person to discuss a mutually agreeable solution, never to begin a public conversation about a private matter
    • Never ignore bad publicity regardless of how big a troll the person may be
    • Example: (complaint about poor service at your restaurant) Reply to comment: “I’d like to personally thank you for taking the time to share your recent experience at our restaurant, and apologize for failing to meet your expectations. We take these issues very seriously and would like to invite you to contact me directly to discuss this further. I can be reached at (email address).”


  • Give more than you take
    • Think about a company, business or brand you follow. Are they constantly asking you to come in a spend money in their store? They are providing interesting, relevant content that you, as a consumer, can relate to. The content often complements the product or service they are selling
    • Give at least 3 times more than you take, meaning, provide 3 times more relevant content than your ‘advertising.’ For every post that ‘asks’ for something (come to our sale, buy from me, click on our website, register online, etc.), ‘give’ three times as much


  • Lifestyle Marketing
    • Know your audience and know their interests. Whenever possible, take a look at your list of followers and see who THEY follow and engage with.
    • Understand why your clients like your product and try to determine what similar products or services they might also like.
    • I don’t mean competing products, I mean complementary products (important)
    • If possible, approach some of the more popular businesses/organizations and offer to discuss a possible collaborative opportunity!


  • One Voice
    • One person and one person only should be the voice of the company
    • People tend to write and express themselves differently – when you’re managing a common social media account, it’s best to have one person handle the writing/captioning
    • Too many people writing on behalf of the company might result in disjointed messaging, confusion within your audience and loss of followers


  • Scheduling Posts
    • A social media management platform such as Hootsuite can be a very handy tool, however, use caution when scheduling posts
    • It may seem logical to want to schedule posts for different times of day to cut down on your workload and increase your reach but it only works if you know when you audience is engaging with you the most. Analytics use is key (search Google Analytics for more information on that)
    • Know what you’ve scheduled and when it is going to run, on what platform, etc. Pay close attention to the news, current events and the timing of your posts. The last thing you want to happen is to watch a scheduled post run at the same time as a natural disaster or news story that relates. Also keep in mind that Facebook etc. use algorithms to determine who sees what post and when. It also may pick up on key words.
    • Example: airline posting about a seat sale, schedules post for 5:25 p.m., 5:15 a plane crashes and the keyword “airline” is getting thrown around all over the place. Your post may be viewed by people that engage with the word “airline” and your post then becomes insensitive


Most importantly, BE AUTHENTIC.

Be yourself, speak to your followers in your own voice. If you sound like everyone else, you’ll get lost in all the noise. Take risks, put yourself out there, take time to learn about the people who engage with you the most.

“What’s the secret to getting ten million followers?”

More on that in another blog post…..

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