In case you’re not up on your social networking terms, a hashtag (a.k.a. pound sign, a.k.a. number sign, a.k.a. #) is a symbol used to make any term searchable. It started on Twitter in 2007 and has spread like wildfire ever since.
What the HASH? Examples of How Hashtags Are Being Used
- #dentistproblems (career-based hashtags) – If you want to see what shenanigans other dentists are getting into, you would use this as a search term. Did you get your feet caught in the floss again? Share your picture with the same hashtag so other dentists can laugh at your expense.
- #dogsofinstagram (hobby-based hashtags) – Love dogs? So do the people who share pictures with this hashtag on Instagram. It’s so popular, it’s even been turned into a book.
- #amcsthewalkingdead (fandoms) – Fandoms enjoy sharing pictures of themselves in cosplay (dressed like their favorite characters), at conventions with actors from their favorite shows, or just nerding out with fellow fans.
- #epicfail (tone) – Many people use hashtags not to be used as a search tool, but to convey tone. For example: “Got my feet caught in the floss again.” #dentistproblems #epicfail
These are just a small sample of how hashtags can be used. And while you want patients – both current and future – to be able to find you, you don’t want to get carried away.
What NOT to (Hash)Tag
What you do with your personal social networking sites is up to you, but your practice’s sites need to remain professional. Here are things you should NOT call attention to with hashtags:
- Political Issues – Even if part of your community outreach involves politics, they can be too divisive. Stay away from politics. Though they may appear neutral or benign to you, your patients might find something like #comeyhearings offputting.
- Irrelevant Trends – Just because the Boston Redsox are trending does not mean you should use the #bostonredsox tag! Doing so will cause people to question your credibility. That being said, if a Boston Redsox player lost a tooth during a game, that is relevant to your business (#bostonredsox #toothloss #toothrestoration); just make sure the content matches the tags.
- TOO MANY THINGS – #dontdoit #youllloseyouraudience #theyllneverreadthemall #shortattentionspans #timeisprecious #dentistsarepeopletoo #stilldontdoit
When You SHOULD (Hash)Tag
If used correctly, hashtags can amp up your marketing game. They can encourage patient interaction, they can show your patients that you’re in the know, and they can draw positive attention to your practice. Here are some examples:
- Create Your Own Hashtag – It needs to be obvious so patients can use it when they share content to your social networking sites. “Me and #drstevetrevor after my whitening treatment.”
- Use Trending Hashtags (When Applicable) – As mentioned in the “Irrelevant Trends” section, trending hashtags can be useful. If you and your team members decide on a group outing to go see Guardians of the Galaxy 2, take a picture at the movies and share it with the hashtag! #drstevetrevor and team at #guardiansofthegalaxy2 would work just fine and allow your patients to see you doing something non dentist-y.
- Appeal To Your Audience – Your patients don’t care if you started using #zoom, but they might be interested if you offer #toothwhitening. Remember that you are trying to send a message that resonates with your patients, not your competitors.
Before you start hashtagging away, be sure to observe how they are used differently on each social network site. Once you’ve figured it out and know which hashtags are going to work for your practice, you can #getstarted. #Goodluck