Hashtag Stuffing Doesn’t Work for B2B Twitter Accounts

Stuffing tweets with high-traffic hashtags has been common practice since the advent of the hashtag in 2007. The thinking behind this is simple. Your followers see your tweets in two ways: in their stream and in search. If your B2B company is just starting on Twitter and doesn’t have many followers, then you need to get more attention from search. By including easily searchable terms in your tweets, you increase the likelihood that you’ll get found.

Did you happen to catch Entenmanns #notguilty dust-up last week? It was a case of hashtag stuffing gone horribly wrong.

Hashtag stuffing has become such common practice that there are even tools that discover the best hashtags for your tweet. And everybody does it, from Pizza Hut to American Express to Shaq.

The problem? It doesn’t work.

Background and Methodology
The data behind this post comes from a sample of customers’ activity on Argyle Social, a social media management software provider. The selected sample included more than 37,000 total tweets from 103 Twitter accounts between November 2010 and May 2011. Our users are professional marketers, and their companies range from small to very large, and are distributed across most major industries.

The question that I wanted to answer is: Do posts with hashtags outperform posts without hashtags within a given account? For this analysis, the measure of performance is clicks, and all tweets within the sample contained exactly one link. I compared tweets within the same account to control for follower counts and editorial styles.

Results
In 53% of the social properties we analyzed, posts with hashtags actually performed worse than posts without hashtags. In 21%, there was no significant difference between posts with and without hashtags. And 26% of social properties had better performance in posts with hashtags.

When averaging across the entire sample, posts with hashtags received 5% fewer clicks than posts without hashtags. But averages aren’t particularly instructive, so let’s take a look at the distribution. The graph below shows the 103 accounts analyzed and the performance of their posts with hashtags relative to their posts without hashtags.

Clearly, some Twitter accounts make very poor use of hashtags while others use them very effectively. Twelve accounts lose 50% or more of their clicks when they use hashtags whereas 13 accounts boost their clicks by 30% or more. Overall, however, the distribution is definitely slanted towards the left.

If posts with hashtags tend to perform worse than posts without hashtags on an aggregate basis then we have some explaining to do. What was wrong with the original logic that hashtags increase search exposure, which leads to better discovery and more clicks?


I dug into the outlier accounts–those that were performing particularly well or particularly poorly–to see whether I could identify any practices that led to success or failure. This is where I struck gold.

What Works
Hashtags work well if they’re relevant and naturally occur within the conversation. Examples include:

  • Moderately sized, well-targeted conferences
    If you’re attending a conference that is relevant to your followers, it’s a good idea to share insights and conversations relevant to the conference.
  • Charitable causes
    Limited usage of hashtags associated with charitable calls to action (#haiti, #giveasmile) work well.
  • Highly engaged groups
    If you regularly tweet about special interests that have rabid followings (#vegan, #glutenfree, #oilspill), using those hashtags works well.
  • Create your own
    If your company has created a hashtag around an event that you’re hosting or another corporate PR topic, it’s very effective to use that hashtag. It’s obviously relevant and contextual if you’re the ones behind it!

What Doesn’t Work
Hashtags don’t work if they’re overly broad, not relevant and don’t occur naturally within the conversation. Examples include:

  • Huge conferences
    If you’re attending a massive industry conference (#adtech, #sxsw) don’t use those hashtags if you want your tweets to get read. Search results on those hashtags fly by quicker than anyone can read, and your followers are usually only interested in what you have to say if they’re at the event as well. If you want to tweet from a huge conference, use the specific hashtag created for individual speakers or sub-events to keep things targeted.
  • Extremely generic tags
    This is where the really poor results show up. Sometimes marketers create content specifically to support a hashtag, rather than using a hashtag to support content. This is what I call hashtag stuffing. Examples of this include #socialmedia, #crm, #superbowl, and many many more. Tweeting about a particular topic just because it has high search volume doesn’t work.

Conclusions
Remember that your followers are your primary source of attention. All of your tweets should be targeted at providing value to your existing followers, as they are the most likely to read and share your content.

Keyword-stuffing and targeting content to high-impression keywords has been a long time practice of search engine marketers. But just as Google is slowly strangling keyword stuffers with their recent algorithm update, your followers quickly filter you out when you use hashtags inauthentically.

If your tweets provide value to your followers, then using hashtags is not a bad thing. It can even get you more clicks when the hashtag is highly relevant and adds value to the conversation. But don’t target your tweets to overly broad, marginally relevant hashtags to maximize your search exposure–it just isn’t effective.

Let us know your experience with hashtags for your B2B company below. Have they helped your tweets earn extra clicks or not?

Top 10 Social Media B2B Posts in First Half of 2011

We are at the halfway point of the year and it is instructive to review which Social Media B2B posts have resonated with our readers over the past six months. The following list is based solely on page views, as determined by Google Analytics. It does not include factors like how many comments a post received or how many times a post has been retweeted.

If you are a regular reader of this site, than most of these posts are familiar to you. You have probably read and retweeted them. If not, read on to find some great information to help you with social media for your B2B company. If you are a new reader, below is a good sampling of the kinds of posts we publish. The most popular social network on this site, based on this list, is Facebook, followed by Twitter, then LinkedIn. That is because more B2B marketers are trying to understand how to use Facebook in their social media plans.

And one final note before we get to the list. Each one of these posts has a number in the title, which means it is a list of some sort. Whether it is a list of stats, tools, examples or a way to do things, blog reader like having their information organized into lists.

1. 28 Awesome B2B Social Media Statistics
2. Top 10 B2B Companies on Twitter
3. 10 B2B Social Media Case Studies and Examples
4. 7 B2B Social Media Tools You Haven’t Heard Of
5. 5 Ways for B2B Companies to Engage on Facebook
6. 75 of the Best B2B Facebook Marketing Tips
7. 8 B2B Facebook Landing Pages
8. 11 Predictions for B2B Social Media in 2011
9. [Updated] 10 Examples of B2B Facebook Fan Pages
10. 15 Useful Twitter Tools for B2B Social Media

Do you have a favorite post that did not make the list?

Setting Relationship Goals for B2B Social Media

While much of B2B marketing and sales is about developing relationships, many of the social media metrics tracked are number of followers, connections, comments, clicks and retweets. It may be possible to assume that you or your company are providing some value to those who start engaging, but these are not significant metrics to track. What if you raised your metrics to a higher level and focused on real conversations and relationships as a measure of success?

Twitter Relationships
It is too easy for Twitter to become a numbers game where any user can “buy” or otherwise game the Twitter system to increase followers. If those followers are targeted, no matter how they were gained, the increased reach of a company’s message is a positive, but tracking the number of followers is meaningless. Finding customers and prospects on Twitter through detailed search queries or monitoring solutions and engaging with them is a better thing to measure. These can be tied more directly to business outcomes. Set a goal that each day you will find and interact with a new person from your industry or someone seeking your product or service on Twitter. It is up to you to determine if this is possible based on your industry involvement on Twitter and the time available to seek out and engage with prospects and customers.

LinkedIn Relationships
LinkedIn is built on relationships, but many of them are weak or non-existent. There are two ways to approach relationship goals on LinkedIn. The first, and easier one, is to strengthen a relationship of one of your connections. This is someone who you can easily contact and see what value you can provide. This would need to be someone who could be a potential customer or is already a customer. The second way is to find someone new through a discussion group or a common event and connect with them. Do not send them a generic connection request. Customize it with some information about why you are connecting. Begin a conversation through the request and continue after approval. This not about accumulating connections, but about starting meaningful relationships on LinkedIn. This is a harder goal to put a number around, but start with one per week and see how that goes. Adjust it as necessary.

Blogger Outreach
So many communications pros miss the point of blogger outreach. Blasting out emails with press releases attached is not blogger outreach. Having an intern log into your email and sending the same email individually is no better. While some of this is a numbers game, and the chance to get picked up increases with the number sent, it is more likely that you will get better coverage, things like a follow-up interview, by starting a relationship. Start by making a list of bloggers that cover your industry, including those connected to trade publications. Pick a few bloggers and send an introductory email letting them know about your company or clients and how you think it relates to their coverage of the industry. This will show them that you actually read their blog. So many top bloggers get so tired of mass emails, they will appreciate a simple, email addressed only to them. Think of each one of these as building a relationship to get more than just a placed release. You want to become a source for stories where they contact you. This is no different than traditional PR, except many of these bloggers probably have day jobs. Again, depending on the amount of industry coverage, a goal for building these relationships might be one per week or one per month.

Have you thought about building relationships for your B2B company as a social media metric to track?

5 Ways to Salute Your B2B Employees Using Social Media

Yesterday was Memorial Day in the United States, when we honored those who defended our country. B2B companies have lots of opportunities with social media to honor their own employees. Customers and prospects prefer doing business with people that they know, and the following simple ideas can help share your employees with the world. Show employee photos with all these suggestions so people can begin to relate to your employees as people, not just an email address.

Create a Twitter List
A Twitter List of employees shows what employees are talking about, thinking about, reading, sharing and doing. Make sure you inform employees about their inclusion on the list, especially if you will be incorporating that feed into the company website or blog.

Write a Monthly Blog Post
While you already should encourage employees to blog on the company site, there are other ways to showcase employees on the blog. Many employees volunteer with organizations in the community. Each month write a blog highlighting an employee and their work with a local organization. This shows both the character of your employees as well as the companies connections to the community.

Highlight Accomplishments in Email Newsletter
Create a standard spot in the email newsletter to feature employee accomplishments, whether these are internal achievements or notable external events, like speaking at an industry event or publishing a guest blog post.

Video Interviews
Employees have knowledge and experience worth sharing with customers and prospects. Conduct short interviews with employees where they share one tip or one challenge that they have overcome. Keep each video short and tight so that it doesn’t need to be scripted. Many employees will come across better speaking with knowledge and authority than reciting scripted lines.

Facebook Feature Photo
If your B2B company has a Facebook Page, consider featuring an employee in the company profile photo. Many companies do this with customers, but this is an opportunity to showcase one of your own.

All of the above ideas can be coordinated to create a featured employee of the month across all social channels. This may work better with fewer employees, as those who work for larger companies may need all the channels to highlight more employees.

What are some ways you promote your B2B employees on company social profiles?

Study: 93% of B2B Marketers Use Social Media Marketing

According to a recent study by BtoB Magazine, 93% of all B2B marketers are engaged in some form of social media marketing, with most putting their focus on the most popular channels (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter).

The Big Three

B2B marketers overwhelmingly favor “the big 3″ social media channels, with LinkedIn being the most-used channel (72%). Facebook (71%) and Twitter (67%) are close behind, with those three channels forming the core of most B2B social media marketing efforts. Other channels used by B2B marketers include YouTube (48%), blogging (44%) and online communities (22%).

When asked to cite their single most important channel, LinkedIn again rose to the top with 26% favoring it. Most respondents identified lead-generation as the most valuable result of LinkedIn marketing. Facebook was the most important channel for 20%, while blogging (19%), online communities (14%) and Twitter (13%) rounded out the top tools. Facebook was cited as being a channel where users “pay attention”, while blogs and communities were cited for their customer feedback and engagement.

Despite being used by 67% of B2B marketers, Twitter was only the top channel for 13%, perhaps showing that Twitter is an important piece of the overall social marketing picture but not the best channel for B2B marketers to find value. According to survey participants, many marketers only see Twitter as a way to support website traffic and product/event promotions.

Challenges:

When B2B marketers were asked to identify their top three obstacles to adopting social media marketing, 70% identified a lack of resources as being the biggest obstacle. Other challenges faced by marketers include: poorly defined success metrics and key performance indicators (57%), lack of knowledge about social media (44%) and management resistance (22%).

Measurement:

One of the most interesting statistic to come out of the report is the lack of measurement by B2B marketers. About 75% of B2B marketers who conduct social marketing say they do not measure the ROI of their social marketing programs.

The Study:

This results of BtoB’s exclusive research study Emerging Trends in B-to-B Social Media Marketing: Insights From the Field focuses on how B2B marketers are leveraging social media. Conducted in March 2011 and based on the responses of 577 B2B marketers, this study not only looks at the demand for LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter but how marketers are using the unique applications to their best advantage across all marketing functions.

Does this data match your social media experience for your B2B company?

B2B Social Media Planning Needs Focus

Every Thursday night or Friday morning I begin looking for several posts from the week that I want to share in a Friday post. I review my Twitter search stream for posts that have been tweeted multiple times, but I also search my RSS reader for posts that provide good content and my come from less popular sources. Unless they publish something groundbreaking, or is exceptionally helpful, there’s no need to share posts from the most popular social media blogs. You should be seeing any relevant content from them already.

But the other layer I add onto this search is a theme. This is my focus that lets me weed through hundreds (thousands?) of posts for five that I like and provide some value to you, our readers. I will admit that I am sometime too picky about minor things, but a well-written post on a relevant topic usually wins. I have had trouble picking posts for this week, as evidenced by the fact that it is Saturday afternoon. And the reason is that I did not have a theme to guide me and keep me focused. Sometimes I have one in mind and sometimes they come to me when I start seeing what people have published in the past week. And this week I came with nothing and nothing appeared to me.

So before we get the posts below, here’s an analogy about social media plans, and the inspiration for the post titile. No matter what aspect of your social media planning you are working on, make sure to have a plan to guide you. Developing a strategy? Do it with your goals in mind. Creating content? Make sure your topics (or themes) are set to keep you focused. And now here are some posts I found. Don’t worry, I already have a theme for next week, and several posts selected on that theme.

Did You Know You’re Competing With Apple?
from Touchpoint Insights
And in the last few years, we’ve seen that the ways customers interact with and think of companies – and the experiences they expect in return – is changing. In some cases, dramatically. Yes, technology is a big piece of this change. But a bigger, interrelated piece is around customer expectations.
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10 Tweetable Lessons in Marketing Analytics and ROI
from Marketo
Recently, I’ve been traveling the country, meeting with over 70 marketing executives to discuss best practices in marketing analytics and measuring and improving marketing ROI. I’ve learned quite a bit in the course of these discussions, and found that the following lessons came up again and again. In the spirit of making them easy to share, I’ve boiled each one down to 140 characters or less.
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Who Uses Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, & MySpace? 4thQ & 1stQ Stats and Analysis
from Social Media Today
The last two quarters have seen some interesting trends in the big four Social Media services. The most obvious is the leveling off of growth of Facebook and Twitter, but of greatest interest is the clarification of who is using the Social Media tools.
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New LinkedIn Plugins for Companies to Use Now
from Tech Affect
LinkedIn has been on a blistering pace in the past year with a bunch of new updates. Recently, the professional networking site did it again, offering a new set of plugins for use by companies. It’s as if they’re preparing for something big.
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It’s Time To Turn Your Social Business Gaze Inward
from Sirius Decisions blog
Organizations work hard to better interact with external constituents such as customers, partners and prospects but they generally spend far less time doing so for the audiences within their walls. Leveraging social media as collaboration and knowledge management tools within the organization is woefully under-utilized but necessary to emphasize dialogue and sharing between staff rather than relying on one-way communications that typify many internal communications channels.
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If you have any thoughts about focus, or recent posts to share, the comments are yours.

Top 10 B2B Companies on Twitter [March 2011]

Earlier this year we established a set of criteria to rank B2B company Twitter accounts. Below you will find this month’s version of the rankings. The biggest change to the list is the inclusion of @MarketingProfs, based on my interview with Ann Handley about her use of the account. When ranked against the other B2B company Twitter accounts, @MarketingProfs comes out on top.

One of the trends that we have seen in the list is that many companies gained significant followers over the past two months. The biggest gain is by Hubspot, which went from 40,000 to 100,000 followers using Twitter’s advertising program of Promoted Accounts. One of the components of the ranking is the ratio of followers to followings, and Hubspot, like the other companies gaining followers, did not increase the people they were following accordingly. This means the ratio component of their ranking went down, as compared to companies whose ratio of follower count did not change significantly.

SocialMediaB2B.com Top B2B Companies on Twitter
(March 2011)

Ranking
1. MarketingProfs (@MarketingProfs)
2. Hubspot (@Hubspot)
3. eMarketer (@eMarketer)
4. Forrester (@Forrester)
5. CME Group (@CMEGroup)
6. comScore (@comScore)
7. Cisco (@CiscoSystems)
8. Gartner (@Gartner_Inc)
9. radian6 (@radian6)
10. Marketo (@Marketo)
Jan 2011
-
1
3
2
4
5
6
7
9
-
Change
new
-1
0
-2
-1
-1
-1
-1
0
new

Other B2B company Twitter accounts that were ranked, but did not make the top 10 were @Accenture, @Eloqua, @Intel, @MarketingSherpa, @Oracle, @Salesforce and @SAP. As always, let us know your thoughts about the list, and if there are other companies that should be considered in the next ranking.

Talking Twitter with Ann Handley (@MarketingProfs)

While at the MarketingProfs Digital Marketing Forum, I had the opportunity to sit down with Ann Handley, the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, and talk about the company Twitter account that she runs (@MarketingProfs). In a previous blog post about B2B companies on Twitter, I specifically mentioned this account as being a personal account, so it was not included in the list of company accounts. After Ann replied in the comments, we decided that it would be instructive to discuss her thoughts on setting up the Twitter account, and how she uses it. This shows the evolution of social profiles, and how sometimes you are more successful by doing what feels right for your brand.

If you are managing a company Twitter account, do you use the company logo or your own picture?

4 Tips For B2B Social Media Management Changes

Although social media managers, content creators and community managers may come and go, B2B social media efforts must be sustained over time to be an effective marketing and sales tool.

In a new space that changes by the hour, it’s easy to forget to plan for internal changes. When your B2B social media manager gets promoted, fired or changes jobs, it’s important to know how the next administrator will take over. Here are four things to update and consider when ownership changes hands:

1. Access

Updating changes to administrators can be more complicated than B2B marketers would assume, as every social media platform has its own way of adding and deleting administrators and contributors. On Facebook, current administrators can add and delete new administrators. In some cases, it might be easier to share the business log-in information for the page, which does not connect to any user’s personal page.

Twitter only allows an e-mail address to be connected to a Twitter account once. If the new administrator has already used his or her e-mail address with another personal or business account, consider setting up a twitter@yourdomain.com e-mail address that can be forwarded to the Twitter manager’s work e-mail. This way, updates about new followers and direct messages don’t go unnoticed.

Depending on the reasons for changing administrators, passwords may also need to be updates and recirculated to the team.

2. Consistency

Managing expectations – such as the time it takes to reply to Twitter @ messages, approve moderated blog comments and whether social media channels are monitored on nights and weekends – is a key part of the 24/7 world of social media. It’s important to stay consistent with previous social media efforts in terms of posting schedules, interaction and follow-up.

When social media management changes hands, do a mini-internal audit on current social media activities. In the areas that are doing well, inspect how the previous administrator made these things happen in terms of work flow, monitoring and reporting. Take this opportunity to also think about what can be improved.

3. Tone

On Facebook, blogs and Twitter, tone can make or break social media efforts. The most successful B2B pages often combine demonstrations of expertise with humor and personality, sounding more like a real conversation than stilted marketing and sales speak. Real connections (and, in turn, sales leads) are often forged as a result.

However, when a social media manager is very good at his or her job, business accounts can become connected more with the employee than the actual company. Be intentional about how personal an employee can be at the helm of a B2B social media account without sacrificing authenticity.

When choosing a new administrator, find someone with a similar writing and speaking style who can deliver the experience followers, customers and potential customers have come to expect. Also consider tapping into a range of contributors – this will represent a more complete picture of your company’s offerings and prevent a jarring change in personality and tone when employees come and go.

4. Introductions

Transparency is one of the most important qualities of a B2B social media campaign, as its very nature encourages personal, one-on-one interactions that can support customer service, media relations and brand awareness. Users often enjoy being on a first-name basis with a B2B company’s social media accounts manager, and get to know them on a more personal basis.

When social media accounts change hands internally, use the opportunity to introduce an employee with a different set of skills and knowledge that can make B2B social media interactions even more valuable for customers. Also remember to update bios on the blog and Twitter, so new users know who they’re interacting with.

What experiences have you had with changing managers of B2B social media efforts?

15 Useful Twitter Tools for B2B Social Media

With Twitter such an important social media platform and with so many Twitter tools available, we thought we’d highlight a few that could be valuable to the social media managers in your B2B organization. Here’s a list of 15 tools you may find useful:

1. BirdHerd
BirdHerd is Twitter made easy for groups and teams to update a single Twitter account. Posting is as easy as sending a direct message. BirdHerd lets you choose who is authorized to post from your group Twitter account.
Cost: Free

2. Twtpoll
Engage Your Customers. Ask Questions. Get Feedback. Use Twtpoll to gather responses from your Twitter followers and let Twtpoll tabulate the results.
Cost: Free

3. TweetChat
TweetChat allows you to follow a Twitter chat based on a hashtag. It’ll auto-append the hash to tweets that you lend to the conversation. Try it on Thursdays at 8:00pm ET during #b2bchat!
Cost: Free

4. Backtweets
Twitter’s standard search has its limitations. One of those limitations is that it can’t find tweets that have linked to your website (or any site you want to track) unless it contains specific search terms that you track. Backtweets solves that problem. You can enter a URL and it will return a reverse-chronolical list of tweets that contain your domain or link.  It’ll even resolve any links using link-shortening services.
Cost: Free

5. GroupTweet
GroupTweet helps groups communicate privately via Twitter. Twitter allows Direct Messages from one person to another, but if you want to send to more than one person you’re out of luck. GroupTweet can fill that void by allowing you to DM multiple people at once.
Cost: Free

6. TweetBeep
TweetBeep will send you hourly Twitter alerts via email so you can keep track of conversations on Twitter that mention you, your products, your company, or anything else important to you. You can keep track of who’s tweeting your website or blog, even if they use a shortened URL.
Cost: Free

7. StreamTwitter
StreamTwitter is a small lightweight web-based script used for streaming Twitter on video sources such as TV’s or projectors. It’s perfect for your next trade show, conference or other event. And it can be customized to look the way you want.
Cost: $19.95

8. ReFollow
Use ReFollow to drop followers that haven’t tweeted in X number of days or use it to find Tweeps that have mentioned or re-tweeted you that you are not following.
Cost: 10 free follows/unfollows, then plans from $5/month and up.

9. TweetAdder
TweetAdder is a suite of Twitter automation tools for promotion and marketing. Manage multiple accounts, autotweet RSS feeds, auto follow/unfollow, generate automated tweets or DMs, automate Tweet search and much more.
Cost: Free Demo, $55-188 one time fee depending on number of profiles

10. TwitBlend
TwitBlend helps you search for tweets and arrange, color, share and put it on your website using the TwitBlend widget. Grab tweets from anywhere, drag and drop tweets to create conversation and post it to your site.
Cost: Free

11. TweetStats
Graph your Twitter Stats including tweets per hour, tweets per month, tweet timeline and reply statistics. It’s useful to help you understand if you are only tweeting on certain days/times.
Cost: Free

12. Twazzup
Get real-time results for any search on Twitter. The results page includes not only tweets but pictures, news, top links and more. Search your name, company, industry keywords or competition and see what shows up.
Cost: Free

13. Twitterfeed
TwitterFeed allows you to automatically tweet new RSS items to your Twitter accounts. Enter the RSS feed URL into TwitterFeed and it’ll send a tweet every time a new article or blog post is published.
Cost: Free

14. Tweetreach
Find how far your tweet traveled. Search a URL, name, phrase or hashtag, and find the reach and exposure data for those tweets.
Cost: Free. Pro version available with monthly fees.

15. Tweetymail
Manage Twitter via your email inbox, including tweets, retweets, follows and direct messages. Set-up alerts and notifications too.
Cost: Free with limited features. $2.99/$4.99/$9.99 per month for pro features.

Are there any other Twitter Tools that you find useful when it comes to managing social media in your B2B organization?  If so let us know in the comments.