#HomePerformance: Let's get behind it.
Facebook Adopting Hashtags
Facebook just announced that the platform will begin supporting hashtags in the near future, and it's causing something of a buzz. As the Facebook-owned Instagram gets more popular (hashtags are very big on Instagram), and people continue to use tools that simultaneously post on Facebook and Twitter (hashtags started on Twitter), it's an interesting development that may change the way people use Facebook.
So what's the deal with hashtags, and what do they have to do with the home performance industry?
What's the __ is a Hashtag?
Hashtags are a unique and intuitive way to follow topics and trends, and to expand your audience. Here's how they work: you use a # sign followed by a word, a phrase or a term, with no spaces or punctuation, and the text turns into a link. The link takes you to a real-time stream of everything posted with that hashtag.
Making Hashtags Work for Your Business
They're a great way to follow news and events, or topics of interest: take, for example, the hashtag #acinational2013 from the recent ACI National Home Performance Conference. Anyone at the conference, or at home watching the conference, can just follow the hashtag stream to stay up to date on everything that's going down at ACI.
They also allow you to expand your reach on the platforms that support them. You might have, say, 1 follower on Twitter, so you're discouraged about posting. Use hashtags in your posts and they'll show up in the real-time streams of those hashtags, which means a theoretically infinite number of people could see them, even though you have barely any followers. The trick is to identify the hashtags that have the most traction, that people are using and clicking, and to use them in a smart way. This not only helps drive conversation about the industry on the internet, but grows your social media following helps people discover your business. (And not just any people: social media users using hashtags about topics like energy efficiency and insulation are apt to be like-minded and good connections for you to have).
What Are the Terms to Use?
So what are the hashtags that relate to us in the home performance industry? Well, of course, they could be anything: you can use the hashtag #crawlspaceencapsulation -- other people have -- but when you look at the stream there are only a couple results and they're months old. Not likely to get your tweet, photo or FB post in front of a whole lot of new people.
On the other hand, let's look at some more popular hashtags in our field:
These are in no particular order, but appear to be (relatively) lively streams. Search for any other industry-related term and you're likely to see at least a few results (even #ductsealing turns up results; who knew?).
There are also some great hashtag research tools that can make the search for good, effective hashtags easier. TweetReach, in particular, provides some great visualization of the likely "reach" of various hashtags -- the number of people that are likely to see them.
Check out this comparison between #homeperformance and #insulation from TweetReach:
Hashtags on Instagram
Hashtags aren't just for Twitter, though. They may actually even be more popular on Instagram, the photo-sharing service that started out as a niche platform and wound up being sold to Facebook for a billion dollars. It's not uncommon to see dozens upon dozens of hashtags piled below a photo here.
(By the way, whether you should be using Instagram for your business is something that we'll address later. For a home performance company, its utility may be limited, but it's fun, it's growing, and, used well, it could be an interesting way to get some exposure for your brand and drive customer loyalty.)
Statigr.am a good desktop tool that allows you to view Instagram pictures on your computer, and has a ton of additional features, analytics, etc.
Time for Us to Embrace #HomePerformance
With all of this said, it's revealing to look at the photos above that compare #insulation to #homeperformance. Additionally, when I search for #homeperformance in Instagram, I see a measley 17 results. There are a few results in the Twitter stream but they're typically at least a few days apart -- basically, the numbers are peanuts compared to more popular industry-related terms like #energyefficiency.
Part of the reason for this, we presume, is because of our industry's hesitance to accept and embrace the "home performance" term. There was quite a bit of discussion about this at this year's ACI National Home Performance Conference, and it's a topic that's come up time and time again.
We believe that this hesitance is part of the reason for our industry's heretofore failure to break into the mainstream. If we can't even commit to using the term, how is the average homeowner supposed to hear about it?
So, closing thought: as you ramp up your activity on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, or wherever else hashtags are supported, let's go ahead and give some love to the #homeperformance hashtag. We think it might do some good.