You can’t really talk about Twitter for your veterinary hospital without talking hashtags.
(You know, those #little #tags you see all of the time with # followed by a word.) If you or your veterinary hospital are tweeting, you need to make sure you are using tags correctly.
I spend a lot of time on Twitter, and I see some veterinarians and veterinary hospitals doing things with hashtags that could REALLY turn off potential clients or followers. Let’s run through some basics to prevent that from happening!
What are hashtags?
A hashtag is the # symbol, followed directly – no space – by a word or series of words. What’s the purpose? Think of a hashtag as a categorization tool. As a social network, Twitter is all about finding other like-minded people that share common interests who want to chat with you or read your information. Using a hashtag can help them find you more easily! For example, writing #PetHealth could help people searching that tag for useful pet health tips.
How does this work? You can search hashtags by using the search bar in the top right corner of your screen (on desktop) or by clicking the magnifying glass on the Twitter mobile app. These are the kind of results you get when you search #veterinary:
When should you use a hashtag?
If you are tweeting about something, like a blog post on your veterinary hospital’s website, that you want to get extra attention – hashtag it! Twitter’s own research has found that using hashtags, “can increase engagement almost 100% (2x) for individuals and 50% (1.5x) for brands.”
If your veterinary practice is in a more urban or suburban area where Twitter is very popular, I definitely recommend using local hashtags. (IE: If I were a veterinarian in Boston, I would be sure to use #Boston, when it was relevant.)
Another great time to use hashtags is during different “awareness” months. For example, April is Heartworm Prevention Awareness Month. For that reason, the tag #heartworm has been pretty popular. Take a look at how Stow Kent Animal Hospital (@StowKentAH) does this:
If you are a veterinarian or vet tech looking for people talking about things that interest you, going through that tag might help you find them! Where else should you look? The general tag #veterinary is pretty useful for finding other veterinary professionals and connecting.
When shouldn’t you hashtag?
Ok – now for the important part about hashtags! Although research has found that hashtags can increase the reach of a tweet, it has also proven that over-hashtagging can have an adverse effect.
According to a Buddy Media study, when you use more than 2 hashtags, your engagement actually drops an average of 17%. If you’ve already hit 2 tags, stop there!
I don’t think that fact is very surprising. If you think about it, #No #One #Wants #To #Read #Or #Interact #With #This. It just doesn’t seem authentic. It reads like, “I WANT RETWEETS!”
I’m very excited that Bayer Animal Health (@Bayer4AnimalsUS) is tweeting, but they might be a LITTLE hashtag happy. This amount of hashtags could be hurting their potential engagement:
Should You Create Your Own Hashtag?
If your Twitter account is just starting out, I’d suggest focusing more on using tags that a lot of Twitter users are already using verses trying to create your own tag. Sure – #YourVeterinaryHospital might seem kind of cool, but I promise you it isn’t going to be as useful for your Twitter account as other options. You’re better off riding the wave of existing popular tags.
With that being said, a unique hashtag can definitely work for a veterinary hospital who has a fairly strong Twitter following. A unique hashtag could be used for a contest or giveaway in many creative ways. When you decide to use a unique hashtag, make sure it’s actually unique! Just do a search first to make sure no other tweets come up that have that hashtag. You don’t want confusion or to be associated with something your veterinary business wouldn’t support! For the average tweeter, however, you’re better off not wasting the limited characters you have.
What tags should I use?
As mentioned before, tagging to your local area can definitely be a great suggestion for veterinary hospitals. After all, we’re local businesses! Tagging your town or city’s name can help you to reach out to other local businesses and potential clients who are doing the same thing.
Generally speaking, tags like #pets, #pethealth, #dogs, and #cats are popular. If, like me, you’re a practice manager, tags like #leadership or #management might help your personal account’s tweets reach more people like you.
Are there tools to help me?
Want to see how your hashtags are doing or get new ideas? There are some tools that can help you become a hashtag pro. On Twitter, there is a trending tags area that shows you what’s trending. These are the popular tags that are being discussed, and you can use those tags – when it works – to join the conversation.
But that isn’t it! There are other great tools. Here’s 2 of my favorites:
RiteTag.com – Analyzes your account and makes suggestions about hashtags that might be better for you to use.
TrendsMap.com – Tells you the hashtags that are popular locally. If you can work them naturally into a tweet, that’s a great chance to connect with local Twitter users.
I hope these tips will help you get your hashtags working better for your veterinary business. Still feeling a little lost? Feel free to contact me, tweet me @DanielleSNOUT, or check out my Social Media 101 video course – it’s part of the Veterinary Social Media Crash Course series.