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The basics of hashtagging aren’t that hard.  Throw a # sign next to your postings, and you connect them to everyone else using that hashtag, giving your content a wider reach and linking your page to other tag users.  But as a restaurant owner, you business can benefit immensely if you go beyond the basics where hashtags and social media are concerned.  One of the biggest and best advanced tactics you can use in the hashtag heavy worlds of Twitter and Instagram is starting your own, original hashtag campaign.

To start a campaign, you will use an original or creatively applied hashtag to link all of your posts in a certain category or theme.  By consistently using the same hashtags for related posts, you will gain exposure for your page, and see your engagement go up.  Follow these five steps to brainstorm your own original hashtag campaign:

  1. Think about what a “hashtag campaign” will and won’t do.

Before you even get started with crafting an original hashtag campaign, think about what a good campaign can and can’t do for your restaurant.  By starting a “hashtag campaign,” you will be tagging your posts in a certain theme or category with an original hashtag.  Best case scenario, your hashtag will catch on and go viral, and fans on social media will use your tag, giving you more publicity.  Worse case, your posts will be more easily visible to your devoted fans, as they will be more heavily categorized.

  1. Think about what kind of hashtag will appeal to your social media fans.

If you want a hashtag campaign to catch on, ten you should be very conscious of what your social media fans like and are likely to respond to.  If your posts appeal to your core fan base, and your hashtags get used by your fans and visitors, they are more likely to go “viral” and expos your posts to a huge audience.

To start thinking about what your social media fans want to see, think about your fan base’s demographics.  Are all of your fans young?  Don’t start a retro or old fashioned hashtag, unless it is a popular and widely recognized reference.  Whatever hashtag you decide to use for your campaign, make sure to think about what will appeal to your audience.

  1. Think about what your restaurant should show off.

You hashtag campaign should be applicable to the kind of content you are posting, and should be strategically based around what parts of your restaurant you are trying to show off.  If your campaign is successful, your posts tagged with your original hashtag may be some of the most visible and interacted with on your business’s page.  So make sure that whatever your hashtag campaign is trying to show off is your business’s best.  If you have a fantastic dessert menu, try an original hashtag on your Instagram photos of sweets.

  1. Think about other successful hashtags.

What makes hashtags catch on in the social media world?  A certain recipe of catchy word choice,  smart gimmicks, and fun associations.  Successful hashtags aren’t always easy to replicate, but they aren’t too hard to study.  Login to Instagram or Twitter and see what is trending, and take your inspiration from there.  Is “TacoTuesday” trending in your networks?  How about a play on the popular tag to highlight some of your own menu items, like “#TilapiaTuesday.”

When you take a close look at other successful hashtags, your possibilities are endless!  Take this tactic to the next level by doing some specific research about what is successful in your particular networks.  Checkout what your fans and followers are hashtagging, and see what you can learn from what’s trending.

  1. Experiment, Analyze, Repeat.

Your first original hashtag probably won’t catch on.  That’s fine.  See what works, and be mindful of what doesn’t, and keep the wheels turning.  If you keep trying new original hashtags, and applying what you learn as you go, you could stumble onto a winning formula.  Your restaurant could spark the next “#MeatlessMonday,” or create a hashtag as huge as “#Foodie.”  As long as you are willing to experiment, analyze, and repeat, don’t worry too much: you have time to find the perfect original hashtag campaign for your business to succeed.

The Bottom Line:

If you follow the five steps above, you are sure to think of a successful original hashtag for your restaurant in time.  It might not happen right away, but you will find a hashtag that helps your business if you are willing to keep experimenting.  Manage your expectations: your business may not become the biggest thing to ever happen in viral food marketing.  But with the right original hashtag campaign, you will see some big exposure increases for your restaurant and posts, and turn social media into a valuable marketing tool.