Hashtags and trending topics are generally viewed as something of a global effect. While many hashtags are used to indicate the current activity of a Twitter party (such as #travelskills) or a current bashtag trend (#iamgoogle for instance), many more are used simply to communicate on a local level. In your town right now people are talking about something. They are talking about a local business, a local event or just about the best coffee on main street.
Often those of us not in a major metropolitan city get lost in the international world of Twitter and Facebook and forget about what is right outside our suburban town windows. We still believe that antiquated methods such as the local paper are the only way to find out what is going on in our town. While Facebook generally provides some insight, there are other searchable ways to find out what is popular in your town.
Hashtags can be cultivated and used at a local level to find out what is popular in your town. It just isn’t always easy. While Twitter trending topics covers some major areas, it doesn’t touch on every outlining township, suburb and city. Searching for your city’s hashtag is a great way to get started, as you can see tweets from locals and what they are talking about. However, there is a quicker way — historical hashtag tracking.
Tracking a hashtag shows you what the related hashtags are, which can in turn show you what people in your community are talking about. This has multiple benefits for any brand looking to reach out to their local customer base. Creating a local themed hashtag is one thing, but being able to take advantage of an existing one that already comes with built in reach is another.
For instance, I ran historical tracking on #sarasota, which is the city where I plant my feet every day. Sarasota is not a huge town, in the shadow of Tampa, but has a lot of daily goings on. From that historical run I found that people are not only talking about the town, but about theater programs, arts days and other cultural events. These are great hashtags for participating brands to use to promote their involvement, community support and of course — business.
Searching and engaging local doesn’t have to only benefit local businesses. Many business run regional stores, where their brand is represented in small towns. Sure, there is a little extra effort involved, but the benefits certainly outweigh the cost. Many small towns resent larger brands for infringing on their sense of community. If the larger brands were to interact on a local level in many of these towns on social media, they might find themselves eventually becoming part of many communities. This benefits both the brands and consumers.
For true local businesses, competition with the larger brands is always a problem. Inverse to the scenario above, they are already generally embraced by the community but have the opportunity to interact on a more macro level. They can openly talk about the theater program tonight (hypothetically, I don’t know if there is actually a show tonight), embracing the community and their activities. Of course, they can also offer what everyone on social media loves from brands — discounts, deals and coupons.
Brands looking to make a local impact, whether they are national or local themselves, can easily look to hashtags as a tool to determine where their customers are. Social media is more than just a sounding board for brands to announce their existence, but a place where brands can also become part of the community.