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Using Hashtags for Social Media Success (Part 1)

What they are, how they work and what they can accomplish

CHICAGO — While social media platforms enable dry cleaners to connect with and communicate to their customers in ways past generations never imagined, it can be difficult to rise above the noise and actually get a customer’s attention. Dry cleaners engaging in this sort of marketing need to use all the tools available to them to break through to their target audience.

This was the message of “Hashtags: Everything You Need to Know,” a webinar hosted by the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI) and presented by Rechelle Balanzat, CEO and founder of Juliette, a dry cleaner located in New York City. Prior to owning Juliette, Balanzat launched a social media agency in 2009, and was hired by companies to train them on how to leverage and integrate social media into their marketing and communication strategy. 


“Social media has really become synonymous with digital marketing,” Balanzat says. “What that basically means is that your clients expect you to be on social media — it's not just for SEO (search engine optimization) anymore. It's not just a postcard or a flyer. It's not taking out a local ad. People want to engage with you on their terms. They want to see that you're on Instagram, or TikTok, or Facebook, or LinkedIn.”

Because every company is different, Balanzat used her own drycleaning company to demonstrate social media marketing. 

“A lot of my followers and audience are on Instagram,” she says. “We have about 100,000 followers. The way that Juliet positions itself on social media is that we're fun, playful, and fashion-forward, and people are able to engage with us in that way.”

Because Balanzat has a passion for fashion, that interest enters into her branding. 

“When you see that other side of our personality, that's what you're seeing in our social media presence,” she says, pointing out that her company’s Instagram account offers posts about fashion as well as drycleaning topics. 

While fashion might not be the focus for other dry cleaners that it is for her, Balanzat believes that each business owner has an interest or passion that can make for good social media material.

“I challenge you to question and think about your own communication strategy,” she says, “to think about your own sales funnel, and to think about how your customers are currently engaging with you and where your customers are, because hashtags are only one facet of the social media strategy.”


While the term “hashtag” has invaded our modern language, Balanzat feels it’s worth taking a moment to define what that word actually means. 

“Hashtags are actually a feature that was launched by Twitter when Twitter first came out,” she says, “and the whole purpose of a hashtag was to index the conversation. When you click on a hashtag, you can see every piece of content that is relevant to that keyword or to that topic.”

The anatomy of a hashtag is actually very simple, she says — it's the pound sign (#) followed by a word or phrase with no spaces. The hashtag can be either in the body of the post or at the end of it. Hashtags are also hyperlinked, meaning you can see other posts with that hashtag if you click on it.

“As social media evolved,” she says, “and people started using it more and more, this hashtag feature started showing up on all the other social platforms, including Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Now, it's a part of pop culture where people say things like ‘#SorryNotSorry.’ If you ever speak to a millennial or a Gen Z, it's sometimes a part of how they communicate.”

Balanzat used a post on her own Instagram account that included “#DryCleaning.” That was one of more than 441,000 posts to include that particular hashtag. 

“These are all the people talking about dry cleaning,” she says, “and this is how customers will find you. This is how hashtags work.” 

Hashtags enable your posts to be found by the right people,” Balanzat says. “They boost views, likes and shares, and can start a conversation.”

One thing hashtags don’t do, she cautioned, is put your content automatically in front of thousands of people. 

“They increase your reach through authentic discovery,” Balanzat says. “It doesn't mean that if you're reaching 100 people today, and then you use a hashtag tomorrow, you have 1,000 people. It is not about increasing your reach. It's about telling the social media platform what your content is about. You're saying, ‘My content is about dry cleaning.’ So, when a person goes on social media, and says, ‘Hey, I want to find something relating to dry cleaning,’ it will then show posts relating to that hashtag.”

Hashtags can go from general terms to much more specific focuses. Balanzat used the example of a cleaner who got out a difficult wine stain or wanted to showcase their ability to perfectly iron a shirt. 

“You can use a hashtag that is relevant to whatever it is that you want to talk about,” she says. “So, when people search #WineStain, #StainRemoval or #HowToIron, they find your content. You are increasing your reach by using relevant hashtags, but only if people are looking for that content.”

Balanzat also warned people not to use unrelated hashtags in an attempt to artificially boost their visibility.

“You have to use hashtags relevant to what you’re talking about,” she says. “If I were to use #WineStainRemoval, I can’t also say #football — that is completely irrelevant, and the social sites will flag that. They will say that I’m just trying to use the #football because it was Super Bowl and I’m trying to get more eyeballs on my content. Social media will recognize that, and they will shut your content down.”

Come back Thursday for Part 2 of this series, where we’ll examine the phenomenon of “going viral.” 

Using Hashtags for Social Media Success

(Image licensed by Ingram Image)

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].