IN A MOVE TO INCREASE ITS PRESENCE on the Twitter and Facebook social media platforms, Sierra Trading Post is asking its customers to add the hashtag “CarpeDeal” (seize the deal)to tweets or posts about the discount general merchant.

A hashtag is a word that follows a “#” symbol, and is used to help group a series of tweets into a searchable category. The more people tweet an individual hashtag, the better the odds are that it will become a trending topic on Twitter and gain additional visibility.

Hashtagging should gain popularity, since Google said in October that Twitter updates will be picked up by its search engine. What’s more, Sierra Trading Post’s Web marketing manager Justin Johnson says the new campaign can be done at a fraction of traditional marketing costs.

Sierra Trading Post’s campaign, which launched in late October, will reward the best entries with gift cards — including one $500 prize, one $250 gift card, five cards worth $100 and five $50 prizes — based on the creativity and frequency of tweets.

Johnson says Sierra Trading Post initially used Twitter to alert followers of its blog posts. The merchant now uses it to provide product awareness and to communicate with its customers.

The contest is the next big step for Sierra Trading Post’s social media strategy, Johnson notes. But it’s also another big step into the great unknown wilderness.

“Social media is pretty new for everyone who is using it, so we’re not sure what’s going to happen,” Johnson says.

You have to try out different platforms and see what engages your customers, Johnson says. “This is something different, and hopefully it will be exciting and useful.”

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