Hashtags are an interesting social media phenomenon. They were started by Twitter users as a way to more easily classify posts of a similar topic or idea. Hashtags really took off with Twitter search as you can search for the hashtag to bring up all posts related to that tag. It became to popular Twitter officially adopted it as an official feature and is being used widely today as a social media strategy. It used to be you would see a companies URL placed in their advertisements but now smart companies are adding hashtags to their online marketing mix.
As a social media strategy, hashtags can be used to rally people around a particular brand or product or marketing campaign. Used properly it can be a powerful technique and I highly recommend it. Here are some quick tips for getting the most from hashtags.
- Simple: Keep it simple and easy to remember. Keep it short if possible because each character counts toward 140. Make it logical to your business, don’t get cute.
- Unique: Do some basic research to make sure nobody else is already using it. You don’t want your message mixed up with someone else’s.
- Distribution: To get the most juice, you need to put the hashtag on everything, much the same way you put your website url everywhere. On business cards, mailers, emails, ect. This is true for long term or permanent hashtags. For tags that are short term or temporary this would not apply. The more people get used to seeing the hashtag, the more they may remember it later. Another cool trick is to create a link on your website to a Twitter search on the hashtag. That will bring up all the posts related to that tag with one simple click. You could also embed that link into your email signature if you wanted. Bottom line, if you want your hashtag to take hold, you have to get it out there.
- Encouragement: The key here is gentle. When you are trying to get customers to do something for you, it pays to be gentle about it. Give a friendly suggestion to use the hashtag, no pressure. You can do this as part of listing your hashtag on media items. Maybe something like, “Use our hashtag #whatever when you’re talking about us on Twitter.”
I should also note that while hashtags began on Twitter, they are not a universal standard across most other social networks including Google+, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Make sure you use the same hashtag across all your content on all the networks you participate in.
Hashtags are also useful for your engagement strategy on social media. Pay attention to the hashtags that are being used it your social stream and follow those that make sense to your business goals. By following a relevant tag, you will be exposed to lots of new content and users that you will have opportunity to interact with. You will pick up new followers as you add your voice to the conversation. Hashtags are the best way to find relevant conversations on social networks.