Social media is a great way to promote your business and stay in touch with fans. However, if you’re new to social media marketing, you may have missed the creation of the hashtag, a user-innovation that can lead to brilliant marketing. Understanding this seemingly small, yet integral way of communicating online will make it easier for you, your business, your followers, and potential followers to find and connect with tweets and posts of the same topic. A hashtag, comprised of the pound sign (or hash) and the keywords that follow the # sign, create a searchable hyperlink that connects to all other tweets and posts tagged with the same keyword (a.k.a. the words following the #). This makes it easier to find and connect with tweets, posts, and pictures of the same topic. Basically, the hashtag allows you to organize content and track discussion topics based on those keywords. If you tweet with a hashtag on a public account, anyone who does a search for that hashtag may find your tweet, so it’s a great way to connect with like-minded individuals, people looking for something specific, and more.
Created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages, the hashtag is wildly popular and is used on other social media platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Pinterest. Take advantage of this social media feature, because it’s likely that at least one of the social media platforms you plan to use will support it.
Hashtags can be whatever you want them to be, but there are a few tips and tricks that make them more useful for businesses large and small. From special groups and ideas to buzz worthy campaigns, the hashtag can be a beneficial marketing tool in your social media strategies. We’ll focus on using hashtags for business purposes and social media strategies, but if you want more information and great examples on how to use hashtags in social media and personal accounts, check out Mashable’s “Beginner’s Guide to the Hashtag.”
1. Seek Business-Specific Conversations
Whether you’re looking for tips from like-minded businesspeople, advice on specific content, or posting advice about specific content, a hashtag can help bring all of this information together. For instance, posts about social media strategies with #socialmediatips would be found together, as a “group.” You can use a well-known hashtag or create your own, but you want users interested in your topic, in this case social media tips, to find and interact with your post. Also, if you use social media dashboards, you can establish columns by social network, search terms, Twitter list, or a specific hashtag. That way, if you want to keep tabs on all posts with #marketing, you could do so with ease.
2. Create Your Own Hashtag
Hashtags are a great way to generate buzz around a marketing campaign, competition, special event, and much more. Some businesses also choose to use their business name or a specific product as a hashtag when they are posting pictures, posts, and tweets that are uniquely theirs. Events are also great opportunities to create a conversation using hashtags. For events, you’ll want to create and promote the hashtag well before the event. Once the event begins, encourage attendees to use the hashtag with signage, swag, etc. This will allow both physical and web attendees to follow and interact with activities and discussions.
3. Simple and Consistent Hashtags
Hashtags are best when they are short, easy to remember, and search-friendly. Don’t create a long and complex hashtag, as it will likely get buried quickly. From the example above, if someone wanted to find posts and tweets about social media tips, a hashtag reading #socialmediatipstricksandnetworking wouldn’t be the best option. Furthermore, excessive hashtags can look like desperate marketing. Instead, try to limit yourself to 1-2 concise and thoughtful hashtags per post or tweet.
Quick tips to get you started with hashtagging:
- No spaces. Even if your hashtag contains multiple words, group them all together. Use capitals to differentiate words. Uppercase letters will not alter your search results.
- Number are supported. Punctuation and special characters are not, so no commas, periods, exclamation points, question marks, apostrophes, ampersand, etc.
- Hashtags can appear anywhere in the post or tweet. Beginning, middle, or end.
- The @ symbol and the # symbol are completely different. Using @ before a person’s handle name will directly notify that person. A hashtag (#) will not. For example a tweet or post containing @SmarterSearches will reach us directly. A post or tweet containing #SmarterSearches will not reach us, but will create a group or join posts and tweets that already contain #SmarterSearches.
- There is no preset list of hashtags, so create and invent whatever fits your needs and is unique to your business. If it’s a hashtag that you want others to use, make it easy to remember and then promote it whenever appropriate.
- You can use multiple hashtags per post, but don’t go overboard. One to three is generally an acceptable range for Twitter and Facebook. You can get away with using more hashtags on Instagram.
- Choose a specific account for your brand or business. Users can find all of your tweets in one place, and it’s separate from your personal account.
- Use relevant hashtags, and see what hashtags other businesses in your field are using.
- Follow trends, and if they are relevant to your business, use them. If they aren’t relevant, don’t use them because you’ll look like a spammer.
- Create your own hashtag, promote it, and generate buzz with a contest, raffle, or promotion.
- Hashtags are often used to craft tone, voice, humor, sarcasm, and other colorful commentary. While many of these hashtags are never searched for, it creates humor that followers appreciate.
- Be specific with your hashtags. If you’re using a hashtag to join a conversation, make sure the hashtag is specific and relevant to your topic.
- Give context. A tweet that contains only hashtags is confusing and boring.
- Keep it simple. Like links, hashtags look like spam when used too often. Don’t hashtag the same word twice.
What questions do you have about using hashtags? Tell us in the comments!