As a social media junkie, two of the most common questions I get asked are “What’s a hashtag” and “How do I create/use hashtags.” Knowing how to use a hashtag is essential to any social media marketing strategy, but despite its debut on Twitter more than three years ago, many people still don’t know what a hashtag is.
Hashtags are keywords or short phrases, written without spaces, with a pound sign (#) in front of them. The title of this post, #HowToUseHashtags, is an example of a hashtag. Believe it or not, that’s all there really is to creating a hashtag and there’s no special software required.
A hashtag has a variety of uses, but its primary purpose on Twitter and Google+ is to make the term searchable. What I mean by that is the hashtag creates a link that will take you to the search results of everybody else who has used that hashtag.
There are a number of ways you can utilize hashtags, and the tactics are different for each use. Here are a few of the most popular uses for hashtags:
Twitter and Google have a lot in common in that both require you to optimize your content to appear in their search results. Hashtags are simply Twitter’s SEO tactic of choice.
Use keyword hashtags to describe the content you are tweeting. Using popular keywords in your industry will yield the most followers.
For example, if you are crafting a tweet about Michael Phelps and the Olympics, you might consider using the hashtags #Olympics, #London2012, #Swimming and #TeamUSA.
City and state names can be excellent hashtag keywords to use when the tweet is specific to a geographic location. It’s not uncommon to see local media outlets use them when tweeting about news.
• Use trending hashtags (found in the left column) when possible. Just be careful to do your research before tweeting. You’d hate to end up with a PR crisis on your hand, much like Celeb Boutique and Kenneth Cole did when using trending hashtags without doing their proper research.
• If you’re curious as to whether or not a hashtag is popular or not, searching for it within Twitter is a great way to find out. This is also a great way to find people to follow in your industry.
• Don’t go hashtag crazy. Too many hashtags look spammy. Keep your tweet to around 3-4 relevant hashtags.
• Include keyword hashtags in your Twitter bio for maximum search visibility.
• If you’re not sure which hashtags are popular in your industry, use Mentionmapp. This app will tell you which hashtags are used the most by the users you mention. You can then click on other users to see which hashtags their network is using and so on.
• Trendsmap is a great tool for viewing all trending hashtags at a glance via location.
Hashtags are great for sparking and facilitating conversation. Whether you want to see what people are saying about an event you’re hosting or chat with like-minded people, hashtags are a great avenue for doing so.
If you’re hosting an event, come up with an easy hashtag and include it on all event promotional material. Encourage participants to use the hashtag when tweeting about the event. Now, whenever anybody clicks on or searches for the hashtag in Twitter’s search engine, they will see the conversation and buzz surrounding the event.
There are also Twitter hashtags centered around networking with people who have similar interests. These Twitter chats are usually held at the same time every week or month. There is usually a moderator who asks questions, and people respond to the questions with the hashtag. Individuals and businesses can moderate and participate in Twitter chats.
There’s a chat out there for everybody’s interests. #Makeupchat, #musicbiz, #blogchat and #SmallBizChat are all examples of chats that are hosted on a regular basis.
• Do research on your chat or event hashtag of choice to make sure it isn’t already in use.
• Do a Google search to find chats in your interest. You can also check out this Twitter chat schedule that lists more than 400 different chats.
• If you find it hard to keep up with the conversation, use TweetChat. It organizes the conversation in a way that’s easy to follow and allows you to set the reload speed.
Social media contests are a great way to get your name in front of people and to gain fans. Facebook is one of the most popular social networks for giveaways, but it is also one of the most restrictive. Twitter, however, has very few guidelines when it comes to running a contest, which makes hashtags are the perfect tool for organizing and promoting contests.
A Twitter contest should be simple. A great example of a simple Twitter contest is “tweet why you want [insert prize here] using #hashtag and we’ll select one lucky winner at the end of the day.” It’s a simple method, but it leaves a lot of room for promotion.
• As mentioned before, make sure you research your hashtag of choice to make sure it isn’t already being used.
Not all hashtags have to be serious. In fact, many of the most popular ones started out as a humorous way to express feelings. A few examples of these are: #ThatAwkardMomentWhen, #FirstWorldProblems and #MyLifeIsAverage. Don’t be afraid to mix it up a little and use–or create your own–fun hashtags in your social media marketing plan.
Hashtags are what make Twitter fun. They’re great for networking and getting your voice in front of an audience, they allow you to keep in touch with your favorite businesses and celebrities, and they allow you to express how you’re feeling.