Hashtags were born and raised in the Twitterverse. As of June 2013, the social hashtag burst the Twitter bubble and landed in the world of Facebook. They are now found in print, on TV, in music videos and even as part of packaging. As the hashtag sweeps all social media platforms, questions surrounding their use begin to grow. What are hashtags? What do they mean? And most importantly, why should we care?
Hashtag 101 – The Basics
Just because you’re on social media doesn’t necessarily mean you use hashtags. A hashtag is a word or group of words preceded by a ‘hash symbol,’ i.e. # (the symbol formally known as the pound sign). There can be no spaces between the hash sign and the word or term following. There can also be no spaces between words if you use more than one word.
When a term or phrase is constructed in this way, it automatically creates a clickable link. When people click the hashtag link, they will find all the most recent posts from anyone who has used that tag.
Constructing a hashtag is the easy part. All you have to do is add # in front of anything and you’ve got it. #pieceofcake. But knowing what makes an effective hashtag and how to utilize them correctly brings this hashtag discussion to the next level.
Follow these five fundamentals for successful hashtag use on both Twitter and Facebook:
Tip 1: Follow Trending Topics
The most common use of hashtags is to follow news about a developing story. A hashtag is considered trending when it is popular and creating high levels of discussion online. Many times breaking news stories (#govtshutdown, #HurricaneSandy) have a hashtag develop around the topic so discussions can be easier to follow. Check out this list of the top 5 most popular hashtags of all time.
Clicking a link on trending hashtags will give you a list of related comments and newer reports. This is a great way to find resources and relevant information on specific topics.
Tip 2: Connect With Likeminded People Interested with Likeminded Subjects
The first tip discussed trending topics, but there are other hashtags that focus on long-term subjects of interest. Take for example, #contentmarketing. Logically, people using this hashtag are interested in the subject of marketing that delivers messages through content. Therefore, we can conclude if you’re interested in content marketing and you’re searching for new, relevant connections, simply click the hashtag hyperlink and you’re on your way!
Tip 3: Developing A Brand Identity
For business owners, it’s valuable to create a hashtag that distinguishes your brand. Media distributors can create hashtags for book titles, radios shows, magazines, movies, newspapers and television programs.
The obvious advantage of making a brand hashtag is that it reinforces brand identity. However, as previously discussed, the more powerful advantage is when people click the hashtag and find all the tweets, Facebook posts and updates you or your customers and fans have posted about your business. This means people can immediately find out more about your company or product without ever having to visit your site.
Tip 4: Hashtag Widgets Broadcast Your Discussion
Take your branded hashtag a step further by installing a hashtag stream widget on your website, blog or sales page to display related conversations to your advantage. It also makes the topic feel vibrant, as visitors see real-time updates around your brand.
Don’t worry – no serious coding is involved. To generate a widget for your hashtag, log into your Twitter account and click ‘options’, ‘settings’ and then ‘widgets’. Create a new widget for your company hashtag (don’t forget the #). This dynamically updated widget will display all tweets (not just your own) that are using your hashtag.
Tip 5: Tracking Online Marketing Campaigns
Of course, the most helpful use of hashtags for online marketers is tracking and analysis. Take the time to set up a distinct hashtag for an occasion your brand wants to promote. Make sure to conduct research on existing hashtags so you can create something both original and meaningful.
It is important to note that hashtags are not case-sensitive, but using upper and lower case letters can make them less complicated for your followers to read and identify. It is important to craft a hashtag that is simple yet distinct. Don’t go overboard creating such complexities that only a cryptographer could decipher. It needs to be clear at a glance what your hashtag represents and how it relates to your brand identity. Good hashtags carry a balance between length, keywords, brand and uniqueness.
Tracking for Twitter:
Create a column or stream for your hashtag in an application such as HootSuite or TweetDeck. This enables you to monitor which of your promotional partners are tweeting the most often and which tweets are getting the best response.
Tracking for Facebook:
Enter the hashtag (with the #) into the search bar on top of your Facebook page. You can view the most recent updates by you and your partners that mentioned your hashtag and see how many likes, comments, shares and engagements they are receiving. This allows you to comment on posts by your fans and partners—taking part in conversations you might not have discovered had they not used your campaign hashtag.
What’s Your Hashtag Style?
Tell us how you use hashtags or what tips you’ve discovered while using the unique social terminology. What hashtag quirks annoy you? Which campaigns did you find surprisingly successful? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section.