As social media continues to be a driving force in customer relationships and even contributes to your companies overall sales, it is important to learn to use it correctly and effectively to gain the largest audience possible and to make the most of your valuable time that is dedicated to this marketing platform.
If you have decided that Twitter is the social media platform your business should focus on, then it is time to understand how to use the hashtag. This is one of the most important and powerful tools you will have at your fingertips. Hashtags have also taken over Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, and many more, but it’s original roots are from Twitter.
In this article we will focus on the Twitter hashtag, but the same principles apply on just about any other social media platform. So don’t worry, once you master the Twitter hashtag, you can use the same principles across most other platforms.
And of course, the hashtags you create for your marketing should be the same, no matter what social media platform you use.
What is a Hashtag?
Well, this is a hashtag: #
But a hashtag is much more than the symbol. It is a powerful tool, because by adding that simple symbol in front of a word or phrase, you are instantly creating hypertext that links back to all instances of that same hashtag.
Hashtags are ways to organize tweets or posts into categories of information. For example, this specific tweet from our Twitter account classifies itself as being about #socialmedia.
— BizTraffic (@BizTSocial) September 5, 2014
This hashtag allows Twitter users to easily search through anything that is tagged with this hashtag. This is a more common hashtag, so the results for this hashtag will most likely be very large and change often.
When you click on any hashtag, note that there will be a “Top” selection and an “All” selection (see image).
Top will yield results based on popularity, whereas All will yield results in real time. It will show you a stream of people who have posted using the hashtag, with the most recent one at the very top.
Think of the hashtag as a link to a wealth of information, just like a Google search or some other way information is classified based on keywords. In fact, you can click on the tweet in this blog post and it will take you to Twitter and the #socialmedia search results.
You may be a little confused here if you’ve used Twitter in the past to actually search words or terms. Twitter does indeed allow you to search “social media” without the hashtag, which pulls up lots of results that are not the same as #socialmedia.
So what is the benefit of using #socialmedia vs using just social media? If you can search through the #socialmedia with just one click of the text, then this is going to be a much quicker and efficient way to search information. Searching actual terms may be useful in some instances, but hashtags are much more user friendly and can result in higher clicks on your tweet.
How To Create a Hashtag
You create a hashtag very deliberately.
You want it to be something that can stand alone as a hashtag and still make sense. It also needs to be fairly simple and easy to remember, as well as not taking up too many characters due to the character restrictions of Twitter.
Remember that someone may have used your hashtag before you, so always search and see if this is already a popular hashtag and if those who may use it are going to end up lost in a sea of other, unrelated tweets using the same hashtag. You may have to work on tweaking the hashtag until you find a variation that works.
But, users tend to use hashtags as they want, so don’t be surprised if your hashtag is not accepted. It may not make sense to anyone, or there may be a better variation that you choose to stay away from because of its previous use.
Just be flexible and keep an eye on how users are using your hashtags. And respond to those who may not use it right if at all possible! Users don’t HAVE to use your hashtag, they don’t have to engage with you at all. So give them room to tweet what they want.
And keep in mind that there can be many ways to read one, seemingly innocent hashtag (we don’t want another #susanalbumparty incident).
When To Use Hashtags
If your looking to get more eyes on your posts, and hopefully gain more followers, using a hashtag that is commonly used like #socialmedia or #marketing may be a good way to begin experimenting, especially if you have Twitter Analytics set up and can see what kind of impressions and engagements your tweets are receiving. Just remember creating unique hashtags just for your business should eventually be a part of your plan.
Using hashtags to create a larger conversation and more engagement should be the goal. Here are 3 common ways to use the hashtag for your Twitter marketing:
Let’s say your hosting an event and want to gain some Twitter love. Create a unique hashtag and ask event attenders to tweet as they see fit using a simple, easy to use hashtag. Let’s say BizTraffic hosted a conference, we could call it #BizTConference14 or #BizTConf14, or really anything that creates a way to categorize tweets and isn’t super long. Or let’s say you have a new product or book coming out. You can hashtag the product or book title.
2. Twitter Chats
Let’s say we wanted to have a chat with our followers and let them ask anything they wanted about online marketing. We could promote the chat session, and create a hashtag (something like #BizTChat). Then, followers could treat questions or comments using the hashtag, and whoever was designated to be answering those questions could click on the hashtag to see all results and respond to those questions.
3. Ask Questions
This is personally a favorite when it comes to engaging in discussions on Twitter. I’m a huge reader, so of course I follow Reading Rainbow and I feel like they do this particularly well:
The right books often appear when we need them. Which books have helped you thru challenging life events? #BooksSavedMe
— Reading Rainbow (@readingrainbow) September 9, 2014
I often respond to their hashtags, and it sparks some great conversations. They’ve done multiple book related hashtags that make the tweets personal. This is successful hashtag marketing. Find ways to make your product or service one that is personal, and ask your followers why in a specific way. This will create a much greater response than a generic #socialmedia hashtag.
Hashtag marketing is an important part of using social media platforms. Users were using hashtags long before Twitter or any other platform implemented the hypertext aspect of hashtags. This goes to show the importance of the hashtag for users: the created it and adopted it long before social media platforms did, therefore they find it an important feature when it comes to interacting on social media.
Use this to your marketing advantage by creating clever and fun hashtags that will encourage engagement with your brand. Social media should be fun and unique, so use hashtag marketing as such.
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