Hashtag: a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic.
The lovable hashtag has become an important part of the communication funnel of social media. A veritable tidal wave of content is being produced, distributed and promoted on social media every minute of every day and hashtags provide a simply way anyone can search for specific, topical content.
Every major social network now allows the use of hashtags and understanding why they’re such an important part of social media marketing is even more important.
Hashtags allow us to sift through the thousands of updates we receive daily from friends, colleagues and businesses, as well to find new people to interact with and new conversations to follow. They give us the ability to track conversations about our brand and our products, our competitors and their products like never before. They can also keep us informed on what’s going on in our industry (or with our favorite sports teams and celebrities).
Here are 10 things you need to know about hashtags and their place social media marketing.
1. Hashtags have a few basic rules.
For starters, spaces are an absolute no-no. Even if your hashtag contains multiple words, group them all together. To differentiate between words use capitals (#OrangeAir). Uppercase letters will not alter your search results, so searching for #OrangeAir will yield the same results as #orangeair. Numbers are supported, so tweet about #50ShadesOfGrey to your heart’s content. However, punctuation marks are not, so commas, periods, exclamation points, question marks and apostrophes are out. Forget about asterisks, ampersands or any other special characters.
2. Hashtags require a specific format.
Keep in mind the @ symbol does something completely different. Using @ before a person’s Twitter handle will tweet at him directly (a direct, private message), letting them know you have written via the @Connect tab. A hashtag will not. Sometimes users will hashtag a celebrity’s name instead of using her Twitter handle — it is acceptable to tweet #SteveMartin or @iamstevemartin (his actual Twitter handle). If you are trying to reach someone directly, don’t ever use a hashtag.
3. Hashtags require social media manners.
There is no preset list of hashtags. To create a brand new hashtag simply put the hash before a word or series of words, and if it hasn’t been used before, voilà! You’ve invented a hashtag. However… and this is a big however, DO NOT fill your Tweets or messages with more than two (possibly) three hashtags at the very most. Additionally, if you’re going to create your own hashtags, keep in mind a good hashtag is one other people will search. Putting a hashtag in front of a long stream of consciousness will NEVER generate any buzz (except in your own head).
4. Hashtags allow for highly specific audience targeting.
When targeting messages to specific groups of people, there’s no better way than by using relevant hashtags. For instance, if you’re looking to market to people who have just purchased plane tickets on Orange Air to Cancun you could use #cancun. Then, anyone who’s searching social networking sites for conversations about vacations in Cancun has the potential to find your messages.
5. Hashtags allow you to monitor your personal or brand reputation.
By monitoring hashtags related to your brand or products, you can always know what people are saying about your business or brand. If you’re NOT monitoring these hashtags, the conversation’s still going to be happening….you’re just not going to know about it. Trust me; it’s always better to know.
6. Hashtags allow you to perform better customer service.
In the same way that tracking your company hashtags allows you to monitor your reputation, it also allows you to find and respond to comments, complaints and kudos quickly and efficiently. By monitoring mentions of your brand, you can make sure you always know what’s being said, and can respond as quickly as possible. Again, I want to reiterate, it’s better to know.
7. Hashtags allow you to keep an eye on your competition.
Do you want to know what people are saying about your competition on social media? Simply run a search for hashtags related to their business name or products. This can be very telling. You’ll see how often they’re receiving complaints and how timely their response. This will give you valuable insight and the ammo to set yourself apart from them when it comes to customer service.
8. Hashtags allow you to hear what’s going on in your industry.
Hashtags are a powerful way to keep track of what’s happening in your niche or industry. For example, if you’re an ad agency copywriter, you may want to track hashtags like #content, #contentstrategy or #contentmarketing. Industry related hashtags will give you the advantage of knowing what your peers are talking about, and the opportunity to participate in the conversation.
9. Hashtags allow you to promote special events, contests and deals.
Creative, easy-to-remember hashtags can be created for special events, deals and promotions/promotions to facilitate easy sharing, as well as easy campaign tracking. For example when the city of New York runs their annual photo contest, they use the hashtag #LoveNYC. This allows them to easily track contest entries (more than 10K last year) and conversations that are related to the campaign.
10. Hashtags Help You Find Relevant Twitter Chats.
A Twitter chat is a pre-arranged “meeting” on Twitter where like-minded people get together and discuss a topic. There is usually a moderator and sometimes a set of questions that help to guide the conversation forward. If you’re looking to engage with your target audience and show them what an industry expert you are, use hashtags to find current Twitter chats relevant to your business or interests and join in!
The next time you’re looking for a social media conversation to join, why not try searching for one using relevant hashtags?