Oh, Twitter hashtags! How do we love thee? Let us count the ways. OK, maybe we’re getting a little carried away with our love for that little iconic pound sign (#) and the words or phrases that follows it. But hashtags are pretty darn awesome. Here’s why they’re so cool, and here’s how to use them for your business.
What is a hashtag?
Simply put, it’s a way to easily identify and categorize tweets according to topics and keywords. So, for example, when the tornadoes hit Oklahoma in May, the hashtag #prayfoklahoma was created and started trending. You could organize and search on this hashtag to see all Twitter conversations related to this topic.
How do I create one?
The beauty is in its simplicity. Anyone can create a hashtag. Use the hash or pound sign (#) and follow it with a keyword or phrase (no numbers or symbols), and voila! Or use a trending hashtag that’s relevant to your tweet.
Are there any rules or guidelines?
Yep. Twitter outlines its rules and recommendations for hashtags here. Most of it is common sense: think carefully about the words you’re using. Don’t use too many tags in one tweet (Twitter recommends no more than two). Make sure your tweet is related to the hashtag.
How can I use hashtags for business?
Hashtags can provide insight on the conversations people are having about your industry, your products, your competitors, and more. Note we said “social media,” not simply Twitter. While the hashtag became popular on Twitter, you’ll see them pop up in other places, like Facebook and Google+. A great place to track hashtags is through Hashtag.org (it’s free!).
So, for example, let’s say you own a company that thermoforms plastic parts. You could do a search (and set up alerts through Hashtag.org) for hashtags like #thermoforming. What are the benefits to doing this?
- You can see what people—customers and potential customers—are talking about.
- You can respond with insight or an answer to a question and engage the person.
- The conversation might give you ideas for other content (such as blog posts or white papers).
Hashtags are great for conferences and trade shows (these entities will often set up specific hashtags for their events). What are the benefits?
- It encourages live, real-time interaction among attendees at the event. For example, a session leader could say, “Have a question? Tweet and use the hashtag #coolevent2013.”
- It helps people at the event connect with one another.
- It helps people share information they might have missed.
- It helps create buzz, excitement, and community.
Hashtags can help you track and measure promotions. Make sure you include a hashtag wherever you talk up the promotion (on your website, in blog posts, on social media, in print ads, and so forth). You can follow the hashtag and see if your customers are using it, what they’re saying about the promotion, and what the reach is. Plus, you can answer any questions and continue to engage with customers.
As hashtags evolve and grow, so, too, will the innovative ways people and businesses alike use them. So have some fun and experiment as well.
Do you use hashtags as part of your social media strategy? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.