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Hashtags - 7 ways to use them in your marketing

When hashtags were finally recognised by Facebook in the summer of 2013,  and by Google Plus in the Autumn of that same year,  they had effecively achieved across the board recognition in terms of social media. 

So you might be surprised that the original idea of hashtags had actually been muted in 2007 when Chris Messina posted a blog in which he explained “I’m more interested in simply having a better eavesdropping experience on Twitter. To that end, I focused my thinking on contextualisation, content filtering and exploratory serendipity within the Twittosphere”

(I love that phrase “exploratory serendipity”!)

Now, the first hashtag  was used during the San Diego fire on October 23rd 2007 - #sandiegofire – but it was not officially adopted by Twitter until August 2009.

So why use hashtags? Well effectively as a filter to help you find users/content grouped under one hashtag setting and -  where appropriate - join in on the conversation.

For example during the Olympics you could join in on the commentary of hundreds of strangers sharing their excitement through the inclusion of  #Olympics in their posts. Isn't that brilliant? It’s easy to use hashtags and, if you never have, here are some simple rules:

  • The words that follow a hashtag are run together without a space
  • Make them focused – everyday words won’t make the grade so #worldcup but not #football
  • Test your hashtags to find out which work best for you.  Apparently the White House team tested 26 different versions for a State of the Union Address before settling on the most successful 7.
  • Don’t use more than two hashtags in one post, one is better. Remember it’s a label for your content – there’s a reason why jars only have one label – more than that confuses! 
  • Be careful your hashtag cannot be misconstrued. UK tweeters talking about the death of Margaret Thatcher used #nowthatchersdead – in the States this caused some consternation who read this as “Now that Cher’s dead…”

So how might hashtags be used to help you market your business?

  1. Did you know that up and down the land you'll see local businesses talking together on Twitter at agreed times?  For example #fleethour brings together businesses around Fleet in Hampshire between the hours of 8pm and 9pm on a Tuesday. Definitely check out if your local area is doing that if you‘ve not already done so!
  2. Are you working with third parties to help you promote your products or services? Using a hashtag will allow you to track how effective this is even when they have forgotten to include your @name
  3. Take a look at hashtag searches around your own expertise.  Why not solve problems whilst including one of those hashtags?  For example #marketingtips are often looked for - why not be a regular provider of great ones?
  4. Hashtags are a great way of putting humour across – always good to build relationships with your target market.  For example, here in the UK we might say “Heard its going to be hot and sunny next week #justseenaflyingpig
  5. Is your product or service complementary to a niche topic?  Why not piggy back on a popular hashtag that has appeal to your likely target market for example you might be producing great soups from only #organicvegetables
  6. You can see trending hashtags on the sidebar of Twitter making it easy to join in the conversation. But - cardinal rule – join in only if your product/service is relevant to that hashtag not just to jump on a bandwagon.  That would make you very unpopular.
  7. On Facebook using a hashtag in front of a word turns that word into a clickable link - what a great way to drive traffic to a certain place.
When I recently ran a Twitter workshop I was amused to hear about one of my attendee’s daughters who, on hearing where her Mother was going, made the sign of a hashtag with her fingers and said “cool”.  So hashtags have even moved into speech.

Now whilst I love to hear how language evolves in that way you have to be careful about overdoing it. Here’s a great video showing what might otherwise become of us all...


Thanks to Ken Varnum on Flickr for the great pic

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