My dirty little secret: I am clueless when it comes to hashtags. Here is what I don’t know: much.
I know just enough to not use them and yet I am not quite sure why. I rather feel like the kid not picked for a playground softball team. Everybody else is all in, but I am not even sure where in is!
#LeftOutNoMore. So I went undercover to see the workings of this ubiquitous tool that everybody but me uses, and I am quite willing to share my newfound expertise.
Basic Hashtag 101
What is it?
A hashtag is simply a keyword phrase, spelled out without spaces, with a pound sign (#) in front of it. For example, #InboundHour and #ChocolateLovers are both hashtags.
You find the hashtag above the 3 on your keyboard. Also goes by the name of “Number symbol,” “”Pound sign,” “Tic-tac-toe box,” and “Thingie.” Sometimes answers to “Whatchacallit.”
And this is good thing, why?
Using social media marketing, you can quickly identify your specific target market and thus aim your marketing campaign to the folks who may want it, need it, or want to find out more. For example, if i am selling hand-made dog collars (I’m not, but I might), using the hashtag #doglovers would put me in the right neighborhood for potential customers! See! Easy-peasy.
Want more? Here is the Hashtag History
Here is where the hashtag originates: Cricket. Okay, no one is really sure (and few really care).
Theories abound however. Some believe it all started in early printing days when the ingenious Brits used it to represent the British pound. The letters “lb” seemingly can be represented by the #, if you have a vivid imagination and time on your hands.
But # became more noticeable and more generally used when Bell Labs, the famous telephone folks, replaced finger dialing with the touchpad dialing system. They did 15 minutes or so of research and calculated that users preferred the # to the *. So the #, then called “The Pound Key” became the go-to button for phone users when they were instructed to hit it, pound it (hee-hee get it?) or “Press the pound key.” They even gave it a new name that no one noticed or remotely cared about: # was known at the Labs as the “Octothorp” for a brief moment in time.
But # became more than an obscure symbol sitting placidly above the 3 key when a small group of tekkies using Internet Relay Chat (IRC) needed a way to sort the huge long trail of emails into something searchable.
They arbitrarily starting using the # to define sub-groups and improved the organizing of topics and sub-topics. A group member, Chris Messina, mentioned this neat tool to the one of the founding Twitter developers, Evan Williams, who reluctantly incorporated it as way to categorize and organize tweets on feed. Boom!
By 2009, users regularly began to hyperlink hashtags from Tweets to search results via the hashtag text. Once Twitter users were able to search for specific hashtags, Twitter exploded and use skyrocketed.
For more details on this thrilling origin story, read Joe Fortunato’s great article.
So now we know Hashtag. So what?
We now know twitter and other social gathering spots use the # users to quickly join or initiate a conversation by tapping into a shared group consensus. Since Twittyworld has billions of topics to sift through, one can find a like user group by searching for a group using the #, as in #twitterdummies. Try it. You’ll find you are not alone.
Fun perhaps. But even more important, hashtags are becoming essential for business marketing.
While a hashtag is a powerful tool to market your business, product, service, or message, it needs to be approached with a specific marketing goal. You want to portray your brand in the exact light that that meets your goals. Be creative and courageous with your hashtag, and you could be the next big trending topic!
5 Creative Ways to Use Hashtags for Business Marketing
1) Local Hashtag
Social media users love to post their location with a hashtag and search for people with the same location. For companies that are locally based, using a local hashtag is the best way to gain exposure through the hashtag system. Local tagging will increase views from specified local areas. Those who are in need of a local service will frequently look up the a hashtag to see what new posts that will come up. Posting new and interesting items with local hashtags will keep your content relevant and searchable.
Example of Local Tagging: #Charleston #SouthCarolina #websitedesigner
2) Brand Name Hashtag
The best way to market a brand is by a hashtag! Businesses can increase their brand popularity and grow their brand identity by constantly adding new posts with their brand name hash-tagged.
When branding a business brand name, always keep it short and sweet. For brand popularity to increase through a social media platform, a business must have an easy to read company brand that has a bit of a knack to it which will stick to people’s minds.
Example of Brand Tagging: #CWB #CharlestonWebBuilder
3) Trending Items Hashtag
Trending items are known to generate the most views and searches. When a new breaking story erupts, it’s a great idea to add that trending stories hashtag on your post. For bloggers, it is common to write blog posts about the next trending item so it will be easily seen.
Example of Trending Items Tagging: #breakingnews #newstorytitle
4) Holidays/Seasons/Activity Hashtag
Holidays, seasons, and activities are some of the most searched hashtags. Holidays get the most views during specific holiday dates. Seasons like summer, winter, spring, and fall will also get tons of views during these periods. Activities are also searched on when current. If your business is going to a convention, hashtagging that convention will certainly get views and followers from those individuals who went to the same event. Getting involved in events and pre-hash tagging that you will be attending will also gain followers and views.
Example of Holiday, Season, and Activity Tagging: #Xmas #Easter #Summer #Spring #BunnyHunt #techconvention2018
5) Keyword Targeting Hashtag
Every business on the web has a keyword targeting goal. Use up to 3 main keywords to always hashtag on your social media profiles. Targeting your keywords through the hashtag system is a proven way to become visible to relevant social media users.
Example of Keyword Tagging: #shorttailedkeyword #longtailkeyword #onekeyword
Although there is no character limit for hashtags, overusing hashtags will not gain as much exposure as predicted. It is important for all hashtag users to note that too many hashtags may look spammy on a post. Adding new content with up to 3 hashtags is the best way to keep content professional and visible.
Targeting demographics with hashtags is a direct way to find your exact audience.. Create a study of how many users (age range and gender) will post frequently with a certain hashtag. If your goal is to become a Fortune 500 company, using hashtag #Inspo may guarantee likes from teenagers. Unless teenage branding is your market, you may want to try something a bit more advanced and keyword related.
- #keepitsimple – Users will remember a short hashtag, not a long one
- #dont #tweet #like #this – You”ll get skipped right over by ever user, except 13 year old girls
- #chooseyourmessage #wisely – Mcdonalds learned that the hard way with #McDStories
- #searchforkeywords – Search through relevant hashtags in your target demographic to find popular tags
- #promoteyourevents – look at #OccupyWallStreet as an example
- #useaurlshortener – Bit.ly, TinyURL, etc. Pick your favorite.
A hashtag is a powerful tool to market your business, product, service, or message, but needs to be approached with a specific strategy in mind that will portray your brand in the exact light that you would like it to be. Be creative and courageous with your hashtag, and you could be the next big trending topic!