We recently received an email from one of our clients who had attended a social media seminar. He came back full of energy about how we can improve their social media strategy (which was a little questionable – a little knowledge is a dangerous thing) but one of the strategies was “we need to add lots of hashtags to our tweets”.
Now I am a big fan of hashtags, but only if used in the right context, and the email from my client made me realise that not everyone thinks of hashtags in the correct way. So this blog article is to iron out any misconceptions of what a hashtag is, and how they should be used.
Lets start at the beginning – what is a hashtag?
A hashtag # (which is called a pound sign in the states, although in the UK, we call this a pound sign £ – but that’s a whole other blog article!), is used to make a word searchable on Twitter. It is a way to categorise a message or a topic that people may be interested in following. Tip – for those that may be new to using an Apple Mac, there is no # symbol on a mac keyboard. A # can be created by clicking the alt 3 buttons together.
According to Wikipedia, the definition of a hashtag is as follows:-
When I first started out, I thought that you had to find the hashtag from some type of directory or something like that, so for the record, anyone can use a hashtag, you simply put a # in front of a keyword in a tweet.
To be successful when using hashtags, here are my top 5 tips of do’s and don’ts.
Tip 1 – Do only hashtag keywords that are relevant
Think about the types of hashtags that you will personally follow. Will you really follow something as general as #business #question #webinar? If the answer is no then why would you think that your audience would follow them either? They are too general. As a marketer you need to think about how your audience can get involved in following your hashtag. Here are some examples to get you thinking about when and where to use a hashtag:-
- If you are running an event, webinar or conference. #Olympics2012
- If you want to create a trend #conversetrainers
- Using a hashtag for a town, city or location is brilliant way of gaining new followers. #Northampton #Glasgow
- Something unique or specific (TV Programmes or news articles do this really well – such as #UKNews
- Something quirky that sumarises your mood for the day #lovemyjob #IAmInBigTrouble
Tip 2 – Do search for the hashtag before you use it!
I learned this lesson the hard way. We recently assisted with the hosting of a very large recruitment conference where we set up a Twitter Feed on a huge screen in the main hall. Anyone who was tweeting the particular hashtag was shown on this big screen and it got the whole event off the ground and worked brilliantly. Until the odd tweet kept appearing about “ladies body building”. Yes, the hashtag that I had created was already being used by a ladies body building team, which was quite embarrassing when showcased on a big screen. Lots of the recruiters who were tweeting were also now being followed by lady body builders, which was quite amusing, but not necessarily good for business!
So, I urge you all to learn from my mistake, and if you are in any doubt then please do a quick search on the hashtag first before creating a new one, especially if you intend to publicise the hashtag on marketing material.
Tip 3 – Don’t use long or hard to remember hashtags
It is important to remember that twitter only allows you to tweet 140 characters, and if you want others to RT your message then you ideally need to keep this down to 120 as a maximum. Therefore please consider the length of your hashtag before it goes live. The most successful ones are usually the easiest to remember.
Tip 5 – Don't use hashtags on other social networking platforms
Now, some social media gurus may disagree with me on this one, but I am of the opinion that a hashtag is twitter language, therefore it should be kept on twitter. If you are hashtagging a word that appears on Facebook then this makes me question if you know what you are doing? The only other platform that I am happy to hashtag a word is on Pinterest, as this is a platform that you can search for a hashtag.
Tip 5 – Do not go on a hashtag overkill
I use the rule “no more than two hashtags in any one tweet”. This way, you are telling your audience to “follow this hashtag” or “I find this hashtag useful”.
The big mistakes are those people who just fill their tweets with a list of hashtags. This is saying to your audience “I have been told about hashtags but I have no idea what they are and I think I really should hashtag every single word in every tweet just incase I am missing out on something”. In addition to this, your tweet will not read as a sentence, it will read as a list of keywords – which is not what twitter is all about. Rant over.
A good tweet with a hashtag looks like this:-
A bad tweet with a hashtag looks like this:
- How to Use Hashtags in Your Social Media Marketing (socialmediaexaminer.com)
- Why You Can't Say Hashtag in France (mashable.com)