What’s a Hashtag?
It starts with the # character or number sign and is attached to the front of words, invented terms and abbreviations, and phrases. Hashtags are used on many social networks as well as photo/image, video, artwork, blog and article sharing sites. They are used for a broad number of reasons, and while many instances and tags will be of no use to the business user, he should be aware of at least a few key uses of hashtags, so he knows what he is looking at when reading posts, updates, and content shared with tags:
- Company, Produce & Brand Indicators: These are created and shared (retweeted/re-shared) by people representing businesses/products, as well as their fans and non-fans as well. #iphone5 is hot, as of this writing, as is #applesucks. Any post we share on RiteTag will get the #RiteTag hashtag, and a search of #ritetag in Google+ will show what our team and site users are saying about the tag optimization tool.
- Campaigns: these may be businesses with time-restricted offers, such as Burger King’s #99centwhopper or the far more interesting case of #MeetTheFarmers, a campaign meant to highlight McDonald’s focus on freshness. The cautionary tale of how their initiation of #McDStories went wrong is detailed in Business Insider‘s McDonald’s Twitter Campaign Goes Horribly Wrong #McDStories
- Events: Social Media Day became #SMDay, and besides this main tag, local versions were spawned which help keep track of the latest information on local real-life events in cities such as Tokyo: #smdaytokyo. Neal Schaffer has great ideas for Social Media Event Marketing – beginning with the creation and promotion of an event hashtag.
- Topic Organization: if you are aiming to get eyes on a Kicktarter crowdfunding campaign, you would probably tag a link shared to Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest and other networks with (topic) tagging with #crowdfunding and #kickstarter. More, later, on finding and optimizing with hashtags that are actually most prolifically used and closely related to your topics.
- Expressing Sentiments: you will see #omg (“oh my god”) and #hateit often, and a slew of positive and some very negative sentimental topic hashtags as well.
- Content-type Classification: many social media users like to help their readers with an #idea of what they can expect to find from a tiny URL shared in an update by adding tags such as #photo, #dealoftheday, #caturday, #fidofriday, #love, #video, or for mouth-watering images, #foodporn.
- Twitter Chats: Twitter users can quickly open a Hootsuite column or a tweetchat page and track/interact with other people, regardless of whether they follow each other, by tracking and frequently refreshing a search of a tag such as #blogchat, #tchat, #bizchat, at the givin times when they are “in play” (usually this is for one hour per week).
Where are Hashtags used?
People tend to associate the hashtag convention with Twitter, but over thirty networks for sharing updates, photos, affiliate and selling offers – such as ebay and istockphoto – have #hashtags always in play. Notably, the social network with the most users, Facebook, allows you to tag pages and people, but not topics.
What to do, to start using Hashtags
Engage on tags relevant to your business, and likely tracked by your target clientele. If you are marketing instant-setup kiosks, reply to those using #malls, #event and so on, and use them yourself with information on your products and offers.
Keep them brief and get them in early. Understand that nearly all social sharing platforms have text-length limitations, and often truncate long updates when they get re-shared. While #loveforjapan or #japanearthquake may appear to be great tags for information about a major earthquake in Japan, #jpquake is better, particularly in Twitter, since it eats up far less of the 140 charters that a tweet is limited to. Using is early in a tweet or update reduces the chance that the hashtag will be cut off if the tweet/update gets retweeted/reshared.
Create a hashtag and use it consistently. Start with one, a character-brief one, and use it regularly. Order a RiteTag report for your tag, to see if it is in use already, to what extent (you might be able to overtake it in instances of use), and what other hashtags your term/tag is already associated with. For example, for #socialsharingoptimization, I like to use #sso – but am well aware that this it used by far more people to mean “Single Sign On,” “Saturday Shout Out” and number of other things, depending on which network it is used in.
Track hashtags you use (and those talking about you). Tweetdeck, Hootsuite and a number of other social dashboard tools (most with free versions) allow you to open a column to follow updates tagged with a hashtag. I use Hootsuite, which allows me to follow up to three hashtags in Twitter in a single column. Focus on and join in conversations, whether you follow tag users or not, based on the tags they are using.
What to do if you only know your topics, not your hashtags?
Don’t already know which hashtags to engage on? And before you “create” one, you now want to see if and how it might already be in play?
Where do you go to learn which hashtags are best for the social networks and content sharing sites you use for business?
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