Used effectively, hashtags can boost the reach of your social influence and help more customers find your business. Here are ten ways to use hashtags for business, plus some helpful hashtag infographics that provide proof of the power of the hashtag in strengthening social marketing efforts.
A Little #Hashtag #Etiquette Lesson Can Boost Your Social Marketing IQ
Using hashtags appropriately can improve your social marketing results – and keep you from annoying fans, followers and friends. Here are ten tips to help you tweak your social strategy and boost your social network ROI.
Musicians know it as the symbol for sharps, but most of us only new the # as a pound sign until it was adopted for use as a content categorizer and officially labeled as a “hashtag.” While its historical timeline infographic begins in 2007, it should be noted that these metatags have actually been around since 1988, when they were first used on a platform known as IRC, or Internet Relay Chat. Twitter officially embraced the hashtag for use on its platform during the summer of 2009.
10 Ways to Use Hashtags that Will Make It One of Your Favorite Social Tools
1. Use them for what they were meant for.
It is easy to fall into the habit of using hashtags in useless ways, especially if you don’t know what it really is. A hashtag, is a word or unspaced phrase prefixed with the number sign (a.k.a. pound sign) “#.” (Wikipedia.com) Words or unspaced phrases preceded by the hashtag help to categorize messages on microblogging and social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram, among others.
We found some helpful examples on hashtag.org with a list of 10 Twitter Hashtags for Business:
Someone looking for content on social networks related to Small Business Saturday could simply search for the hashtag term to bring up a list of content on the topic.
2. Don’t use hashtags uselessly.
Many people knowingly – or unknowingly – use hashtags ineffectively by creating hashtags around phrases that are too obscure. For instance, while an aspiring business professional might look for content on dressing for the workplace with a hashtag such as #dressforsuccess, they are not likely to do so with a hashtag such as #whatshouldiweartowork.
Hashtags are not meant to create emphasis or be humorous. They are meant to help categorize content. Think of the millions – billions? – of social updates added to the digital universe each and every day. Adding a hashtag is like creating a file folder that then houses each and every one of the updates that includes that particular hashtag, so that someone who is looking for it can find it.
3. Use hashtags only where they are meant to be used.
You can use hashtags on just about any social networks; however, each social network probably has its own set of guidelines and best practices when it comes to use on their particular platform.
4. Don’t insert hashtags where they don’t work.
If a publishing platform or social network does not recognize the hashtag as a content categorization tool, do not use a hashtag on that platform. Besides working against best practices for the platform, it can also detract from what you are saying since the # sign is disruptive to readers.
5. Use hashtags as often as possible when it will benefit your content or your brand… We post several social network status updates daily, and most will include a hashtag, even when the content is not linking back to our website or blog. Sometimes the hashtag is a keyword, and sometimes it is a brand name. One reason we do this is so that other brands and publishers will see that we are helping to promote their content. This often results in retweets of our brand’s content to their own followers and helps earn us new followers as well.
6. …but don’t use too many.
It’s easy to get excited about using hashtags – even too excited. Overusing hashtags devalues their strength, according to Twitter, who recommends using no more than two tweets per update. It’s more important to clearly communicate the actual update, article title or message than it is to add hashtags. Before posting a social update, take time to evaluate it as though you were an average reader and as though the update was appearing as one of hundreds in your social network’s feed.
7. Assign hashtags to campaigns and events, and incentivize viral use.
Let’s say that your social networks consist of a few hundred followers. One way to make your updates go viral and better publicize a campaign or gain new social followers is to assign a specific hashtag and reward people that help share and promote your updates to their own networks with a coupon, discount or chance to win in a prize drawing. In this way, your social updates can go far beyond your own networks and reach hundreds or even thousands of other people represented in your target audiences.
Another way brands use hashtags is during live events, like conferences, seminars, webinars and similar events. This is called live-tweeting. When participants attach the event’s hashtag, it acts both to publicize the brand’s event (and therefore, the brand itself) to their networks of followers and also acts as a bookmark, so that sponsors and participants can pull up information about the event or research participation and feedback afterward.
8. Choose a brand hashtag.
Your brand’s hashtag could be your business name, such as #MarketingDesks or #TheMarketingDesks but it could also be a catchphrase or tagline, such as KitKat’s #HaveABreak. Unlike a campaign hashtag which will change often, your brand’s hashtag should live forever (or at least a long, long time!) so choose wisely!
9. Make hashtags obvious and memorable.
As we mentioned previously, hashtags that are too long, complex, or unlikely to be used to search for information are useless. When someone sees your hashtag, it should be fairly easy for them to associate it with a specific meaning, campaign or brand. Plus, with some luck and word-smithing, you should also be able to come up with campaign and event hashtags that are clever, amusing or provocative enough to be memorable.
10. Use hashtags in print communications to drive consumers to take digital actions.
Even retailers that sell only in brick-and-mortar locations need to increase consumer engagement online. Use hashtags to promote sales or special events that are promoted using vehicles that take tangible forms (postcards and other mailers, table tents, coasters, business cards, etc.) to drive consumers onto your website and social networks to subscribe, follow, connect, like, share, etc.