It’s not just your voicemail # pound sign anymore. It’s a #Hashtag! See what I did there? Putting # before any word on a social media post, and it’s a hashtag. They can be helpful for strategic business or personal practice.
Here are five ways hashtags are used:
1. Searchable topics. Savvy customers (or potential customers) may search hashtags for topics or item names to find what they need quickly. Are you hashtagging content you’d like customers to find? Businesses can use well-chosen hashtags in social media posts to help customers find them. Warning: Don’t post every time with hashtags or use more than a couple within a single post, or you will be #obnoxious. #NotGood #Confusing.
2. Narrowed conversations. Following hashtagged conversations from Twitter chats during a specific designated time period (set by the organizer) can benefit your business. They cut through social media noise and offer target audience access. Participate to get and give answers real time while you establish your business as a subject authority. Warning: This isn’t a direct sales opportunity. Offer expertise, but don’t sell or spam or you will be viewed as a #HashtagHijacker. #NotCool.
3. Crowdsourcing. Put a hashtag out asking people to use it to give their input. Recently, the TODAY show spent a week promoting #inspiredby hashtag soliciting viewers to share their inspirations, promising some would be aired. It was a nice way to gain viewership and promote positivity before Thanksgiving. Warning: Poorly-chosen hashtags can mean trouble for even large companies. Search “bad hashtags” and you’ll see what I mean. Monitoring is key.
4. Event engagement. People attending a conference or event want to use the “official” hashtag when posting about it. Establish your event’s official, easy-to-remember hashtag early. Include it in promotions and onsite. Monitor and respond to posts using it. Participants will react with delight, notice you’re taking notice, and post more during and after the event (great bonus event and sponsor exposure)!
5. Hot topics and tracking. Recently, I’ve had the pleasure to work on the #itsAaron project with Gruber Law Offices and Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. It was trending locally and nationally and shared our consumer Kelly’s story and the nonprofit services of IndependenceFirst. Seeing reactions and viral sharing with the hashtag allowed us to respond across platforms, developing deeper relationships around its impact and sharing our gratitude. It also added fuel to the trending hashtag. You can follow trending hashtags anytime to see what people are talking about and evaluate your own post with the hashtag.
BONUS: Hashtags can also show your lighthearted side and give your personal, professional or business’ brand something more to love. For example, on Twitter @JimmyFallon uses a weekly humorous crowdsourcing hashtag. His video with Justin Timberlake titled “#hashtag” is also worth a look.
— Carol Voss is PR and marketing director at Milwaukee-based IndependenceFirst.