Originating on Twitter, hashtags are now universal when it comes social media currency. That’s why it’s important for businesses and brands to understand how to use them well. The seemingly insignificant pound sign is a crucial part of social media interactions. If you get them wrong, they can turn from hashtags into bashtags, which is something McDonald’s learned that cost them two years ago. On the other hand, hashtags done well offer many benefits to brands. Here are eight of them.
1. Relevance and Context
Image via Flickr by Maria Elena
Want to be on-trend? Using the right hashtags will help show your customers that you’re tuned into the events of the moment. There are hashtags for sporting events (#sochi), countries (#Israel), and more. Using them is a way to plug your brand into the social media stream and join the conversation.
Also, if you produce topic-relevant content, then the using the right hashtags can help others to connect with that content and find you. It’s a great way to extend your reach. Check out the trending topics on every social site to get started.
2. Search and Content Discovery
Recent stats show 500 million tweets are sent per day. Can you imagine how many social media updates there are in total? That’s a lot of content for people to wade through when they want to reach you. Hashtags help to organize and filter that content, so people can find what matters to them. On most sites, clicking on a hashtag (like #Google) will bring up a stream of content for that keyword, helping you to discover who else is talking about the same topics and what they are saying. You can also discover related hashtags (people often use more than one) and use these for your own updates.
Think you can’t endow your brand with personality in 140 characters? Think again. Hashtags are the perfect tools to help you to do this. As Susan Orlean points out on the New Yorker, hashtags offer a commentary on the rest of your tweet (or other social media update). She calls it the “muttered into a handkerchief” effect. It’s like speaking almost under your breath as you leave the room (example: #justsayin). Done well, this can be funny and help others see beyond the brand logo to the people behind it.
If you are tweeting for business, then using a hashtag is a great way to add some extra branding to your tweets and make them stand out from the millions of tweets happening every day. Coca-Cola does this really well, using different hashtags for its different initiatives. Examples are #cricketwithCoke and #OpenHappiness2014.
5. They are Everywhere
Hashtags may have started on Twitter, but over the years, they have spread to all the major social media sites. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and LinkedIn all use hashtags in some way. They have caught on massively with web users, so you have to follow.
6. Social Campaign Tracking
With hashtags now used on all the major social media networks, using them is a great way to make sure that all your social media content has the same branding, via a brand hashtag. This also works for campaigns, as Pepsi has shown in the past with multi-platform Superbowl promotions. Using the same hashtag across multiple social media platforms will really make it spread, and you will find it easier to track your progress with social media analytics tools.
7. Meeting New People
Hashtags help you connect with the people you don’t already know, a great point made on Social Media Today. This is invaluable if you are looking to increase your reach. If people are using a hashtag that interests you, then you know they share your interest, so you already have something to talk about. It’s also worth using Twitter chats (organized around particular hashtags) to promote your brand by being an authoritative information source.
8. How to Use Hashtags Effectively
Now that you know how important hashtags are, here are some tips on using them effectively:
- Make them unique: Wix.com advises using “clear, unique and relevant hashtags.” In other words, when using a hashtag, make sure users will understand the context and relevance. And it’s also worth checking your planned hashtag on Hashtags.org to make sure it’s not already in use by someone else.
- Use trends: Tune in to trends via Google Trends, trending topics on the social sites, or using a site like Social Mention. It’s a good way to find the most relevant hashtags so you can use them too.
- Limit the numbers: Avoid using more than three hashtags, especially on Twitter, otherwise there’s not enough room for comments when people re-share.
- Use humor: Don’t be afraid to make up your own hashtags where needed.
Hashtags are the new language of social media. Use them wisely, and your brand will trend on every social media site.