Top ten ways to use hashtags
It’s a question we are often asked – what is a hashtag? People new to Twitter often see them hidden within tweets and can find no logical way of explaining why they are there. Why would you randomly place a hashtag in front of a word? What purpose does it serve?
A hashtag is used to mark keywords or topics in a tweet, and this acts as a way of making key words searchable for other users. For example, if we were to put a hashtag in front of the word media, like this: #media – we could then click the word and Twitter would bring up a stream of every tweet that has ever hashtagged the same word, enabling us to join other conversations about this subject and meet new tweeters. Hashtags can also be informal. Tweeters have latched onto the format of the hashtag to use it ironically, hashtagging sarcastic comments and jokes. For example, hashtags like #alwaysgooutintherainwithoutacoat are unlikely to have more than one person using it as a hashtag and is instead, an informal after note associated with one particular tweet. The most popular hashtags on Twitter are known as trending topics.
Hashtags can be really useful when used correctly so we have outlined the top ten ways to utilise hashtags to help fuel your Twitter success…..
Hashtag your key words
If you are talking about a topic that others may be interested in and may want to discuss with you on Twitter, make sure you hashtag the key words in your topic so others with similar interests can find your tweets easily. Hashtags can occur anywhere in a tweet; at the beginning, middle or end. Just make sure you are using them so people can find your content and join in the conversation.
Use hashtags only on tweets relevant to the topic
Using a hashtag that is a trending topic may put your tweet into the streams of thousands but unless you have included it in a relevant tweet, you will get little, if any gain from it. People use hashtags as a way of enticing other Twitter users to their conversation. Just like in real life, if you have nothing relevant to say, then don’t join the conversation!
Don’t over use the hashtag
There is nothing worse than tweets filled with hashtags. Not only are they difficult to read but they show you up as someone who really doesn’t know what they are doing on Twitter. It just looks like spam. Remember, people only use hashtags to search for key words – not every word! Best practice recommends you use no more than two hashtags in a tweet.
Do regular hashtag searches
Make sure you use the search functionality of hashtags effectively. Do daily searches for hashtag topics that interest you and use them to tap into conversations and increase your own Twitter community,
Don’t tweet covert acronyms
#DTCA – Know what that means? No, of course you don’t! That’s because it’s not an obvious acronym – nobody is going to know about it. That means nobody is going to search for it. In fact, putting a hashtag in front of it is a complete waste of time! If you must hashtag acronyms, make sure they are well known acronyms like AWOL or LOL and not ones that are really obscure. (This one stands for don’t tweet covert acronyms, of course!)
Run live tweets
Going to an event or conference? Set up a hashtag for that event and tweet live updates in real time, so people who cannot make the event can still follow it and get involved. It is a way of catapulting your small event to a wider audience and inviting outside participation.
Tweet your favourite television programme
Watching something interesting on TV? Tweet about it, share your thoughts and invite interaction from tweeters that share familiar interests. Many television programmes these days set their own hashtags at the beginning of the show for you to follow online.
Looking into buying a particular product? Want real reviews from people who have used it? Search Twitter by using relevant hashtags and see what everyone else has to say about it. It could make the difference between buying something useful and buying something that is overrated.
Promotions and competitions
Don’t be afraid to have fun with hashtags. Use them to run competitions. Offer a prize for the wittiest tweet about a particular subject, using a certain hashtag. Give your own products and services a hashtag and see if you can get them trending.
Advice and answers
Looking for advice on a particular topic or the answer to a question? Ask for it on Twitter and by hashtagging your key words, you can invite experts on Twitter to provide you with answers. There are particularly useful hashtags following this theme within Twitter such as #PRrequest and #journorequest that helps to bridge the gap between a journalist’s demands and a PR company’s services.
Now you’ve got your head around hashtags, here are five interesting hashtag facts:
- Twitter didn’t invent hashtags. The inventor of the hashtag was Twitter user and Google employee Chris Messina (@chrismessina). Chris is credited as the “hashtag Godfather” for an August, 2007 tweet in which he suggested using the pound sign as a way to organise groups on Twitter.
- During last year’s earthquakes in New Zealand, following the hashtag #NZearthquake gave people around the world real-time information on the situation. Britain also has a hashtag to monitor snowfall, which is #UKsnow
- Last year Entenmann’s bakery was promoting a line of low fat bakery products with the hashtag #notguilty, with pre-scheduled tweets. Unfortunately, that hashtag, was also being used to discuss the not guilty sentencing of Florida mother Casey Anthony, who was freed of suspectedly killing her daughter – Entenmann’s tweet landed right in the trial’s stream!
- At the beginning of the year McDonalds used the hashtag #McDstories to encourage twitter users to tweet their positive stories of McDonalds. However, it was hijacked within a day by thousands of twitter users sharing their negative McDonalds stories using the hashtag,
- Hashtag campaigns do sometimes work. Recently Domino’s ran a successful #letsdolunch campaign. which ran from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on March 5 and cut the price of the chain’s Pepperoni Passion Pizza by one pence every time someone tweeted the hashtag #letsdolunch. After 85,000 tweets, the price dropped from £15.99 to £7.74, and Domino’s offered that price from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. that day.