Do you know your hashtag (#) from your at-sign (@)?
Well, you expect most tech-savvy people to know what it means and what its importance is, but surprisingly there are still a significant number of people out there who neither know what it stands for nor appreciate its significance. Why is that important? Well, its use is now common place on most social media platforms with Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram all using this format symbol to organise content. What’s more this humble, often-overlooked, symbol now plays a vital role in a marketing context. How vital? Well, research by BuddyMedia suggests that the humble hashtag can potentially increase engagement by up to 100 per cent. The moral of the story is if you don’t really know what a hashtag does or how it can be of benefit to your business then it high time you learned.
Before we offer a few tips on using hashtags more effectively, it’s perhaps worth just debunking one popular misconception about the hashtag.
The hashtag is an organisational tool, not just a slick symbol for drawing attention to your online content, though it can serve this purpose when used correctly. The bottom line is, if you don’t use the tool correctly, it won’t be of benefit at all.
#the right words.
If you’re interested in a particular football club, you wouldn’t search the social networks using the term #football, would you? If you did you may well eventually get the results you’re after, but you’d have to work your way through a lot of dross and irrelevant content before you got there. If you searched for #MUFC or, #MCFC, you’d instantly get the results you wanted -other football clubs are available, of course! Hashtags help to organise content, so for that reason your hashtags need to specific and focused.
Test your #.
How can you tell if you’re using the right hashtags? By testing – of course. One of the most-famous hashtags which grabbed worldwide attention was used by the Whitehouse. However, its hashtag for the President’s State of the Union address wasn’t conceived on a whim. 26 different possibilities were originally chosen before they settled on the final 7 successful hashtags. The Whitehouse chose the hashtags that resonated best with each audience and it also chose different hashtags for different social media platforms. How can you tell whether your chosen hashtag will speak to your particular audience? Well do the research on your chosen platforms and see what words have proved to be most-effective, and then try your spin on these words on your own audience.
# less is more.
Whilst it’s possible to use more than one hashtag in a message, it’s not a practice that’s particularly recommended. If your message is littered with hashtags readers will view your posting as spam. Ideally you should stick to one hashtag: two at a push if it’s relevant, but certainly no more. You should also avoid the temptation to use hashtags in every message. Doing this will only dilute the message and irritate readers. Remember, hashtags are organisational tools, so only use them when it makes sense to use them.
Use # to create brand engagement.
The true power of the hashtag is its ability to connect and associate your brand with new and relevant events. If you can use them successfully you’ll be able to drive new readers to your social media presence, and therefore be given an opportunity to engage with them. Well-crafted hashtags can not only improve your visibility, but help you improve relationships with customers. The important thing to remember is that when you spark up an online conversation with a follower or reader after successfully using a hashtag is not to use it again when you respond.