With Twitter proving itself to be a powerful marketing tool that enables businesses to reach a wider audience, many marketers are keen to learn more about hashtags. But what exactly are they and what are they used for?
According to the social media giant, "The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorise messages."1 In other words, they are a convenient way to group related tweets together and allow users to locate specific topics and events.
You can either join in on a conversation by finding a # already in use, or start your own conversation by creating a new one. For example, if you wanted to follow tweets about MasterChef, you could do a search on #MasterChef and it would pull up all the conversations categorised under that hashtag. You can also click on the #MasterChef from anywhere on the site and get the same result.
In spite of Twitter's popularity, many small businesses have yet to harness the power of hashtags in their marketing campaigns, which can be used to create a buzz about a brand, promote an event or build a temporary community. A hashtag allows users to become part of the conversation, potentially reaching large numbers of people who might be interested in your brand or product.
Additionally, if a hashtag becomes popular enough, it can 'trend' on the site, giving companies even more exposure through being featured as a trending topic on news feeds.
<>Starting a trend>
While joining in on someone else's hashtag is a great way to connect with other users and meet new people, it's easy to become lost amongst all the noise. As such, many companies strive to create their own hashtag that others will adapt.
One example of a company using hashtags to great effect was Volkswagen, who hid tickets to the Planeta Terra Festival all over Sao Paulo, Brazil. The catch was that only users who Tweeted #foxatplanetaterra had access to a Google map that revealed the location of the tickets.
Within two hours of the campaign, it was a trending topic in Brazil. The campaign was a great success due to its highly interactive and targeted nature, and remarkable cost-effectiveness.2
<>Using hashtags effectively>
Since there can be confusion on how to use hashtags, here some are some tips for using them effectively:
As mentioned earlier, create your own unique hashtag in order to create a buzz around your brand or product.
Check to see if your desired # is already in use by using the search tool.
Keep it branded so users can identify the company behind it.
Keep it simple and direct. Shy away from long-winded hashtags containing multiple words, as they can be confusing and hard for users to find.
Use them in conjunction with contests and giveaways and ask people to tweet them.
Let people know about your promotions and events by promoting your hashtags through various channels.
As you navigate the Twitterverse, note how other businesses are using hashtags in their campaigns. In general, the social tool should be viewed as a medium to create ongoing engagement with consumers, rather than just a means for promoting your product or service. Used artfully, hashtags can be a great way to gain exposure for your business.
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This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Kathleen has a degree in marketing with over 10 years experience in the IT field as a database developer and web designer. As a freelance writer, Kathleen has written for several publications across Australia as well as for various business and hi-tech blogs online.