Hashtags #howdotheywork?

October 18, 2012
As an internet marketing agency, we help many of our clients develop and implement social media marketing plans. For someone new to social media, hashtags are often the most difficult concept to understand. When used correctly, however, hashtags can make a remarkable difference in how widely your messages travel across the Twitterverse. So what is a hashtag? And how do they work? And most importantly, how can they help your internet marketing?#What are hashtags?

Hashtags are usually keywords inserted in a Tweet, either at the end of the message or within. The format consists of a “#” sign followed by the keyword. Tweets can often contain multiple hashtags.

#Why should you use hashtags

Twitter StreamHashtags work in multiple ways to convey your messages succinctly via Twitter, and also allow users to easily  find your Tweets.

Hashtags save space

Because Twitter only allows 140 characters, space is at a premium when conveying your message. One or two simple  hashtags can quickly replace a longer sentence, allowing you to use more characters with links and other messaging.

Hashtags provide meaning

The hashtag serves as a short piece of metadata to describe what your Tweet is about. When posting a link, for example, a few descriptive keywords can let your followers know what the link is about in order to make them want to click on it.

Hashtags are easily searched

The use of hashtags allows your Tweets to be categorized and easily searched. A Twitter user interested in a particular topic can search for Tweets based on hashtags and pull up any related Tweets. This allows your Tweets to be found by the people most interested in receiving and sharing your content. Using relevant hashtags will gain you new followers and more re-Tweets, spreading your message far and wide.

Hashtags provide a sense of place

Hashtags are important to use with live events such as a conference or  special presentation. A dedicated hashtag allows users an easy way to listen in on what other attendees are talking about. TV networks also often feature hashtags to encourage discussion on Twitter. Hashtags are also essential for conducting a Twitter chat, as it allows people to communicate in a virtual discussion with one another, just by using the same hashtag.

Hashtags can also bring the funny

Hashtags are often used in a humorous way, with one word to provide ironic context to the previous statement. For example, someone might tweet about a restaurant serving too much food, and add the hashtag #firstworldproblems as a way to mock themselves and provide humor. Ironic/humorous hashtags are often used on Facebook as hashtags are not searchable and serve no “real” purpose there. (Google+ and Pinterest, like Twitter, does use hashtag functionality.)

#How to use hashtags effectively

Now that you know why you want to use hashtags, you are probably wondering about the best way to use them correctly. Here are some tips for effective hashtags:

Be descriptive

When choosing hashtags, make sure they are descriptive about the content you are posting. What are the one or two words that best describe the topic of your Tweet?

Be strategic

Your most tweeted hashtags should also be  similar to the keywords you are targeting for your website’s SEO. If they are not, then you should re-evaluate your content strategy and make sure you are sharing content that is relevant to your overall business goals.

Be consistent

Choose your hashtags wisely. Before using a new hashtag, run a simple search and see how this topic is usually tweeted. Make sure you are using the exact same verbiage and use the hashtag consistently in subsequent Tweets.

Be accurate

When choosing your hashtags, also make sure to check that the hashtag is not being used for an alternate purpose or has a dual meaning. This can be very confusing for users to follow when hashtags refer to multiple ideas. Choosing a unique hashtag is particularly important if you are using it during a live event. If others are using the same tag for a different purpose, it will confuse attendees.

Be concise

Keep hashtags to one word. Multiple word hashtags can provide humor, irony, and context to a Tweet, but they are not searchable and they won’t help you market your brand.