Hashtags were created by Twitter. When you type a # sign followed by a word or phrase (no spaces or punctuation is allowed), Twitter will turn that into a searchable link that people can use to find more information about that trend, event or item. Be aware that the @ symbol (you’ve seen this before in Twitter and Facebook too) is *not* a hashtag. That is used to ‘ping’ someone, which is to notify a person or company (whatever their Twitter name is) of your Tweet. So putting @RevenueReboot would notify my Twitter feed that a mention was made.
So if you were mentioning Revenue Reboot, you could use the hashtag #RevenueReboot and it would become searchable all over Twitter as a link.
Most social media sites now recognize hashtags, so they are available in more than just Twitter now. And like Twitter, those hashtags can be clicked on to take you to a list of the comments or posts made using that hashtag.
The social media platforms that now use hashtags are:
- Twitter – they invented the hashtag, and you can use them to point out events, trends or items, like #Outlander. You can also do *emotion* in Twitter, like #feelinghappy. Lately, people even use it to create phrases, like #wishIwasthere.
- Facebook – Facebook will also let you search hashtags by clicking on them in your feed.
- Instagram – Instagram strongly encourages hashtags to help you reach out to more people. They have created theme hashtags like #ThrowbackThursday (for posting retro photos) to encourage posting. You may notice that some of your Instagram friends use many hashtags in each photo to reach out to various groups of people or those searching a certain business. So if you’re posting smoothie photos, you might hashtag #VitaMix to reach out to those searching for VitaMix photos.
- Google+ – Google+ will give you two sets of search results when a hashtag is clicked. You’ll get a Google search for the search engine for that tag, and also a search within Google+ articles, side by side.
- Pinterest – Pinterest is similar to Instagram, where you use hashtags to include those who are searching for specific things. If you were my daughter, that would include #countrywedding, #palletfurniture and #homedesign (she’s getting her first place next year).
So hashtags are a way of searching for certain things.
So how do you use hashtags in your business?
First of all, you should have social media accounts that are specifically for your business. You don’t want to do your business posting on your personal account, as it dilutes your brand.
Once you have these, you can create hashtags that represent your brand (I use #RevenueReboot, obviously), or that represent your field or a concept. A health coach might use #SugarisPoison when she is doing a seminar on the dangers of sugar in the diet. A hashtag can represent a concept, a company, or a specific event or product – you just have to create it. There are no limits to what you can create.
Be aware that you can’t ‘own’ a hashtag. Anyone can use them, and they are there as search functions. So you can’t own it any more than you can own a search word. However, you *do* own your company name, and if you find that it is being used (or abused) by someone else, you can choose to ask that person or company to cease using it, and if needed, back that up with legal action. This is still a new area, but if you have clear ownership to a word or phrase, you can enforce it if you choose to.
Follow your industry trends. You can see trending hashtags at Hashtags.org. Keep up with what tags are being used in your industry. These are popular search terms, and you can become part of the search results by using these tags in your posts. So if #paleodiet is trending, and you work with people in that way, you want to use this term so you’ll get people seeing you.
If you create a custom hashtag for a business event, do a contest or promotion around it, and that will get people re-tweeting and re-posting your hashtag, getting you more airplay. People like to win things.
Twitter has a list of best practices for using hashtags, which you can check out here: https://dev.twitter.com/media/hashtags.
Finally, deliver actual content. No one wants to see a post that is all hashtags, as it’s boring and makes no sense. Remember, content has value. A collection of search terms? Not so much.
P.S. And just for fun, people are also using hashtags to do a sort of ‘comment behind your hand’ on posts. So someone might say ‘Went to Georgia to attend the Money 2.0 event #omigoditwashot’. This is a hashtag that might have few if any searches, it is being used as a kind of muttered comment. Just for fun.
See you all next week! Have a fabulous and profitable week.
Got a business technology issue that is making you crazy? Want to see an article about it? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what it is!