If you’re on Twitter you’ve likely noticed people using hash tags (#) in their Tweets. Using a hash tag in a tweet is a way to mark a category, keyword or topic relevant to that tweet. Hash tags were organically created by Twitter users as a way to categorize the mass amount of messages sent over Twitter.
So how can you, as a marketer or social media expert, use hash tags to your advantage?
Categorize your Tweets
Hash tags (#) are mainly used to categorize tweets relating to a particular subject. For example, if you follow the 6S_Marketing twitter account, you may see us using the hash tag #SEO when tweeting about a blog post relating to search engine optimization (SEO).
When done, anyone who searches on Twitter for SEO or #SEO will potentially see our tweet, even if they don’t follow the 6S Marketing Twitter account.
However, best practices dictate you should not use more than 3 hash tags per tweet and “use sparingly to provide useful context and cues for recall”. For more hash tag best practices, visit the Twitter Fan Wiki.
Dominate a Discussion
Many brands have begun to use hash tags to dominate an online discussion. For example, Audi used a hash tag for the first time ever in a Super Bowl commercial to dominate online discussions around the term “progressive”, which was used in the brands repositioned tagline “Luxury has progressed”. The hash tag was #ProgressIs and anyone who used it along with a specified URL in a tweet was entered into a contest for a test drive of the new Audi R8. The company stated at the time they intended to spark a conversation on Twitter about what progressive luxury was. You can view the campaign results here: http://audiprogressisawardentry.com/.
Increase your Brand Awareness and Followers
By using a hash tag in one of your tweets, anyone who performs a search for that particular hash tag on a public account, or rather, that doesn’t follow your account may find your tweet. This makes using hash tags a very effective way to become known to new followers and increase your brand and Twitter account awareness to users who aren’t already following your account.
Trend your Topic
Trending topics on Twitter are literally “what’s popular now”. The algorithm was created this way to help users identify topics that are immediately popular, instead of topics that have been popular for a while or on a daily basis. Think of trending topics as “breaking news”.
Get enough people on Twitter using a single hash tag or keyword(s) in their tweets and you have a Trending Topic. This results in your tweet trending on Twitter and appearing in the Trends side bar in Twitter, on the home page of Twitter, as well as in Trending Topic feeds, meaning a lot of “tweeps” will see your tweet.
Participate in the Conversation
We already know that using hash tags can increase your followers and brand presence on Twitter, but using them can also be useful for companies looking to participate in conversations already taking place.
But with so many hash tags being used, how do you know which conversations to participate in? That really depends on the reason why you’ve created a business account on Twitter and what you hope to achieve by participating. For example, if you own a restaurant you will likely want to participate in topics surrounding food, such as #gourmet #food or even #pub #food, depending on which one makes the most sense for your company. But, as a restaurant, you’re likely not going to participate in any conversations about #fashion. A site to help you figure out existing hash tags for topics is hashtags.org.
Have questions about hash tags? Post them in the comments area below!