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Are Twitter Hashtags Part of Your Social Media Strategy?

Posted by Murray Sye

on Tue, Dec 3, 2013 @ 10:35 AM

Hashtags to the social media novice, may seem confusing and unnecessary. But hashtags are integral to the way we communicate online, making it important to know what they are and how to use them.

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A Twitter hashtag is simply a keyword phrase, spelled out without spaces, with a pound sign (#) in front of it. For example, #inboundmarketing and #JimmyFallon are both hashtags. The pound sign (or hash) turns that word or group of words that directly follow it, into a searchable link. So, if Twitter users who are not otherwise connected, talk about the same topic using a specific (#) hashtag, their tweets will appear in the same stream. You can click on a hashtag like #JimmyFallon to see all the posts that mention that specific subject in real time.

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Using Twitter hashtags for business

In your business' case, you may choose to attach a hashtag, such as #smallbiz, or even your brand's name itself, as #nike might do. This improves the chance that other Twitter users will find your tweet in targeted Twitter searches. Let's look at how Twitter hashtags can improve your brand's hashtag strategy.

1) Search out business-specific conversations
Twitter offers a great resource to learn from others. Head to hashtags like #SMB or #SmallBiz for advice, resources and current news of the small business variety. However, hashtags that are broad in terms like #startups or #entrepreneurs are likely to generate a huge number of tweets. Just tune in every so often for a quick update. You never know, some of the tweets you see could inspire your next blog. And, if you're looking to meet like-minded people, try #networking hashtag, where you'll find information on meetups and advice on making connections.

2) Be consistent and remember the KISS principle
Keeping your hashtags simple and direct is the best practice. Don't overly complicate your hashtags. They are not search-friendly nor are they commonly used hashtags. Be sure to keep your hashtag short and easy to remember. Remember that Twitter users are only allotted 140 characters in each tweet, with or without a hashtag. By keeping the hashtag brief, you'll save your audience some room to include more commentary about your content.

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Hashtag overload is something that you'll want to steer away from. Excessive hashtags reads like desperate marketing, and is a sure way to lose followers quickly.

3) How to create your own hashtag
After you decide on a keyword or a phrase, search for it. Visit Search.Twitter.com and enter your preferred hashtag in the search box. If someone else is already using that hashtag for their event or campaign then you may want to consider using something that isn't as frequently used. You don't want to dilute the conversation with people who are not part of your target audience.

Choosing a hashtag for your brand is a great way to generate buzz around a marketing campaign. Domino's Pizza in the UK encouraged followers to tweet with #letsdolunch. The promotion ran from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and every time someone tweeted their hashtag they lowered the price. Once the number of tweets reached 85,000, Domino's dropped prices by more than half during the hours of 11 a.m and 3 p.m. that day.

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Use your #hashtags to create conversation around your events. Create a unique hashtag in advance of your event. Last year HubSpot's annual user conference was #Inbound2013. HubSpot generated content and a lot of discussion before the event even started.

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During the event, participants were encouraged to tweet with that hashtag about the event as it progressed throughout the week. People in attendance both physically and via the web were then able to follow interesting activities and discussions.

4) Organize your social dashboards by hashtag
For some of you new to Twitter and social media may not be aware of the software and tools that are available to you. Like tools to manage Twitter streams more efficiently.

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One of the most convenient ways to stay on top of relevant hashtags is to designate easily accessible columns within your social dashboard. With Hootsuite or TweetDeck you can establish columns by social network, search term, Twitter list or hashtag.

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Flickr Photo Credit: by hank Mitchell 

Written by Murray Sye

Murray is the CEO and Creative Director with the award-winning
Toronto HubSpot agency partner, WhiteSpace. You can
connect with Murray on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
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