Hashtags have become one of the most powerful and simple forms of marketing and sharing on social media. The concept involves social media users adding a pound sign (#) in front of a word or group of words without spaces to help others quickly find content associated with the same hashtag. When used correctly, the hashtag can be a helpful tool that assists users looking for information on a particular topic. Hashtags give businesses the ability to connect with users, buyers, and fans as they implement new marketing strategies.
THE ORIGIN OF HASHTAGS
When exactly did the pound symbol go from being a simple key on the phone to the social media power character it is today? Contrary to popular belief, Twitter did NOT come up with the concept of “hashtagging.” However, it was the first platform to adopt this game changer, and Twitter is still the place where hashtags are used most prevalently. Chris Messina, a former Google developer, wrote on Twitter:
Messina wanted to use the symbol to create group conversations that people could easily track. Although many in the technology community dismissed Messina, he believed he had something worth pushing forward. He chose the # symbol simply because it was easy to reach on his 2007 Nokia phone. Stowe Boyd, another techie, suggested the # symbol be called a “hashtag.” During the 2007 San Diego fire, people started using the tracking system Twitter already had in place, but the spaces between words made it difficult to use. Messina suggested a hashtag with no spaces: #sandiegofire.
By 2009, Twitter had embraced the idea and began hyperlinking to hashtags – allowing users to search for other tweets with the same hashtag. This forever changed the way we used the # symbol. Today you will find hashtags on Twitter and many other social media outlets, including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, YouTube, Vine, and Kickstarter – to name a few.
HOW DO HASHTAGS HELP BUILD A BRAND?
The primary purpose of the hashtag is to make online searches easier. Although not required for all websites, posts, or tweets, they help users follow trends. Linking relevant content to trending hashtags helps more people notice your posts faster. Hashtags allow others to join in a conversation about your topic, website, product, or service. Hashtags allow you to increase the number of people you can reach with a single post. Businesses can gain visibility and expand their target audience by joining “trending hashtags,” connecting them to high-traffic online discussions. Users who may not have seen your brand before get direct access to you and your content. By accessing new audiences, you create the opportunity to build a larger following – and hopefully gain new customers.
A clever, memorable, or timely hashtag can get people talking about your brand. A business can benefit from a hashtag when branding anything from a product to an event. Hashtags can also help connect messaging throughout a campaign. This creates repeated opportunities to build your own unique hashtags that relate to your business/brand.
HOW TO DEVELOP A HASHTAG
Your hashtag should be simple and easy to remember. It should be unique and related to your brand, as well as consistent with other marketing strategies you have implemented. Keep character count in mind. Longer hashtags are more difficult for users to remember and increase the risk of typos and mistakes. Plus, certain channels, like Twitter, only give you 140 characters per tweet. This means you only have so much room for both your hashtag and the rest of your content. Keep it efficient and effective.
It’s important to do your research when coming up with a hashtag. Is anyone else using it? Has it been used in the past? If it has not been used, you have the green light! If it has been used, research who has been using it and how. You will need to decide whether there is room to use it in the way you intend without causing confusion or if you need to pick a different hashtag.
There is no need to hashtag multiple things or something #word #for #word. Coming up with something memorable will prove to be more productive and useful than a bunch of meaningless hashtags. Remember, quality over quantity. Some popular hashtags for small businesses are: #shoplocal, #shopsmall, #smallbusiness, #creativeentrepreneur, and #businessowner. Then there are popular general hashtags such as: #love, #instagood, #tbt, #photooftheday, #followme, #instadaily. You can add your hashtag(s) to your customer communications so they can follow you and stay up to date with promotions, deals, or new products.
DO I NEED TO REGISTER MY HASHTAG?
A question that comes up regularly is “do I have to register a hashtag for my business?” Well that depends on how you plan to use the hashtag. As mentioned before, companies use hashtags to promote brands, campaigns, ideas or events, and trending topics. Some companies have successfully registered hashtags with the United States Patents and Trademark Office. However, this process can be long and expensive. By registering a hashtag a company could prevent competition from using the same or similar hashtags, but it does not prevent social media users from using it. There is no requirement to register your hashtag before using it. However, if the mark has wider value – such as use on marketing materials – registering it as a Trademark may be worthwhile.
CUSTOMER INTERACTIONS WITH HASHTAGS
A hashtag is a powerful way for businesses to talk with their users/customers in a fun and interactive manner. With a hashtag specific to your company or brand, you can easily find and see what users are saying about you and your product or service. This showcases your customers’ social activity and may provide insight into what is and is not working. This is a great way to reach out to users that are either thrilled or dissatisfied with your product and address them directly. For example, Nike would most likely use their popular slogan, #JustDoIt as a way to encourage users to post photos or tweets of them working out in their apparel. By doing this, Nike is not only able to see who is using their products, but encourages interaction between their team and customers.
TRACKING YOUR HASHTAG
Using the right tracking tools can make measuring the efficiency of your hashtag across multiple platforms much easier. This is especially important if you are running a campaign that requires your customer to hashtag something to win a prize – you don’t want to miss a winning post! Tagboard is one such tracking program. Tagboard gathers text, video, and image posts to give you an overview of what is being said around a particular hashtag. The application assembles the results in a user-friendly, interactive interface. Another popular tool is RebelMouse, which offers integrated Google Analytics, social sharing, RSS feeds and content moderation, as well as fetching hashtag conversations happening anywhere on social media.
Overall, strategic hashtagging will help you reach more customers. Hashtagging allows you to track relevant conversations, interact with users, build a brand, and increase the amount of traffic that views your content. Hashtags are a great way to simply connect with your customer. You open yourself and your business up to millions of people from all over the world – all connected by a simple # sign!
Questions? Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, we’re here to help!
For more information on social media marketing check out our the Marketing Interface Blog Post: 5 Time Saving Tips for Managing Social Media