If you regularly use Twitter then you already have an idea of how crucial hashtags are to reach your audience, join a conversation or ensure a successful social media campaign. Since Twitter’s creation of the hashtag in 2007 in order to categorizing post into specific topics and subgroups, a number of platforms have adopted their usage, including LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+ and Instagram. And now that Facebook is working on incorporating the hashtag, it is especially important to understand how to use hashtags for greatest effect.
Here are five ways to ensure you hashtag successfully:
1. Create a message. When reaching out about an event or sharable action, pick a hashtag that quickly sums up your main takeaway. One good example is #CookiesHQ, the hashtag the newly-launched Hershey’s Kisses Twitter handle use to reach out to bakers to ensure their holiday treats turned out just right and allow consumers to showcase their best holiday cookie recipes. The hashtag was short enough to work well in the constraints of Twitter’s 140 character limit, yet shared a clear and concise message to a targeted audience that was unique enough to not already be taken. Creating your own hashtag also allows your followers to easily join and follow the conversation. Don’t forget incorporate the hashtag to other marketing channels – a hashtag is only useful if people know about it.
2. Be targeted. One beginner’s mistake is to #hashtag #every #word. Not only does this lead to an unreadable tweet but your message will fall on deaf ears without a good target. For example, there are a number of hashtags for PR professionals to reach the public relations community: general ones such as #PR and #publicrelations; practice focused tags such as #branding, #marketing or #crisisPR; social media focused tags like #SM, #SEO or #SMO; and even job specific tags including #PRjobs, #EntryPR and #HAPPO (Help A PR Pro Out), to name a few. In order to reach your target audience, judiciously utilize the most targeted hashtags available so your tweet doesn’t get lost in the crowd.
3. Research your audience. Think you have the perfect hashtag? Make sure to search it to see who your post will actually reach. For example, those looking to reach a public affairs audience might think #PA is a good abbreviation to use. However, with a quick search it’s obvious that using that tag would generally direct posts to those searching for personal assistants or to citizens of Pennsylvania.
4. Stay trendy. Keep a close eye to trending topics to add your voice to a highly viewed and current subject. While trending hashtags run the risk of your tweet getting lost in the shuffle, if your post is memorable and gains enough reshares Twitter’s popular post algorithms will make sure it stays at the top of the feed. However, be sure to do your research – a number of brands have had to deal with unfortunate crisis PR due to oblivious mistakes, such as the below retail store that didn’t take the time to determine why #Aurora was trending last summer and was immediately shamed by the Twitter community.
5. Keep it short. The best hashtags are succinct so as to easily fit Twitter’s 140 character post limit. They are also much easier to remember, share and promote. Besides, #noonewantstoreadahashtaglikethisone, not to mentions there is a low probability of such as long tweet being shared or searched for since your audience won’t have much room to include commentary about your content. If your tweet is long enough to be hard to read, capitalize some letters to get your point across #SimpleAsThat.
Hashtaging might seem as simple as adding a pound sign in front of random words, but in order to use social media in a strategic way you need to treat them as you would any messaging content. What are some great hashtags examples you’ve seen or used? Be sure to let us know in the comments!