Hashtags, marked with the # symbol, are a feature of Twitter that allows grouping of Tweets around a particular topic. Twitter moves so fast that your Tweets are lost in cyberspace before you know it, and you can’t be sure that anyone’s even seen them.
With hashtags, you can bring your Tweets, effectively, to other people’s attention. Twitter users track certain hashtags that interest them, so you need to find out what your target audience is interested in, and start using these hashtags in your Tweets.
So, how do you actually use Twitter hashtags?
To make a word into a hashtag, simply place the # symbol directly in front of it, with no space. Like so: #SEO. You can also run words together to make a hashtag, for example if you’re tweeting about a company, phrase, celebrity or an event (e.g. #BurgerKing, #humanrights, #LadyGaga, #Baftas2012).
To track a hashtag, you can use software such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, which allow you to add columns to track searches, or set up a Twilert for your hashtag, that’ll let you know if someone uses it in a Tweet.
Hashtags.org is also great for finding up to date information about top hashtags.
When good hashtags go bad
Time for a word of caution when using hashtags – they can be hijacked. The furniture retailer Habitat hit the headlines a couple of years back for hijacking popular hashtags at the time and using them to spam people with promotional offers. Hijacking these hashtags? Not good marketing practice in general. But hijacking hashtags related to serious issues such as the Iran elections? Really, really bad.
Or, as the Australian airline Qantas, and fast-food giant McDonalds have found out, if customers (or anyone else!) have any issues, they can quite easily turn your hashtag against you, resulting in a Twitter nightmare.
6 Tips for using Twitter hashtags
- Do some research – find out whether the subject you’re tweeting about has an existing hashtag you can use.
- If you’re holding/attending an event, use a hashtag (e.g. #brightonseo, #BETT2012) This will enable you to see who is talking about it, what, they’re saying, and make sure you put the hashtag in your marketing info, so that people know what they’re looking for.
- #Don’t #make #every #word #a #hashtag. One or two per Tweet is sufficient. More than that makes your Tweets difficult to read. Plus, it’s annoying!
- On that note, keep your Tweets short & to the point. You want to make it easy for people to retweet you.
- Don’t use hashtags in every Tweet. It looks spammy.
- Learn from Habitat’s mistake, and make sure your Tweets add value to the topic – no spamming popular hashtags!
Do you use hashtags in your Tweets? Had any hashtag disasters? Let us know below!
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