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hashtag n. (on social media web sites and applications) a word or phrase preceded by a hash and used to identify messages relating to a specific topic.
Despite entering the Oxford English Dictionary last year – that arbiter of lexical respectability – the hashtag still baffles many.
And little wonder; in the wrong hands they can backfire horribly (and hilariously). But used properly – to group together conversations about a particular topic – they're a cheap, easy way to attract new leads and encourage customers to further engage with your business.
So here's the quick guide on how to use hashtags.
How to use hashtags: putting hashtags to work
Know your hashtag varieties.
- Brand hashtags. Simply your company name or tagline. Use them to follow what's being said about your business.
- Campaign hashtags. A hashtag for your current marketing campaign. Use it across different channels to tie your marketing efforts together and to follow the spread of the campaign.
- Content hashtags. Hashtags that describe content. Use them to improve the SEO of your posts and to help leads find your content.
- Keep them readable. Keep your hashtags short and sweet – three or four simple words at most. And use CamelCase, ie capitalising the first letter of each word in the hashtag, to distinguish the words.
- Proofread your hashtags. No one wants a #susanalbumparty.
- Don't make hashtag soup. Think of hashtags as seasoning – use them sparingly. There should only be one in a single post.
- A hashtag's not just for Twitter. Once limited to Twitter, they've now spread to Instagram, Google+ and Facebook. And don't be afraid to use them in analogue media, too. They can help to join up your online and offline marketing efforts.
- Craft hashtags around your customers' search terms. Look to your buyer personas; what words and questions would your ideal customers type into a search engine to find your product or service?
- Keep your finger on the pulse. Hashtags are a good way to see what's trending in your industry, among your audience and with thought leaders.
- Beware of 'hashjacking'. If you have something useful to add to an existing conversation, do so, but don't jump on a hashtag bandwagon just to promote your product or service. And make sure you know what the hashtag means; misusing them has landed more than a few businesses in hot water.
- Use them for big events. Not only can you then track responses to your own events, but you can also contribute to events that you and your colleagues attend.
- Keep a record of your hashtags. This allows you to keep track of them, see which ones have been most effective and to stop you repeating yourself.
- Don't say 'hashtag [...]' out loud. Ever. It's like reading out stage directions for an adjective. Keep them on the page.
Hat tip to Brian Solis for the photo.