Using Social Media Hashtags The Right Way
Why You Need to Use #Hashtags Effectively Now
Hashtags - Since 2009, we've been using them badly. Learn why now is the time to start using them effectively for your brand. Smart marketers create community, connect with influencers and get the word out with hashtags.
Hashtags - Use Them Well
When Twitter decided to repurpose the utilitarian pound sign (#) in 2009, most people understood that this was a game changer. But many of us also quietly dragged our heels in adopting them, maybe hoping they were a fad, that they'd slip away from use.
Well, guess what, girlfriend? That isn't going to happen anytime soon. As we wrote about a year ago, hashtags help to categorize your post. And by doing that, they help you to create and build an ideal community, reach out to the people who can help shape your brand, and ultimately, help you get the word out to the right people about who you are and what you have to offer.
And that's powerful stuff.
1. Hashtags to Find Twitter Chats
Use hashtags to find great Twitter chats. Being a part of Twitter chats has helped me connect with some incredible people, learn more (quickly!) than I ever could have before, and done a lot to simply make me feel connected to my tribe.
Good Twitter chats attract people who are ready and willing to jump in and contribute. Formats differ a bit from chat to chat, but often there is a guest, a host, and a series of questions that the guest has had time to consider beforehand.
Everyone is ready to jump in, though, and the question and answer can be fast and furious at times. The knowledge flows, as does the relationship building, as people quickly give and receive great advice, links, and tips.
Typically, the Twitter chat's hashtag is added on to the end of each tweet, so tweets have to be very short and to the point. I've had the good fortune to be a guest on both #AtomicChat as well as #VCBuzz, and both of these experiences taught me a lot about the intense value these chats provide.
How to find solid twitter chats to join
Funnily enough, every Twitter chat I've been a part of has come from a relationship I built beforehand. And once you have it on your radar, I wouldn't be surprised if you notice them within your sphere of influence.
However, I found an awesome list of chats to join over on Buffer blog. The list is a long one but annotated to include lots of helpful information to give you what you need to make decisions. And, at the end of the day, it never hurts to join in and get a feel for the chat. There's no huge commitment involved in simply jumping in and participating.
A slightly older list, from 2014, is over on Social Times. It's a list of 5 resources to help you find chats. The hundreds of chats that post uncovers for you will definitely keep you busy.
consider starting a twitter chat
This does take quite a level of commitment, but using a Twitter chat to create and build your community and brand can be very effective. I have sat on the sidelines watching communities grow via the engagement of their Twitter chats and it's been amazing to watch.
Here is a great list of Twitter chat resources to get you started, from Brand Watch. Using a Twitter chat tool to keep track of your chats is a smart move, and the very least you'll need to do to keep organized.
You'll also, of course, have to plan, book guests, be present for the chat, and monitor that chat. No slinking off mid-chat to grab a cup of coffee! It can be draining, so be ready to play hostess at whatever (usually weekly) time you've chosen.
2. Find Trends Using Hashtags
You really can use hashtags to find trends and get in touch with what competitors, influencers, and all those you care about are talking about. You can find and track your own reputation, too, which is a pretty important thing to be doing.
Kim Garst, of Boom! Social, has tons of great resources for social media, including a quick (and inexpensive!) Hashtags for Twitter course. Her wealth of knowledge is invaluable - I highly recommend her advice. She has offered quite a few resources to home in on trends in hashtags, including the following:
Tools are essential for finding your way around hashtags and really zooming in on where your tribe is and what they are talking about. I'll add in HootSuite to the mix, as I honestly don't think I could get by without that essential stand by.
The gist is that people are out there, using hashtags that relate to what you do. Find them and join in! If there are trending topics on any of the major social media platforms, consider adding to the conversation by writing posts, articles and the like using that hashtag. The hashtag is a great way to find people who already like what you do and already want to talk about it.
3. Claim Your Own Hashtag
You can and should claim a hashtag for your brand or event, but with some caveats. We laid out the basics in our article Claiming a Hashtag. Read that for the basic how-to - It's golden.
There are some cautions, however, to claiming a hashtag. Brands have done it successfully, but at times, they can appear to be chasing style and cool, which never works. As Digiday notes so perfectly, it can be like when your parents make that valiant attempt to like your music. It's noble, but it doesn't make them cool. (love that).
Hubspot, though, lists quite a few brands who got it right. The list includes the likes of #SFBatman from the Make a Wish Foundation, whose social media campaign made everyone feel awesome and got them tons of traffic.
Also mentioned by Hubspot is the #DigioNOYOUDIDNT campaign, which perfectly tapped that NFL smack talking crowd (who might be the perfect target for Digiorno pizza, btw).
Funnily enough, whether your brand hashtag usage is a #fail or not may come down to splitting hairs. The two articles mentioned above both call-out Esurance. Digiday says it was a fail, and Hubspot says it was a huge success. Who's right? Really, it comes down to what Esurance set as its goals.
Most people feel that a good brand hashtag doesn't usually mention the brand. And, as Digiday notes, they shouldn't try too hard. If you want some great cautionary tales about what can go wrong when you try too hard and combine that with poor execution, take a look at another Hubspot article. This one highlights 7 Twitter hashtag fails, and they are hilarious (but scary, too!).
By claiming your own hashtag and using it, you help to define your community and build a sense of your personality and style. Use a tool like Trends Map to find good local matches for your brand, and get a sense of what people are talking about in your area. And you may want to check out Tag Def, too, while you're at it. Most of us probably know what #tbt stands for by now (Throw Back Thursday, just in case) but what about #tbh (To Be Honest)?
Hashtags - Why Now?
What got me thinking about hashtags recently was an epiphany I had about how culturally significant they have become.
Whether we use them daily or not, when those girls went missing in Nigeria, the worldwide response was a hashtag campaign - #BringBackOurGirls. And when domestic violence became a topic, people all over the world could join in the conversation with #WhyIStayed. This brought the story into the public sphere. No longer was it possible for people unaffected by domestic violence to wonder why the women (and men) had stayed - They found out, real time. And then there is #YesAllWomen and #BlackLivesMatter helping society come to terms with issues that affect us and, possibly, come to a solution.
What those broad stories made me realize is that hashtags have real influence and have seeped into our communities in a way that makes me think they aren't leaving anytime soon.
Beyond all the marketing reasons (and there are excellent ones) I think what made me begin to consider this is that I found that hashtags have made a difference in our lives. They are a great example of an organic use of a tool to create deep meaning in our lives.
If we use them in our marketing to make people laugh a bit or to bring awareness to something cool about our brand, let's do so with style and thought.