Ok, so hashtags aren’t the most innovative of topics I could write about, but for a lot of newbies they can be confusing. What are they? Can I create one myself? Is there best practice twittiquette? #Can #I #use #them #all #the #time?!
Essentially, they categorise tweets and are used to mark key words or topics. I think Marc Custers sums them up perfectly: they enable you to get a lot of information from a lot of like-minded people:
“Personally I’ve always considered hashtags as a shortcut to similar information. Hashtags are for me a kind of twitter library shelf :-)”
Whatever their origins, anyone can use, create or search for a hashtag, while popular ones will often become Trending Topics. Following @hashtags will help you keep on top of what’s trending and why.
The current US Presidential election is a topical example: #Romney has been trending alongside #Obama following the recent live televised debate which inevitably saw people flock to Twitter to give their opinion on how the latest face-off went.
Hashtags are a great way of knowledge-sharing and enhancing engagement between individuals who previously didn’t know about each other. They can build mini-communities and introduce people to relevant tweeps they wouldn’t ordinarily come across.
Events and exhibitions are an excellent demonstration of this. Organisers use them to keep attendees up-to-date on what the buzz from the show floor is, while it is also invaluable for those who could not attend but want to keep up with the show’s news.
But they can vary from political to business, from sports to random topics. Don’t think it is just for business use. Keen swimmers should keep an eye on #swimming, and breaking news stories are often accompanied by a relevant hashtag too.
Although often over-used and spoiled by too-eager hashtaggers (I’m guilty of using 4 or 5 in a single tweet sometimes), brands are finally recognizing their power.
Mercedes-Benz UK recently launched a fantastic TV campaign in which it gave the viewers the opportunity to influence how the ad story developed over time. Simply by using #youdrive in a tweet, you can vote for whether the get-away driver took a left or right turn and so on. It is a simple but brilliant harnessing of multiple communications channels to: accelerate engagement with their target audience (and those beyond), promote their new A-Class launch, generate excitement, boost brand and product awareness, and drive traffic to their YouTube interactive “story”.
Best practice advice varies, but a good rule of thumb is to use them sparingly. There is nothing more off-putting than a tweet that incorporates several hashtags – two or three maximum per tweet is ample, and certainly not in every tweet you send. And definitely not for all your sub-headings…ahem.
And use them socially or for a bit of fun – we’re all human! During a twitter conversation about the weekend with a friend, feel free to drop in a hashtag that encaptures what you did…if you went on a spending spree then #shoppedtilidropped says it all!
There are a plethora or resources and definitions out there, but I find that www.hashtag.org is one of the best. Explore the twittersphere – see what grabs your attention and what is relevant for you. You never know, you may make a valuable contact through a hashtag.
Like them or loathe them, I hope this post was useful for you – please do leave a comment on your thoughts and share across your own networks. I would love to hear your feedback!