Did you know that the first hashtag that was used was #barcamp? Or that the first use of the very term ‘hash tag’ was in a blog post by Stowe Boyd (Hash Tags = Twitter Groupings)? These fun facts find their origins in 2007, three whole years before Twitter officially introduced “Trending Topics” on the Twitter front page, displaying hashtags that were rising in popularity. What started off as a unique feature on Twitter has now escalated to a global internet phenomenon.
Hashtags are everywhere. They’re not just seen on Twitter, but also on Facebook, Instagram, and other microblogging and social networking sites. They can be inserted anywhere – within a sentence, as a postscript, or even as part of a word or a photo caption. They have linked social media in a distinctive way, making them one of the most powerful tools around.
For small businesses, hashtags represent a very important tool in a social media strategy. A suitable hashtag can help drive brand recognition, and give that all-important push to an advertising campaign. Since hashtags appeal to a wide demographic today, customer loyalty is also guaranteed.
Here’s how you can effectively harness the power of the hashtag:
1. Basics: You can use hashtags anywhere in a sentence – at the beginning, the middle or the end. For example:
Hashtags can be used on several social media platforms. Today, all major tools support them. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ – these are all platforms used by businesses, where one can promote their brand image by using hashtags. By following the basics, you can help your business target the right audience and send droves of new people to your website or content.
2. Engagement: Hashtags represent a massive, shared interest in the topic. If your content includes hashtags, it is likely to generate 2X more engagement than content without. Studies have shown that companies receive a 21% higher engagement rate when their tweets include two hashtags. Some useful websites for discovering what people are talking about are: www.hashtags.org, www.twubs.com, and www.tagdef.com.
3. Don’t overdo it: Nobody likes a spammer, even if it is a top brand. Over-tagging a single tweet can make your business seem amateurish. A good example of this bad practice is this – Check out our brand #new #luxury #car #model. Twitter recommends that no tweet include more than two hashtags. This is because too many hashtags can devalue the strength of the tool itself, not to mention damage your brand’s reputation.
4. Talk to audiences: Twitter chats work wonders for businesses. Live Q&A sessions can be organised around a hashtag. For example, #PeopleSkills is a twitter chat that is moderated by a twitter user every Sunday, and it explores all aspects of people skills that impact businesses (communication, leadership, teamwork, customer service, and so on). The purpose of a twitter chat is to draw people to your business and show them you are proactive as a brand.
5. Clarity: When it comes to choosing or creating hashtags, keeping it obvious and clear is the way to go. This ensures that they are easily remembered and recollected at a later date as well. Multi-word phrases do work but, if they turn out to be complicated, they might prove to produce unintended and unwanted results.
Mastering the hashtag takes time, but it is now an essential part of a business’ digital marketing campaign. Small businesses, in particular, have made it part of their everyday digital vernacular. As a business grows more competitive through use of digital marketing, its effectiveness can be boosted by making use of hashtags the right way.