What The Hashtag?

what the hashtag

Social Media Marketing has been around for a long time already, but the “hashtag” still remains quite a mystery to many brands, businesses, and individuals. While hashtags can be a very powerful tool for a social media marketing strategy, it’s very important to understand how and why they work.

First off, this is a hashtag: #
(almost formerly known as the pound sign)

This adorable little symbol packs a big punch in the digital world, as its function is simply to mark something as “searchable.” Hashtags really started earning their fame (in the non-coding world) in 2006, when Twitter came about.

Oftentimes they were used when Twitter users would tweet out something like “Oh my gosh I’m so hungry right now,” and then in order to add extra reach to the tweet, they’d most likely add a hashtag or two such “#hangryface” or “#whereslunch.” (Sure, it sounds kinda funny, but this is how it started!)

By doing this, they were either creating a conversation about their hangry faces, or they were joining a funny conversation about work hunger that already existed… and it was something that was highly relate-able (and thus quite comical.)

And here began the art and awesomeness of the Twitter Chat. Twitter chats have obviously grown and morphed into highly-powerful social media marketing tools for many brands across the globe who have chosen to adopt them. Madalyn Sklar hosts two excellent Twitter chats every week, #TwitterSmarter and #SocialROI, in case you want to see how they work and learn more about the power of Twitter and social media.

Recently, I was hosted by Madalyn Sklar on #TwitterSmarter to talk about the power of building an engaged online community.

So sure, you can choose to host your own Twitter chat, or you can develop a powerful hashtag strategy for your own brand! There are so many ideas to entertain when it comes to hashtag utilization for your brand that it might either make your head spin or make you want to dive in head first to all of the potential. Either way, it’s smart to be strategic.

So how do you reap the benefits of using a hashtag/hashtags in your strategy?

* Enter the term “social listening:” *

Social Listening is very important to a brand/business when it comes to reputation management, which truly boils down the general sentiment and conversations that are being had that are built around the brand via social media channels. These could include simple brand name mentions across social channels, or they could simply include brand hashtags. (either created by the brand, or created by users who are avid fans of the brand — or avid haters) It’s important to be aware of what’s out there, which is why social listening is so crucial.
There are many avenues for social listening, but DepICT Media strongly prefers Agorapulse, a social media management and listening tool developed for busy brands and social media agencies.
Agorapulse does a wonderful job of making it easy to monitor hashtags and brand mentions within their platform. Utilizing the “Inbox” tab, you can monitor all of the times that your brand is mentioned across the social media platforms that you’ve integrated into Agorapulse. Under the “Listening” tab, you can set up hashtags that you wish to monitor, and then join the conversations within the Agorapulse dashboard itself! Here’s a peek:

Agorapulse is a wonderful tool to use not only for listening and monitoring, but also for scheduling and many other amazing features… please let us know if you’d like to learn more about it, or click here for a special discount!

Bringing it back to hashtags…

While hashtags can be quite powerful, it’s also a good idea to keep in mind that they can easily be misused. In the paragraphs above I talked a bit about the power of establishing a brand hashtag/hashtags… but that’s only a piece of having a hashtag strategy. The other piece of your hashtag strategy includes researching and using hashtags that will amplify your brand’s visibility via social media channels because of their topic/category.

Believe it or not, there is an etiquette to using hashtags properly. If you use too many, you look like you’re trying to hard. If you use too few, you’re selling yourself short. If you’re too broad, you’ll be lost in the noise, but if you’re too niche you might not be discovered.

I strongly suggest everyone check out Jenn Herman’s outlook on hashtag tiers. In this piece about hashtag strategy on Instagram, Jenn talks about how to use a proper mix of hashtag types in order to successfully increase your reach on Instagram. (and this same philosophy can easily be transferred to platforms such as Pinterest, Twitter or LinkedIn.) I can’t express enough how important it is to do your own research to see what kinds of hashtags other brands in your industry are already using, and implement them (while keeping them relevant to your individual post.)
Lastly, you have to know which platforms are appropriate for hashtag usage and which platforms aren’t, and how to properly use them on each individual platform. So here’s an easy breakdown:

  • Twitter: Proper hashtag usage = 2-3 in one tweet. Keep them relevant.
  • Instagram: Allowed hashtag usage = 30 (but don’t just fling meaningless hashtags all over a post. Save the hashtags for the end of the caption) And keep them relevant.
  • Pinterest: Hashtags are now strongly encouraged, but don’t fling them all over the place like mismatched socks. Keep them few and strictly on-topic.
  • LinkedIn: See above Pinterest etiquette.

As you can see, hashtags can indeed pack a powerful punch, but they certainly need to be used properly and in a non-spammy manner. Utilizing a powerful and strategic hashtag strategy can truly move mountains for your brand. Get in the conversations! Engage with others in your industry! #BeAwesome!

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