A hashtag makes it possible to group social media messages, enabling one to search for the hashtag and find the set of messages that contain it.
Using the appropriate hashtag on Twitter and other social media sites is instrumental in gaining followers, increasing brand awareness of your company, and improving the potential for sales through a higher number of visits to your website.
For example, a January 2014 blog post from Ragan Communication’s Kristin Piombino about Twitter noted that 67% of Twitter users are more likely to buy from brands they follow on Twitter, over 73% of followers want updates on future products and 79% of Twitter users are more likely to recommend brands to follow.
Hashtag – a word, an abbreviation or a short collection of words preceded by the # symbol – originally evolved as a way of allowing Twitter to sort tweets into different categories so that readers could follow a discussion about whatever topic had their interest. Now, the use of hashtags has spread to sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Flickr, Instagram and Google+.
Hashtags are equally useful for provoking online discussions about a particular topic such as business or marketing, because they entice social media users to participate in those online discussions. Hashtags are also a handy method of promoting events and improving attendance at conferences, trade shows and networking events.
Overall, some companies use hashtags the correct way and others have experienced social media public relations disasters. To use hashtags correctly, it is wise to follow these best practices:
1) Be sure to limit the number of hashtags within a posting on Twitter, Facebook or other sites. In Twitter’s etiquette, for instance, creating tweets with an excessive number of hashtags deters people from reading your tweets and detracts from your organization’s credibility. Generally, social media opinions vary about the ideal number of hashtags to have in a tweet, but most readers consider one to two hashtags per tweet acceptable.
2) Choose your hash tag carefully. Similarly, hashtags require careful consideration before they are used. Some businesses have accidentally chosen the wrong hashtags that social media users interpreted as obscene or confusing.
3) Pay attention to current news events before sending out tweets, especially if a certain hashtag is popular. One U.K. business, CelebBoutique, unwittingly referenced a U.S. national tragedy in their tweets, while New York food website Epicurious deliberately mentioned a national tragedy in their promotional tweets. Both sets of tweets aroused the ire of the social media world for their insensitivity.
4) Act immediately if the public misinterprets your hashtag. To avoid a public relations disaster that could spread worldwide, take down the offending social media posting as quickly as possible.
Related social media hashtag links
Hashtag Best Practices: What Your Brand Needs To Know
Did You Think Facebook Hashtags Did Not Matter? Think Again
Why #Hashtags Matter
Filed Under: Social Media, Internet Marketing