Once thought of as exclusive to geeks, the hashtag (#) has now become main stream in social media. A recent study found that 71% of social media users post hashtags from their mobile devices. But, it is still “greek” to many who are not immersed in the world of social media.
The hashtag got its start through the programmers at Twitter, who set up this convention in Twitter’s programming so that users’ posts could be categorized and organized. Today, hashtags also are used on Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+. They are expected to become part of Facebook soon.
Hashtags are keyword phrases. Examples of hashtags representing impactful events include #OccupyWallStreet and #LibyaFeb17. Last Friday, #GoodFriday was a trending hashtag.
The media have been among the first adopters of hashtags. See the video above showing how late night host Jimmy Fallon and guest Justin Timberlake used the hashtag “#HowIGotDumped” to encourage participation from viewers.
Companies, advocacy, and charitable organizations have taken advantage of hashtag-based discussions for promotion of their products, services or campaigns. Sometimes hashtags have been used to build a brand through social media. And, during conferences or conventions, hashtags are often used almost as beacons so that participants can find each other both virtually and in real life at the event.
To effectively use a hashtag or hashtags to market your business may take some creativity and thought. But here are some tips to get started:
1. Choose a unique hashtag that is easy to remember. If you choose something too simple, your posts will end up in a stream unrelated to your posts, because hashtags are never “retired” from public use. If you have an idea for a hashtag, do a search for it on several social media sites to see if it has been used before or lately. Another source of information on the hashtags that are in use is the Hashtag Dictionary. http://hashtagdictionary.com/
2. Use your hashtag on multiple social media channels. Related photos can be hashtagged on Instagram, web images can be hashtagged on Pinterest, and your own postings can be hashtagged on Twitter and Google+.
If you need another example to see how a business has used a hashtag effectively, see this sequence of Twitter tweets from Southwest Airlines for a film contest they ran using the hashtag “#SWACinema.”