June 26, 2012

The savvy business owner knows that social media marketing is a business must these days. An advertisement without the now familiar Twitter icon is virtually nonexistent. More and more, if you look closely, you will see a new symbol making its way into the media. It’s called a hashtag (#), and you’ll see it on television shows, commercials, and in magazines. For businesses, it can be a useful way to break through all that Twitter traffic and get your brand noticed.

If you’re on Twitter, you’ve surely seen the hashtag. It’s followed by a word or phrase (without spaces between the words), and it’s used as a search term to organise tweets around a specific topic or theme. Often when there is an event that is dominating the news—such as the uprisings in the Middle East or the tsunami in Japan—people will use a hashtag so that users who aren’t following one another can group tweets on the event into a single stream.

For businesses looking to attract attention to their tweets, hashtags present an opportunity. All you have to do is input your tweet and put a hashtag in front of the word or phrase that you wish to highlight, which can be at the beginning, middle, or end of your tweet.

Let me give you an example. Suppose you’re a handbag retailer. You might have an idea for a tweet that looks like this:

Summertime and the living is fine. This week we’re offering 50% off new summer fabric handbags.

To take advantage of hashtags, you might do something like this.

Summertime and the living is fine. This week we’re offering 50% off all fabric handbags. Great summer colors. #SummerBags

Note that I’ve capitalised the word “Bags.” Not everyone one Twitter does that, but I find that it helps readability to capitalise each word when you hashtag a phrase.

A cautionary note about hashtags: Be sure that your hashtag is not already in use for something unrelated, or even potentially embarrassing, to your business, or you could end up doing serious harm to your brand. Also, don’t hijack an existing hashtag that might be sensitive. There are a number of ways to uncover trending hashtags, such as the site Hashtags.org. You can also just run a search in Twitter using various renditions of keywords and phrases until you find one that works for you. While it’s fine to use trending hashtags, however, don’t use them in a contrived way or you will diminish your brand.

Lastly, it’s fine to use more than one hashtag in a tweet, but don’t overdo it. More than two or three hashtags will make your tweets look a mess, and people may just dismiss them as spam.



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(Image by Eldh)

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