Twitter hashtags: what they are and how to use them

Have you seen hashtags used on Twitter or heard them mentioned and not had a clue what they’re for?  Would you like to know how you could use them for your business?  In this article I explain 2 ways that I use hashtags successfully, as well as giving a simple guide to demystify them, giving you the confidence to use them effectively.

What is a hashtag?

A hashtag – or a ‘#’ – is a symbol that you can put before a word, or a few words with no spaces, to tie a tweet to a particular subject or discussion.  When you go to the search bar and type in a hashtagged phrase, you will see all tweets associated with it.  It’s a different way of tracking tweets by subject, as opposed to just by user (where you can view someone’s stream on tweets on their profile).

5 types of hashtags you might see

  • Geographical – do you want to see what people are talking about in your area?  Search for your town with a hashtag at the start.  E.g. #Shropshire
  • Subject – do you want to know more about a subject or see what people are saying about your area of expertise?  See what you can find.  E.g. #Marketing or #SocialMedia (remember: no spaces!)
  • Event – this can be anything from the jubilee to a television programme.  For instance, Britain’s Got Talent (#BGT) suggested a hashtag during certain auditions to encourage conversations on Twitter.  E.g. one memorable song was #noname by Irish singer/songwriter, Ryan O’Shaughnessy
  • Discussion – given that there are numerous different tweets going on in your stream, having a conversation and tracking responses from different people is very difficult.  An example where you can bring people together is #watercoolermoment, which encourages homeworkers to take a break and chat to each other
  • Follow suggestions – popular hashtags are #FF #followthem or a more specific example from @jimallthetime: #showcredits, which are designed to suggest people to follow.  Not automating and providing reasons are good practice here

2 ways that I use hashtags

  1. #focusonmarketing – I use this for my regular marketing masterminding group.  It shows information such as links to event information and booking, enables attendees to see who else is going, is used to tag posts that the group will find useful and, most of all, is used during live tweeting, thereby allowing non-attendees to join in virtually.  It’s been so powerful that it’s become the logo (as above)
  2. #mymarketingmonday – This is my hashtag for my weekly tips, which I post on a Monday (obviously!)  I can signpost people to follow the hashtag during that day and check back on it by searching to catch up. It’s also memorable and on a regular day so it’s predictable

A step further – Storify

My favourite tool at the moment is Storify (see storify.com) which allows me to bring together all of the tweets from a #focusonmarketing event or develop a weekly digest of the tips from #mymarketingmonday.  I won’t go into too much detail on how it works (needless to say it’s not all about hashtags) but have a look for me on there by searching for CloudTen and you’ll see how I’ve used it.

A couple of warnings

Remember: no spaces! – If you have a space in the phrase, it won’t be found.  Don’t worry about grammar either. Just a sequence of adjoined words with lowercase letters only is fine

Don’t over-use – Only use a hashtag when it’s relevant or else you’re wasting characters and will clutter up the stream.  Equally, avoid having multiple hashtags in one tweet.  That’s just spammy looking!

They will (sort of) self-destruct – Whilst using Storify, I’ve discovered that after a week, tweets will disappear from a hashtag.  If you’re using Storify, do it within a week.  If you’re using the hashtag, don’t leave big gaps or it will be empty and possibly hijacked.  You can find the tweets in your profile, but that involves a lot of time and fiddling.

Why not give them a try?

Feel free to have a look at and follow my hashtags and Storify stories to see how I’m using them, but next time you’re on Twitter, have a look at how others are using them.  Do a search on a phrase to do with your local area or your industry.  Contribute and see what happens.  Then, when you’re confident, start your own (but decide why and how you’re doing it first).

So have you got a few favourite hashtags?  Do you use them and how effective are they?  Let’s chat in the comments!

Until next time…

 

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2 Responses to Twitter hashtags: what they are and how to use them

  1. Emma Davis says:

    Nice article – succinct and easy to understand for those who don’t know what a #hashtag is.

  2. Kay Heald says:

    Claire – a really useful blog de-mystifying another aspect of Twitter. I haven’t tried Storify yet, so it’s on my social media ‘to do list’ for next week!