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Hashtags, Hashtags Everywhere!

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thebestof Eastbourne TwitterIf you have been using Twitter for any length of time, you can’t have missed hashtags. Now, within a short space of time, hashtags have been introduced by both Facebook and Google Plus.

Google Plus have gone one step further and automatically add a hashtag to your posts – how cheeky!

If you find this annoying, you can change your settings to prevent this, but read on first to find out why it is a good idea to use hashtags.

So what are hashtags?

A Hashtag is a word or a string of words with no spaces in between, preceded by #. They are used on social media either as shorthand or to collate information about a certain topic.

You may have seen hashtags show up on your screen whilst you are watching a popular TV programme. This is to encourage people to tweet about the programme, and to follow what other people are tweeting. For example, a very popular series called The Hotel used the hashtag #thehotel and arranged for the main protagonist to tweet whilst the programme was being aired.

These are the reasons you might want to use a hashtag:

1. Be found: hashtags will be picked up in searches. For example, if you are targeting job seekers, you might use #jobtips in your tweets, if you are targeting authors you might use #amwriting in your tweets, if you are targeting Norwich people you might use #Norwich. All of these are popular hashtags. Do a search for the hashtags that are relevant to your business and use them in your posts/ tweets when appropriate.

2. Find Useful Contacts: run searches for these same hashtags in order to find people who are likely to buy from you, or help you in some way, and follow / connect with those people. Better still, interact with them. A popular Norwich hashtag is #ncfc – helpful if you are a Norwich business looking to connect with locals.

3. Events: If you are running an event, a hashtag for the event is a good way for attendees to connect with other people who are attending, or to tweet about the event. I was unable to get to an event at the Forum one day, but was able to follow what was happening at the event by running a search for the event hashtag. People were tweeting live from the event using the hashtag. At previous All About Business events we used #AAB2011 or #AAB2012.

4. Shorthand: You can sometimes use hashtags as shorthand when you don’t have enough room in a tweet or when you want to make a statement eg #asyoudo or #thingsIlove. There are no set rules, other than common sense.

5. Trends: Keep an eye on what’s trending and join in if you have something relevant to say. Hashtags can go viral quickly – but not always for the right reasons, as McDonalds found out when #McDoStories was taken over by people talking about bad experiences rather than good.

6. #FollowFriday One of the most popular hashtags is #FollowFriday or #FF – every Friday people recommend other people to follow. #FF is dying down a bit now, but is a nice way to get someone’s attention or say “thank you” to someone.

7. Cosmetic: hashtags make your tweets/ posts stand out. They are usually shown in a different colour to the rest of the text so when someone is looking at a page of tweets, for example, hashtags often draw the eye so that your post stands out.

8. Journalists: don’t forget that a lot of journalists use twitter for research. A common hashtag is #journochat or #journchat but there are lots of others that are used.

9. Twitter Chats: if you really want to be seen as the expert, organise twitter chats using your own hashtag around a topic related to your business or of interest to your prospects and clients – have a set time each day / week for a chat to take place. People can join in your chat at that specified time using the hashtag as the common link. With facebook and Google Plus this offers a huge opportunity as the longer posts allow people to interact in more depth.

10. Contests: You can run a twitter contest by asking people to tweet you using a hashtag in their tweet. Make sure the hashtag is relevant to the competition, and don’t forget to comply with Twitter guidelines. Be careful of doing this on facebook, as facebook have VERY strict rules on competitions. You can read their guidelines here. 

If you want to create your own hashtag, do a search to check whether it is being used in any other context. Check what your hashtag looks like. One of the funniest PR disasters was Susan Boyle’s Album release #Susanalbumparty

Now that facebook and Google Plus have introduced hashtags, they will become even more mainstream. The fact that Google Plus automatically add hashtags to your posts is a good thing in that they will pick a popular hashtag for you. I must admit, I often forget to use hashtags, so this automates a part of my marketing.

The downside is that Google Plus sometimes picks the wrong hashtag so you need to remember to check it before you press “send”. The good thing about Google Plus is that you can always go in and amend your posts.

One word of advice: don’t use too many hashtags in one post. Some people stuff their tweets with hashtags, which makes them hard to read.

For example, what looks better?

1. “Don’t forget to come along to our networking event on Friday”

2. “#Norwich #Norfolk #East Anglia #Networking #Event Come along on Friday. #Havefun”

3. “Don’t forget to come along to our event on Friday #Norwich #Networking”

So there you have it – a quick summary of hashtags.

In a few years time they may be so prevalent that people will wonder why I needed to write this post, in the same way that we used to have to explain “what is a tweet”, “what is twitter” and now take it for granted that most people are familiar with the term.

 

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*Norwich/ Norfolk UK social media training: *Workshops, in-house, or one to one training *Management of social media accounts *Local marketing *Author of Twitter Success Strategies, LinkedIn Success Strategies and How to Tweet Your Book *Specialist in: LinkedIn Twitter Facebook Instagram Email marketing

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