I know we all use them. But the hashtag is changing. And today it has much less pull than it once did. Twitter still relies on the hashtag for some things. Every other service could care less about hash soup. Oh sure, they’re saying they enabled hashtags (Facebook, Instagram) or disallowed them (Pinterest) but really the only game in town for TAGGING is Twitter. Let’s examine why and how to use hashtags in today’s un/hashed social networks.
What’s a hashtag? #what
Tagging a piece of content is a bit different from hashtagging, but the effect is the same. A #hashtag allows information (tweets, posts, updates) to be found by people who do not follow you on any given platform. This works on Twitter, because Twitter has an open platform. It does not work on Facebook because Facebook only allows you to see updates from “friends” or posts that were made “public.” So in a sense, with Twitter, the hashtag is the FOCUS of the Tweet. Think of it like keywords in search optimization. If you want your tweet to be found by other people who are watching Game of Thrones, you would hashtag it #GoT or #gameofthrones.
How do I find hashtags? #how
Often trending topics on Twitter are the result of a hashtag campaign. Here is today’s current trending panel on Twitter.
And by using search on Twitter you can find all the tweets relating to a certain hashtag. Or you can click on one of the “trending” links. Here’s a search for #WorldCup.
Why would I use hashtags? #why
Hashtags are used to highlight the key point, or topic, of the Tweet. (posts and updates on other networks, but Twitter is the real hashtag heaven) Some uses are to:
- make your tweet found by others interest in your subject matter. #socialmedia for example is my favorite hashtag. But many other great uses of hashtags include:
- event specific tags (if you want to be found or associated with an event the hashtag will allow you to see and be seen by others at the event: my favorite is #smbaustin < the hashtag for my favorite local networking event)
- tv show tags such as #gameofthrones or #madmen can connect you with the viewing audience tweeting at that time.
- superbowl ad voting: #superbowlads or #superbowl < real-time responses to the most expensive ads on tv has become a national past time for us marketers. This behavior sends Neilson, who used to own the tv ratings game, into fits. And they are trying to embrace the new tagging trend, but their expensive research is often not necessary, due to hashtag voting.
Anything else about hashtags that I should know? #istheremore
Hashtags are useful, but their previous utility as a reach-booster is dying out. When I asked @chrisbrogan about why he no longer used hashtags in his tweets, he responded, “How often do you surf tags?’ Good point. And you will notice the social media pros no longer include hashtags in their regular tweets. The idea is, if people are following you they don’t require a hashtag, and if they aren’t following you they are unlikely to be surfing tags.
So has this new trend killed the effectiveness of a hashtag reach expansion? Answer: I don’t know. I need to do some primary research with and without tags and see what I learn. (Future post idea. If you have any data on this, let me know.)
Who really uses and benefits from hashtags? #marketing
Aside from TV and Events it’s hard to see who’s really using hashtags, other than us marketers. I am always tagging stuff to be “found” by potential readers who are looking for current information on one of my “topics.” And if you do search on a tag, #socialmedia for example, you can click on the “People” tab of the results page and find all the other influencers who are tweeting on this tag.
Yes, it’s important to continue using hashtags if you are trying to get your information out to a broader audience. But it’s even more important to learn what’s being tweeted on that hashtag to see if your content is still relevant to the discussions. For example I found that while other tags exist for socialmedia (#social and #smm) the biggest reach is provided by the good old #socialmedia.
A secondary benefit of really learning and focusing on a few hashtags is that you will show up higher on the results page for “people” who are associated with that hashtag. And thus, the idea is, people will find and follow you.
And what tools make hashtag research easier? #twittertools
There are a few great tools for spotting, tracking and interacting with hashtags on Twitter.
Trendsmap < see what’s trending where
Hashtrack < gives you one tag for free and paid thereafter
TweetReach < you can see your reach, and the reach of individual hashtags
What tools to you use to track Twitter hashtags?
Counterpoint from Mashable: Too Many Facebook Hashtags