Hashtags are used on all social networks now, becoming a critical way to communicate and link information everywhere from Pinterest to Facebook and Twitter. Hashtags are the key to discovering, communicating and sharing. Let’s have a conversation about hashtags and demystify what they’re all about and how to use them once and for all. Your business activity and personal activity will become far more efficient as a result.
The main problem with hashtags
The number one thing I hear from people when I finally get them signed up and on Twitter is, “I don’t understand everything that’s going on, what is all that stuff with the # – I can’t follow what you’re talking about”. This awesome and funny video below is a classic example of what people think about hashtags. In a word – a bunch of nonsense. It’s a mistake to underestimate or avoid hashtags because you think it is just a bunch of hipster jargon.
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Hashtag explanation made easy: Let’s face it, hashtags are throwing (business) people off. The best way I can explain a hashtag is that it is a critical way of grouping information together, almost like a file folder. If you opened your filing cabinet and wanted to find everything about Dogs, you would click on #Dogs.
But the search results might be too large. So, you might then want to create a new hashtag or find one in use that specifies the type of dog, for example #JRT , #JackRussell, or even #Puppy. The cool thing about hashtags is that you can combine them, so if you put all of the above in one tweet, or post on facebook, you will be indexed in with the related items in all three categories. How do you use a hashtag for business?
- First, you need to identify where your posts or subject fits in. Chances are there is already a hashtag being used for your area of communication.
- Find someone who is already active in your field, and then see what hashtags they are using.
- If you see one you like, click on it. A new list will open in your Twitter, or Facebook or Google+ that will only include all posts with the given hashtag.
- Look at the other hashtags being used as well.
- Create a list for yourself of Hashtags that you would be a part of, and start using them.
Why are hashtags important? The beauty of a hashtag is that it brings you into the communication lines of people you don’t know. When you post without hashtags, you access the people you already know. VS. Benefits when you post with hashtags:
- You make your information searchable by anyone
- You appear in the stream of the hashtag in question
- You meet new people
- You find new resources
- You discover new opportunities
- You help people keep track of your relevant posts
- Build an audience and community
Cut through the clutter
Hashtags also help people sort through a series of posts to zoom in on what is important to them. For example, if you go to my instagram page, you will find photos of Soccer, food, scenery, business. Let’s say you only care about pictures of my puppy. Well, you’ll click on the custom hashtag and you will just see the results from the photos I tagged with my custom hashtag. Custom hashtags make it easy for people to get through all the junk out there. Whether it be on one page, or throughout the social networks. In business for example, I can create a hashtag for insurance, but what will make it easier for people looking to save money on home insurance is if tag a series of posts #Home #Insurance #savings or #homesavings combined with #insurance. Starting to see the possibilities?
Number one rule for hashtags & brands: Be consistent.Sometimes you can use a hashtag, and then no one else uses it. So you can get discouraged and think, I won’t use this anymore. Don’t do that. If your hashtag is well thought out, and you want it to stick keep using it. Everything takes time. Be patient, keep posting items with your hashtag.
Introduce others to your hashtag by sharing their posts using your hashtag. For example, lets say you find an article that is hashtagged and it is in an area that your own readers (or prospective readers) would find interesting:
- Share the post keeping the original hashhtags and originators identity (dont delete the source – thats poor etiquette) – In the example below the source is @GingerConsult and the Source hashtag is#BeALeader
- Add on your hashtags.
People who find the article interesting in the original group (in the example below: BeALeader) may also notice the additional hashtags added, and click through to see what’s goign on there. They may not check out the other hashtags at first, but eventually if they see the hashtags often enough they will investigate. If they like what they find, or want to contribute to those “files” if we can still continue to relate to my file cabinet example above, then they may adopt the hashtags. Don’t give up, be consistent, share the hashtag with valuable and relevent information and people will start to join you in your “Hashtag community”
Hashtags to access and participate in chats and communities
Once you start to understand hashtags and how clicking on a hashtag can bring you to a series of related articles, you will also be able to click through and join in conversation about the articles or other topics. Many organizations and communities are using hashtags to have live conversations, Q&A periods or even consistant 24 chat on a subject. Usually the organization or group will have their own hashtag. Some conversations are scheduled weekly at the same time, and others happen around the clock. Check outthis article here for more info on tweet chats.
Using hashtags for fun and nonsense may be good for business
In the screen shot here, you see how David’s Tea started a conversation hashtagging a picture with#Teapotblowing resulting conversation and other items become linked as others participate. The top post is the last one, where I also link in a new app called Definer, which is also really cool, where you can define new words and phrases, as you want to.
I linked them into it using a hashtag, while still maintaining the original hashtag – expanding the potential reach of the original idea and bringing more people into the conversation. In this same picture you see how another user hashtagged their entry for a teapotblowing contest. Suddenly David’s Teatakes their own personalized hashtag and turns it into a movement. If a hashtag is interesting it will generate activity and perhaps a following and new community.
Hashtags look funny but they have strong business value.
Next time you see a hashtag, I hope that having read this article helps take the oddity of it all and makes you realize that there is great opportunity for learning, connecting and reaching new people and communities. The hashtag is pretty cool. What do you think?
How are you using hashtags?
Do you think you are ready to give them a try?
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