As a marketer, one of the most effective things that you can do online is to utilize the hashtag to expand your market reach. A strategic use of hashtags can vastly improve your SEO, your discoverability, amplify your brand and target your specific audience across all of your social media channels.
Having first come into use on Internet Relay chats (IRCs), hashtags gained their popularity on Twitter in ‘tweet-chats’. These were basically discussion forums open to anybody on the social network, the topics of which being defined by the hashtag (#TheQueensSpeech, for example). Anybody using that hashtag could join the discussion, and the hashtag also acts as an alert to other users that those particular tweets are focusing on that particular subject. In essence, that is how marketers are still using the hashtag today, albeit across all social media, not just Twitter.
The technical term for the hashtag is actually ‘metadata tag’, and they usually consist of the actual symbol – # – followed immediately by a word or phrase (#HashtagMarketing, #GetResponse for example). Used efficiently, hashtags are a great way of engaging a very targeted audience with your brand.
Types of Hashtags
There are several different types of hashtag, all used for different reasons and to alert different types of user to your online presence. Let’s take a look at them individually.
The Brand Hashtag
The brand hashtag works in essence as your company’s signature on social media. You’ll want to use your company’s name if you can, or at least your company’s tagline. KitKat, for instance, use #HaveABreak, as well as #KitKat. These both work for them because they are both neat, short, unique and memorable. However, if your company’s name or tagline is rather long, you may need to think of something else.
Whatever you use for your brand hashtag, you must always check first that it’s not already a commonly used hashtag, as people will not be able to find you when using it to search for your brand. You must run your searches across all of your social networks – Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ – and choose one that’s not common on any of these sites. This is because you absolutely must have only one brand hashtag across all of your social networks. It’s no good users having to use a different one for each because they simply won’t bother.
If you find that indeed your brand name’s hashtag is already in quite common usage, then unfortunately you will have no option but to come up with an alternative. This may actually be quite tricky, because you’ll not only want your brand hashtag to be instantly recognisable as being associated with your company, but it must also be memorable and easy to spell.
You want your followers to be able to recall your hashtag with ease every time they want to search for you on social media, or indeed post something about you or your products. So, if you find yourself in the position where you can’t use your own name as your brand hashtag, then above all else, what you come up with must be memorable, obviously associated with your brand and of course, easy to spell.
Your campaign hashtags will be the ones you use in direct association with the particular campaign that you are running at the time. If you are having a sale on wireless keyboards, for instance, then your campaign hashtag will simply be #WirelessKeyboards, which you will also follow with your brand hashtag #BrandHashtag.
However, again, you will need to do an extensive search to make sure that your campaign hashtag isn’t already in common usage, otherwise again it will be lost in search results. You might need to get creative again, so take the time to consider your options before settling on one.
You must use your campaign hashtag every time you reference your campaign on your social media posts, and what is more you should encourage your followers to do the same. This way, anytime anybody searches for your campaign on social media, they will not only be presented with what your own updates, but also with all the other good things that your loyal followers are having to say about it as well.
Always respond to users who are using your campaign hashtag. Indeed, campaign hashtags are a great way to enable an on-going engagement between you and your followers.
A trending hashtag is simply a hashtag that has, for whatever reason, suddenly become extremely popular online. On Twitter and Google+ you are provided with a list of trending hashtags each time you log on. Trends can last anything between a couple of minutes and a few days, and your job will be to try and promote yourself on the back of a hot one.
Keep your eye out for trends that are in any way related to your business, and use that hashtag at the end of your tweets and posts. This will give you immediate exposure to the thousands of other users who are keeping this trend going.
It’s important, however, not to abuse this system. If you’re selling used cars, then don’t start using the #CheeseSongs hashtag just because it’s popular. This is recognised by Twitter as a spam technique and can see your account suspended or even deleted, and users don’t appreciate being mugged off like this anyway. Whatever hashtag you use, it must always be directly relevant to the content of your post.
Content and Product Hashtags
There are also content hashtags, which relate to the specific content of your posts and tweets, and product hashtags, which you use in association with your specific products. These are both very simple to use, and simply help users who are browsing for general topics and products to find you and your services.
Indeed, just because these are at the bottom of the list it doesn’t mean that they are of any less importance. You’ll want to be using content and product hashtags as religiously as you do any of the others, as these are the ones that are most likely to attract new customers who’ve been lucky enough to stumble upon you, rather than having actively searched you out.
Hashtag marketing done well can be extremely valuable to you and your brand when trying to expand your reach on social media. The key things to remember is that your brand and campaign hashtags must be as unique, memorable and as directly related to your brand or product as possible, and that if you are trying to hop on the back of a trending hashtag, then you must always make your content relevant to the trend. #PieceOfCake.