How to use a hashtagIf you’ve ever been on Twitter for more than 2 minutes, you probably know what a hashtag is.

Just in case you don’t: a hashtag is a word with a # symbol in front of it and it’s used to categorise and group conversations that are happening on micro blogging services such as Twitter.

Using hashtags can help your tweet get more attention, retweets and clicks and even help you build followers.

But there is a problem.

According to this research from social media management software provider Argyle Social many marketing professionals use hashtags ineffectively.

In the research they analysed more than 37,000 total tweets from 103 Twitter business accounts. They found out that some companies got much more clicks from their tweets containing hashtags than others.

Using hashtags: what doesn’t work?

Hashtags do not work when the words you use are too generic. Too broad. For example, the research shows that hashtags like #socialmedia, #business, #sales or #crm are too generic. People are not following these because there is too much ‘noise’ to filter out.

The same goes for hashtags like #superbowl or hashtags from large conferences like #adtech or #sxsw, because these hashtags fly by quicker than anyone can read.

Using hashtags: what does work?

Hashtags need to be relevant, targeted and occur naturally in the conversation. Think for instance of:

  • Moderately sized conferences and lectures: e.g. #iabceme, #MP2011
  • Causes: e.g. #haiti, #giveasmile
  • Highly engaged groups: e.g. #crisiscompit, #glutenfree, #oilspill
  • Create your own: e.g. #nerdbird, #blogchat

Key insight for marketers, PRs and business communicators when using hashtags

On the social web you need to get much more targeted than you were used to in mass communications. It’s not about reaching many people. It’s about reaching the people who really want to hear what you have to say and will share it with their peers.

To do that you have to think specifically about what exactly people are interested in. What are the most relevant hashtags about the topic you have to offer. Then create the right hashtag or combinations of hashtags, that will get the right message to the right audience.

Happy #hashtagging!

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