Using hashtags on Twitter is a great way to search for a particular topic, social media marketing campaign or conversation. If you don’t know what a hashtag is, it’s a number sign followed by a certain word (or short phrase) and its purpose is to help users find content quickly and effectively. The Twitterverse is overflowing with information and with the amount of tweets being published every second, it can become overwhelming to keep up with what happened only fifteen minutes ago. Using hashtags can make you stand out and help your content be found by a wider audience, as they’ll easily be led to your profile while conducting their topic searches. Hashtags can help you stand out from the crowd, especially if you’ve made up a unique one for business purposes.

But Where Do You Start In The Vast Twitterverse?

If you’re new to how hashtags work, the best first approach should be to monitor and analyze what’s already happening in the Twitter world. Start by following business communities that either interest you or relate to your own business and find out what they’re talking about. How are they using hashtags? How much activity (mentions, retweets, favorites) are they generating? What are your goals and how can you implement the knowledge that you’ve gained from these competitors?

A Successful Hashtag Is Identified By How Catchy, Concise, Clear And Relatable It Is

Some hashtags can be time sensitive, especially if they revolve around a certain event such as the Oscars. Older hashtags are never deleted by Twitter, so they can be easily accessible to anyone that’s interested in finding them. Whether you’re a brand or an agency, you can learn invaluable lessons from past and present hashtags and apply them to what you’re working on – whether you have a campaign that requires user participation or just want to promote your product or service in a creative format. These lessons can include learning the appropriate length of both a tweet and a hashtag, what kind of buzzwords were used and which content to promote. For the latter, ask yourself – what’s the focus of the message you’re trying to convey? Are you supposed to document an experience or photo relating back to a product? Is it a campaign that links back to a landing page? Figure out what others have focused on so you, too, can be considered interesting and innovative enough to garner a re-tweet from your followers.

A recent campaign that made a huge impact on Twitter was the one generated by the #BullyMovie hashtag. This campaign had a dual purpose – to raise awareness about bullying within schools (an increasingly distressing problem) as well as promote the upcoming documentary, which the hashtag was named after. After the documentary’s rating was changed to R by the Motion Picture Association of America due to strong language, outrage began spreading across Twitter. An appeal had been made against the rating, but was denied – which meant that the opportunity to show the film to middle and high school students, its target audience, wouldn’t be possible. Unwilling to accept the rating, the film’s creator, Lee Hirsch, seventeen year-old high school student/activist Katy Butler and The Weinstein Company Senior V.P. of Marketing, Bladimiar Normand, teamed up to create a Twitter campaign that would mimic the effect that Hirsch hoped the film would have. The outcome was hugely successful, resulting in the film being left unrated. Normand did extensive research in how to cultivate a Twitter hashtag trending campaign, proving that doing your homework can truly pay off in the long run. Find out more about #BullyMovie here (http://mashable.com/2012/04/11/bully-twitter-campaign/).

Hashtags Perform Wonderfully As A Networking Tool

It’s always a good idea to begin tweet chats with other likeminded individuals and businesses. Not only will you create more connections for yourself but you may also find that you’ll gain insight and advice pertaining to your field from the users you interact with. A popular way to promote and compliment other businesses is by mentioning them in a Follow Friday tweet. Many casual users use Follow Friday (#FF) to help their friends get more followers but often have a slightly ulterior motive. Follow Friday is kind of like flirting via the Internet – you want to share inspiring people and businesses’ profiles with your followers, but you also want those inspiring people and businesses to notice you back.

There are two formats for a #FF post. Establish a theme (social media, cooking, cats, etc.) and compile a list of businesses/people that fit within those parameters. Begin your post with #FF and list as many accounts that the limited character count will allow. Relevancy is key – you can’t just pick a bunch of random accounts for no reason. They don’t all have to relate to your product or service either. If you’re working with a campaign about shoes, for example, feel free to create an #FF mentioning top brands that you support. The other way to #FF is to choose a couple of accounts (again with a common theme between them) and create a personalized tweet to accompany it. Bat your Twitter eyelashes again and compliment those you’ve chosen about their recent achievements, overall quality, etc.

Twitter Faux Pas

Other than hashtags that #dragonforeverandever, the biggest Twitter faux pas is to #hashtag #every #word #in #your #tweet. It’s easy to adopt the “more is more” attitude when you see an increase in attention towards your tweets due to the hashtags you’ve inserted in them However, hashtagging frenzies are interpreted as spam and an attention-seeking gimmick.. Very few people will be inclined to follow you if the majority of your tweets are 90% hashtag, 10% content.

Now that you have a better idea of how to navigate the wonderful world of hashtags, go forth and further your education! Here are a few hashtags that we, at Source Metrics, follow avidly:

#smm (Social Media Marketing)
#SmallBiz (Promotions and discussions pertaining to small businesses)
#cm (Community Manager)
#mmchat (Tweetchat that occurs every Monday, at 8pm EST, with leading experts from successful firms in the marketing and social media industries)
#Blogchat (Run by SEO and social media expert, Mack Collier. He leads discussions and q+a’s about the industry)
#SMManner (A networking hashtag that encourages a high level of etiquette – be courteous, stay on topic and blog links only when relevant to the discussion)
#smmeasure (A chat dedicated to social media measurement and analytics)
#BrandChat (Hosted every Wednesday, at 8am PST, this chat solely focuses on how to build your brand)

Using hashtags as a search tool (you’ll be surprised what people come up with) will open up a world of information that can also expand your own world of connections. You may even have the opportunity to take the connections you’ve made outside of the office. “Tweetups” are in person events similar to networking functions, but are organized through Twitter. These give you the opportunity to put a face to the Twitter handle, which can lead to many more fruitful experiences.

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