What is a Hashtag and Why is it Important?

As a Social Media Manager and Consultant, I am often asked – “What’s a hashtag?”

This question is often followed by questions like, “What is the purpose of Twitter?”, and “Is Instagram something I should be on?”.

The answers to each of these questions can be lengthy, which furthers the idea that social media can be a complicated and overwhelming concept – not just for our customers, but for many other professionals. That is why I would like to take a step back from more complicated social media strategy today and focus on the basics.

A hashtag is defined by Mashable.com as a “short link (s) proceeded by the pound sign (#)”.

Further, hashtags are used on social media platforms to define/group together different posts. They are mostly used on Twitter and Instagram (Facebook has attempted to implement them, but has had less success).

Let’s explain with an example.

If I wanted to share the same article referenced above from Mashable.com on our company’s Twitter page, I might compose a tweet that looks something like the following, “Let’s Start from the Beginning. What is a hashtag?  #socialmedia #socialmediamarketing”.

Notice, I provided some teaser information regarding the article content, then I added the link, and lastly I added the hashtags.

But why? Isn’t it obvious that the tweet is about social media and social media marketing since you are discussing hashtags?

Sure it is, but because I used the hashtags, whenever someone searches social media or social media marketing in the Twitter search bar, my Tweet will show up. Without those hashtags, my Tweet would remain buried in the “Twittersphere”.

Why would someone search the term “social media” on Twitter?

Twitter is a great place to find content and to search for information. I use Twitter to look for interesting articles, and frankly to keep up on current events since I don’t watch TV. More importantly, I am not alone. There is a myriad of customers out there who are looking for information on Twitter, so why not be the expert?

How does this help my business?

Whenever you use a new hashtag, you are identifying yourself, or your company, to new followers. New followers = new potential customers.

Some Guidelines for selecting Hashtags 

1. All hashtags are 1 word (even if that is grammatically incorrect).  Notice above that I made both social media and social media marketing 1 word.

2. It is not a hashtag if the word is not proceeded by the pound sign (#). You may see people using the @ sign for posts on both Twitter and Instagram, but that is a tag, not a hashtag, and the explanation of that will be left for another blog post.

3. When you start typing in a hashtag, Twitter will start to auto-populate suggested hashtags. Please use the suggested hashtags. Why? They have already been used, and probably have already been searched, which means more eyes on your Tweet.

4. There are always 10 trending hashtags or words on Twitter. The “Trending” box is a snapshot of what people are discussing on Twitter at that very moment. If big events present themselves, and are not too controversial to include in your business social media marketing, then I recommend tweeting about them. For example, right now as I am typing this Thierry Henry is trending, that’s because he is a major soccer player who just retired. Since I myself am a soccer fan, I might Tweet out something positive about Henry’s career, and that might gain me a few new followers.

You might be thinking, “But that has nothing to do with my business, so why would I tweet that?”. My response to you would be, “Does your customer base include soccer fans?”.

Food for thought…

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