You may be wondering how hashtags can help your business. You probably think of hashtags in connection with social media and specifically with Instagram. What you may not realize is how the use of hashtags has exploded in recent years. If that is true and you are not using hashtags to promote your business, you are missing a great opportunity to reach literally thousands of people with your message. So, let us begin with a short explanation of what hashtags are and how they came about. As you read, you will start realizing the benefits you have been missing.
Understanding Hashtags and How They Are Used
According to Leslie Walker, a social media expert:
“Hashtags are words preceded by the pound sign or hash symbol(#), as in #ladygolfers, which people insert into their tweets on Twitter. A hashtag is sometimes used in other social media, but most often is associated with Twitter.
Hashtags are a way for Twitterers to categorize their tweets by topic. Hashtags basically serve as a label, allowing other people to search on Twitter and quickly find tweets relating to a given subject.”
There it is again, the mention of Twitter. But notice the phrase “sometimes used in other social media.” As hashtags have grown in popularity, so has their use throughout the internet.
How Hashtags Got Their Start with Twitter
The “hash symbol,” or what we know as the “hashtag,” has been evolving since the beginning of the internet. It was first used as a hashtag on Twitter when entrepreneur Chris Messina posted a tweet on August 23, 2oo7. His tweet read, “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp?”
By late 2007 hashtags were catching on with other Twitter users. For example, during the San Diego forest fires, Twitter users inserted #sandiegofire into their tweets to communicate with other followers of the fire. Since that time, hashtags have grown in popularity as they allow people to connect to a theme they all wish to comment on. Hashtags are a great people connector due to that.
Twitter Hashtag Example:
Did you know that 44% of Twitter Accounts have never sent a tweet (as of 4/14/2014)? http://t.co/sBhZ7ZKRBw #SmallBizLove #SmallBiz
— Tiffany Youngren (@TiffanyYoungren) June 26, 2015
The Evolution of Hashtags to the Present
As technology has advanced, so has the usage and popularity of hashtags. Today you will see hashtags inserted into posts on most top social media sites as well as a lot of blogs. Hashtags can point visitors to specific topics, companies or even celebrity figures and events. As an illustration, in 2010 Twitter introduced what they called “hashflags” during the 2o10 Word Cup in South Africa. On April 10, 2015, hashflags were used again during the UK General Election. When a tweeter would insert a hashtag consisting of a three letter country code, Twitter would automatically embed that country’s flag emoticon. Users of popular social media sites like Facebook, Google + and Instagram, and many more, are now able to go to pages that are provided by these sites and have instructions as to how to use hashtags in their posts on that site.
Here’s some sound advice from Evan LePage, a Hootsuite specialist, from his article, “The Do’s and Don’ts of How to Use Hashtags“:
“Try and hone in on a passionate community that shares an interest in one specific theme. The more specific you can get with your hashtag, the more targeted your audience will be—and a targeted audience generally means better engagement. If you don’t have your own business hashtag, find one or two existing ones that really fit the photo. To use an example from Instagram’s own tips for using hashtags, if you’re after Volkswagen lovers the hashtag #vwvan will earn you a lot more of your desired followers than #van will. Twitter has created a helpful infographic to help you choose the right hashtag.”
Who has time for updating your business Facebook page and Twitter status? Hootsuite is a super easy way to post in one hour a week! #SmallBusiness #SmallBiz #Twitter #Facebook #Followers A photo posted by Tiffany Youngren (@tiffanyyoungren) on
LePage goes on to warn against using branded hashtags.
“Brand hashtags don’t have to (read: shouldn’t) mention your brand name, but should represent your brand and what you stand for.”
If you are using hashtags for the first time, note that spaces, numbers, and special characters (@, %, &, etc.) are no-no’s.
Get Your Business Up to Speed by Incorporating Hashtags
If you’re not using hashtags to grow your business, know that you are leaving money on the table.
By Anne Schabert and Tiffany Youngren
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