By Rupert Staines Friday, 01 February 2013

MT Expert: How to hashtag your way to Twitter success

Hashtags are a great way to get people talking about your business. Here's how to use them properly.

Tweeting is more popular than ever, and the use of hashtags by businesses and consumers is now commonplace. In fact, the American Dialect Society crowned ‘hashtag’ the word of the year and one couple even went as far as naming their child Hashtag. Although we wouldn’t recommend going as far as the latter, we’ve got some tips to help SME’s effectively use hashtags to benefit their business:
 
1. Figure out what you want to use a hashtag for

By using a hashtag in a tweet or in the description of a photo, users can associate their content with a theme denominated by the hashtag itself. For example, by using the hashtag #SMEadvice, you’ve naturally associated your content with talkability around SME’s. This automatic indexing makes search, the second use of hashtags, possible, meaning users can find out information linked to their interest on a social rather than search optimised basis.


2. Promote your hashtag

What’s the point of a hashtag if nobody sees it or uses it? Stick your hashtag on all your social media websites, on your print marketing materials, at the bottom of your emails, and so on. The more places it’s seen, the more people that will use it. That said, there does need to be a reason behind the use, and inviting people to "join the discussion" or "voice their views" by including a hashtag is a good way of boosting engagement.
 
3. #Don’t #overdo #the #hashtagging

The more hashtags you’re using, the more conversations you’re entering. Instead of jumping on three hashtags to make sure your content is seen, just pick the most relevant possible hashtag and use that (numerous hashtags can make things look messy and hard to read). Stick to these basic rules: one is the best, two is acceptable, three is pushing it and more than that and you’re just spamming.


4. Jump on other hashtags

Popularising hashtags is difficult, so rather than coming up with your own, search social media to find out what is being used in conversations similar to the one you’re trying to start. As long as what you’re saying is relevant it’s not a crime to add to the conversations. There are even opportunities to change the use of a hashtag altogether, a great example being the charity Water Is Life turning #firstworldproblems on its head.


5. Make it foolproof

You may have come up with it but that doesn’t mean you own it. As with everything on the internet, hashtags are open to manipulation, often in a bad way. First, make sure your hashtag is fool proof. Long hashtags made up of many words can often make for difficult reading. Additionally, individual words used as a hashtag can easily be manipulated in any sentence. Best practice would be to come up with an acronym and end it with a number (if relevant) to ensure it isn’t internet trolled. There are already enough hashtag disasters out there and you don’t want to be the root of the next one.

These tips should point you in the right direction. But as with everything in social media, using a little bit of common sense and thinking about how you want your business to be presented, never goes amiss.

Rupert Staines, European MD, RadiumOne. Follow @RadiumOneUK on Twitter.

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