Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Hashtags (but were afraid to ask)

You likely know about Twitter, the micro-blogging site where folks post updates and interesting content in 140 characters or less.
Many previous B-to-B Blog posts address Twitter’s use in business-to-business marketing communications. 
When executed strategically, Twitter makes a big impact for folks in a range of business-to-business sectors.
What is a Twitter Hashtag?
A hashtag is a word that includes placement of the “#” character in front the desired keyword.
In the Twitter Universe, inserting a Hashtag in a Tweet helps Twitter users “tag” updates with keywords. These keywords categorize a Tweet.  They are then useful for performing Twitter searches in order to find updates related to a particular topic.
For an example, here’s a Tweet about this very post, with strategically inserted hashtag that folks in the marketing world follow on Mondays. It also includes a hashtag of the word hashtag…how #zen, eh?
Ever wondered about #Twitter #hashtags?  Blog post answers all http://ow.ly/5IoUT #marketingmonday
How are Hashtags Created?
You, along with the Twitter community, create hashtags.
A hashtag is essentially user-defined, nobody owns them per se. Anyone can create and use their own hashtag in a post or comment. (remember #winning?) Other Tweeters are free to either use it or ignore it. Like many aspects of social media, it’s an entirely democratic process that polices itself.
How Can You Use Hashtags?
Folks Tweeting about marketing communications use hashtags often.  In other sectors, like corporate training or HR consulting, use of hashtags is growing.

How does one know what hashtags are out there?

An easy way to do this is to simply use Twitter Search and put the # symbol in front of a word.

The results show popularity of a hashtag. Other tools to monitor Hashtags include:

-       Twubs.com
-       hashtags.org
-       twemes.com
-       Tagalus
-       HashDictionary
-        What the Hashtag?!
-        What The Trend?
This screenshot shows a result from hashtags.org.
Why Hashtags?
Hashtags broaden the distribution of your Tweets.
When a Tweet does not contain a hashtag related to the topic, your followers are likley the only people reading it, and that’s if you catch them with Tweets in their message feeds.

By adding a hashtag to your tweet, more people read it who are interested in that topic. You have a better chance of engaging with relevant followers, which after all, is the point of the thing.
For instance, if you Tweet about manufacturing, add the hashtag #manufacturing to each tweet. This categorizes the tweet for those who search for that topic on Twitter. 
If you’re a corporate trainer specializing in leadership developing, Tweet relevant content or blog posts and use the hash tag #leadership – this way a lot more people will find it. Why?  Those folks are looking for related content by using the hashtag. You will engage with related and like-minded folks this way. 
Hashtags are useful at live events. You can see all about that on a previous post.
Using the hashtag designated for an event, it’s easy to follow the proceedings on Twitter. Tweet about the proceedings or any conversations during the event. The key is to create and publicize the hashtag before the event starts.

Hashtags help with "virtual events" such as the 

#pr20chat for a weekly discussion focusing on public relations trends and management.  

WARNING WARNING:  Only use hashtags if it adds value to the topic.  Don’t stick a non-related popular hashtag in a Tweet just for more exposure.  That strategy can backfire big time.

 B-to-B Hashtag Directory

Here are a few popular hashtags related to business-to-business marketing communications.

Please suggest other hashtags in the comments to keep this fresh.

General Industry Hashtags include:
#marketingmonday – a good day to Tweet about marketing!

Virtual Discussion Hashtags include:

#imcchat- chat about integrated marketing communications

#journchat- chat with journalists, bloggers and PR pros 

Additional Sources to Review:

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