By Francesca James

If you use Twitter you will have seen a lot of the # floating around in other peoples tweets and in the Twitter trends column.

So, what is a hashtag?

Let's use Twitter's own definition, they say that the # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a tweet.

‘The hashtag is a self-regulating system that was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.’

What’s the point?

A hashtag can help you find relevant and interesting tweets that may be important to you/your brand and/or your industry. Twitter users use the symbol to categorize key words and topics so that they are easily searchable through the Twitter search tool.

A hashtag allows you to track what people are saying about a given topic all over the world and makes searching so much easier because you don’t have to sift through thousands of tweets to find something of relevance.

What is a trending hashtag?

Those hashtags that appear on the right hand side of your home page are the tweets that are trending, which essentially means being spoken about the most.
These change frequently, for example the apprentice hashtag often trends for the duration of the show whilst there is a fast paced and heavy conversation flowing.

To harness the potential of hashtags for your business though, don’t just follow the crowd; it is probably best to make sure you stick to your industry. If you run a builders merchant, it will do you absolutely no good to mention justinbeiber (frequently trending topic) in a bit to get more exposure. The tweets on trending hashtags are often moving so fast that most of the tweets won’t get read by someone searching for the hashtag and even if it does, you might look a bit silly!

How can I use them for business?

Use hash tags for marketing your product/services or event: Using hashtags can expand the reach of your tweets far further than just those who follow you. Hashtags allow you to position your tweets, in front of the exact type of user you would consider perfect for your content and/or business.

Search hash tags for subjects you want to know about: Want to make sure you’re up to speed with the latest industry trends and thoughts? I often follow and check on the hashtag #socialmedia because it interests me and often gives me ideas for articles & discussions on @freshbusiness. Seek out industry experts and see what hashtags they’re using and follow/use them.

Use hash tags to let people find you: Just like you’re finding interesting people and conversations using hashtags, others will do the same. It’s a great way to build up your follower base with people who have found you because you share personal or business interests.

Creating your own hashtag?

As mentioned above, you may want to use hashtags to promote an event or service and to do this you probably want to use a bespoke hashtag that perhaps incorporates your company name or location.

When choosing your own and creating a hashtag consider the following:

How many characters? You only have 140 characters and you want other people to use this tag in their tweet so keep it as short as possible so that people don’t have to re edit their tweets just to house your tag, they will get frustrated and probably won’t bother.

Be creative, but also make it simple to understand what it is you are about or trying to get across. You could choose to incorporate a word(s) that are on topic to the information that will surround your hashtag.

Search your choice on Twitter. Make sure it’s not being used elsewhere by competitors or another group whose message you wouldn’t want your business to be associated to.

Spread the word: Change your email signature and perhaps pop it in your Twitter bio and on other social networks to encourage others to ‘join your conversation’.

Tip of the week from @freshbusiness follower @owl_marketing:

#Overusing #hashtags #is #a #bit #like #name-dropping — both boring and ineffective.

About The Author

Francesca James manages the social media for Fresh Business Thinking and blogs about social media & Internet marketing here.

Watch the video below featuring Jemima Gibbons of AAB Engage discussing how social media can positively impact your business.


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