Hashtags: What Are They?
by Rene Looper
‘What is a Hashtag?’ This is one of the most frequently asked questions at our Introduction to Social Media workshops. Hashtags can be perplexing to the novice, infrequent or casual user of social media, but hashtags are intrinsic to the way Businesses should use social media.
So, what is a Hashtag?
A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by an octothorp (#), otherwise known as a hash sign, pound sign (as in weight lb) or number sign, used on social media sites to identify and pull together specific messages and topics of conversation.
A hashtag turns any word or group of words into a searchable link, so you can organise your content, track discussions and be seen to take part in conversations users are having online.
When you click on a hashtag, you’ll see all the posts that mention the subject in real time, making hashtags an incredibly useful research and identification tool.
Hashtags first hit the scene back in October 2007, when Twitter introduced the concept, and it took until 2013 for Facebook to follow suit. Now all platforms including Instagram, Pinterest, Vine and Google+ are in on the hashtag action.
How we use Hashtags at Tuminds
At Tuminds we understand the power of the hashtag; it helps us to organise our social media content and search for useful, relevant content for our business.
On a daily basis, we check the hashtag #socialmedia, as we are in the business of social media. We recommend to all our clients that they too identify their industry hashtag and not only follow it, but use it as part of their posting strategy.
— Social Media Today (@socialmedia2day) February 10, 2016
We also use it to help set the right tone of voice or context for the message we have composed. In a way, the hashtag was the precursor to the emoji (a small digital image or icon that expresses an idea or emotion in text messages or social media posts). We use a hashtag if we want to emphasise how we feel about something eg #happy #annoyed, or if we want to be clear with the reader that something is a joke eg #kidding #laughing or to signal to our readers our state of mind eg #FridayFeeling #MondayMotivation
— Sian Jamieson (@_sianjamieson) December 4, 2015
We also use hashtags to promote specific events or campaigns, so for our strategy workshops this month, we agreed on the hashtag #TuStrategy to promote our event, to bring conversation together around the subject, and to differentiate ourselves in the crowd. We’ll do this for every workshop, event or campaign we’ll run.
— Sian Jamieson (@_sianjamieson) February 5, 2016
Hopping on the back of a trending hashtag can also be an effective way to reach out to people in real time around a specific topic. However, businesses must tread carefully around using trending hashtags as we don’t want to appear to be spamming a conversation. For instance, Tuesdays’s trending topic was #PancakeDay – a perfect hashtag for all businesses to get in on, as it’s a global community event.
— CKDG Inverness (@Inverness_CKDG) February 9, 2016
On the other hand, a trending topic such as #Beyonce might not be that relevant to all our businesses, and to the Twitter, Facebook or Instagram user, may well look like the business is spamming the conversation.
Tumind’s Top Tips for using Hashtags
- Create brand hashtags to help promote your business and establish conversations around you.
- Promote the specifics of your business by using generic hashtags, especially if the name of your business doesn’t immediately communicate what you do.
- Use relevant generic hashtags to reach out to people who are already using or searching for these keywords.