Learning the Lingo is a series of posts that will investigate marketing terms, ideas and strategies. Our topic today: hashtags.
Social media and internet culture has changed the way we communicate with each other. It started by users creating electronic shorthand to help speed conversations along. Acronyms like “LOL” (laughing out loud) have become so common they are in the dictionary. Internet memes have helped internet communities describe a mood through pictures. This new language also includes a way to categorize social conversations. It’s called a hashtag, but you may know it as “#.”
Twitter users have been using the hashtag as a categorization tool since 2007, when Chris Messina suggested using it to keep conversations in order. In 2009, Twitter made all hashtag categories linkable and searchable. Now, users from around the world could share thoughts and ideas by using a hashtagged word or phrase. In 2010, Twitter coined the phrase “Trending Topic” to give weight to popular topics that were hashtagged globally and nationally.
I know it looks confusing, but think of every Twitter post like a 140 character blog. At the end of all of your blogs what do you add? Keywords. These keywords help your blog gain exposure when search engines index websites. Keywords can also link different posts on your blog together.
For instance, you own a fishing store and you wrote a post about fishing for marlin in Mexico. At the end of the blog you use the keywords “marlin,” “fishing,” “Mexico.” A customer reads the post and sends you in a video of him fighting and catching that same type of fish in that location. You post the video and use the same three keywords. On your blog, people will be able to search for any one of those words and every post that include that keyword will be linked together. You just categorized your blog.
Using hashtags on a Twitter post is the same thing. You are connecting a post you write with a keyword. That hashtag will now connect your tweet with anyone who has used that keyword. And it’s not just Twitter users who utilize hashtags now. Hashtags are used by Facebook and Instagram in the exact same way; to categorize and connect conversations.
Social media users have really embraced using hashtags as a tool to help categorize topics and ideas. You’ll find hashtags created organically by users to share news and opinions about certain news stories or events. Businesses have also recognized the power of trending topics and stories and have created hashtag campaigns to promote products and live events. The next time you watch a sporting event on TV look for a hashtagged phrase they suggest you use to share your thoughts about an event.
My favorite thing about a hashtag is that anyone can use it and any hashtag could start trending. Any business owner can start a hashtag campaign for free. If you own a bakery and want to promote your muffins, start creating a social media strategy and develop a hashtag. For example, use #MondaysMuffin to promote the muffin of the day. If you are planning a community event, suggest using a hashtag that every business can promote to spread the word among local consumers.
Social media is about connection. It’s about engaging with consumers and sharing a voice with them. Using a hashtag as a part of your social advertising is the best way possible to create that conversation and communicate with potential customers.
Nick Pizzolato is the Marketing Content Manager at Wicked Local Media Solutions. For questions, topics for future blogs, or to share your favorite moment from the film “Back to the Future,” email him at email@example.com.