#OMG what are hashtags and what am I meant to do with them?

I grew up in a world where hashtags did not exist. Now they are everywhere and are used as a very powerful tracking tool. Seeing them everywhere doesn’t necessary mean that there is a wider understanding of what they are, and what we are ‘meant’ to do with them. The purpose of this post is to give you an understanding of:

  • What hashtags are
  • What they can be used for
  • How you create them
  • How they can be valuable to your personal or professional brand(s)

What are hashtags?:

  • # this is the hashtag symbol which you may know as the pound sign
  • Using a # before a word or group of words makes it/them searchable on the internet as a searchable link

If you search grapes, you get this:

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 12.24.48 PM

If you search #grapes, you get this:

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 12.25.10 PM

Basically what this means is that by adding the # you can create links that are searchable across social media but also come up in internet searches too.

What can hashtags be used for?:

The simplest answer to this is that they can be used for anything. In fact, you will see that many people use them frequently in text messages and emails, as well as on social media. They are also being used by brands in their advertising across on and off line mediums. If you are using them professionally, I would advise you to have a strategic approach to using them though.

How do you create hashtags?

In my opinion, hashtags are not created, they are simply added to words or groups of words to make them searchable.

If you are asked to ‘create’ hashtags for your boss or client, start with a brainstorming session of potential hashtags. Then research the best ideas using tools such as tweetarchivist.com. The reason this research is so important is because you do not want to risk using a hashtag that is already being used. You need to own it, and you also need to ensure that it is not being used already. In your research, you may even find that the hashtag you want to use is being used in a way that is against your personal or professional ethics.

Once you have done your research, start using your favourite hashtag across all on and offline marketing portals and track their reach using tweetarchivist.com or other tools you may use.

Start by playing to see what works for you and how things work. I would advise you not to launch anything professionally until you are comfortable with the process.

Why are hashtags valuable?

Hashtags are valuable because they enable you track engagement by charting the reach of your hashtag and how people are interacting with it. Looking at the sentiment associated with your hashtags is really important. This should also be monitored as a hashtag that has incredible reach, with negative sentiment, is not a good thing to share with your bosses.