Nearly every marketer uses Twitter – and the vast majority of us also use hashtags – the letters that follow the pound or number sign (#) in a tweet. But here are five things you might not know about hashtags that could help you boost your Twitter results dramatically.
For example, did you know that Twitter didn’t invent hashtags? Twitter users did. Google employee Chris Messina is credited as the “hashtag Godfather” for an August, 2007 tweet in which he suggested using the pound sign as a way to organize groups on Twitter. His original idea was that like minded people could find and follow each other more easily if they self-identified their interests with hashtags.
Also, hashtags can be used in two different ways – to group tweets into categories, so they’re easier to find, and also to indicate that the person tweeting is adding an ironic comment to the message. Most of the time, people use them to add personality to a tweet, and reach people who might be searching for a particular topic.
A lot of entertainment marketers use hashtags to build communities around television programming, celebrities, books or movies – and so do smart brand marketers. They’re especially useful during natural disasters — hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards and the like — when people want to know what’s happening in a specific location.
Of course, there are times when a hashtag is not appropriate. For instance, last year Entenmann’s was promoting its line of low-fat bakery products with the hashtag #notguilty. Unfortunately, on the day Florida mother Casey Anthony was found not guilty of killing her young daughter, the company’s ongoing social media campaign sent a scheduled tweet using that hashtag – and it wound up in the middle of the comments about the murder trial.
So the first rule of using a hashtag is to search for it before you use it, and make sure that you aren’t dropping a marketing message into the middle of something else that uses the same hashtag. This is especially true if you schedule tweets in advance – check periodically to make sure that the hashtags you’ve added to pending tweets haven’t become associated with something you’d rather not be associated with.
Here are five times when you should definitely use hashtags.