Hashtags have been around since Twitter launched way back in 2006. These days, hashtags can be used as a valuable business tool, especially now that the number of social networks that support them have grown to include Facebook, Tumblr, Google+, Instagram, Flickr and a whole bunch of others. However, there are still some businesses and even social media managers who don’t quite know what to do with them or just how significant they are.
What are Hashtags?
According to David George on Heyo.com:
Hashtags are a structured way to categorize and index your posts and other content on Facebook. They give context to what you are sharing online.
David is obviously describing the use of hashtags on Facebook since that particular social network started supporting them, but that pretty much describes how they are used throughout all of social media.
Generate Buzz by Coining a Trending Topic
When you add a hashtag to the beginning of a word, you instantly make that word clickable. If a reader were to click on that link, it would take them to all of the tweets, posts or status updates that were hashtagged with that word. Now, if you’re lucky enough to coin a hashtag that trends all of a sudden, it instantly lets you reach out to a much wider audience. SweetIQ.com says:
Local brands can generate national attention by coining their own hashtags and keywords. You coin by consistently publishing social and informative posts in the area of your brand. Participating in the conversation drives traffic; plus, generating fresh content establishes you in the field, attracts people (customers) interested in the area, and provides ample opportunity to coin your own phrases.
Targeting a Trend
Of course, you don’t have to necessarily coin the hashtag to benefit from a trending topic. If you encounter a topic that has the potential to trend, you can enter the conversation early on and benefit much in the same way. David George says:
By knowing what is trending on Facebook, you can make educated targeting strategies for your next campaign. Does your product or service somehow tie into a current event? Imagine how targeting a “vocal” audience on Facebook can add to your brands’ virality online as they post updates with the same Hashtags.
A good example is if you own a comic store and a large comic convention comes into town. What you can do is look up the hashtags that convention attendees are using and join the conversation, promoting your store while you’re at it.
Measuring Success through Feedback
The great thing about a hashtag campaign is that its success is easily measured. There are a lot of metrics you can rely on, such as the increase in the number of followers, social media mentions, or how often your audience engages with you. According to Econsultancy.com:
What all this comes down to is understanding customers and their behaviour. In order to assess the success of a hashtag-based campaign – any social media-lead campaign – businesses need to do more than count likes and followers. They need to truly understand sentiment, language, tone of voice, and the trends of how the conversation is unfolding around their chosen hashtag.
Sometimes you even have to dive deep and analyze every tweet, post or status update that has been labeled with a particular hashtag, reading each one to determine if the engagement was positive or negative. Thankfully, there are a lot of tools at your disposal to help you understand the organic and uncontrollable interaction you can get from your audience with the help of hashtags and use that information for future campaigns.