What’s In A #Hashtag?
Posted by Talknowledgy
Twitter’s greatest strength as a social network is its openness, which allows people around the world to instantaneously share bite sized information. But without a strong search engine and way to organize the data, you could spend a very long time trying to find what you’re looking for.
Hashtags are a word, or series of words, or acronym preceded by a pound sign. They’re used to help people find the information they’re looking for by categorizing it. If I’m looking for information about the city of Ottawa on Twitter I can follow their Twitter account (@OttawaCity), or I can search for Ottawa using the search engine and I’ll get results. But if I look at #ottnews or #ottcity, I’ll get even more results (some of which don’t explicitly have the word ‘Ottawa’ in them but are definitely centred around Ottawa).
The hashtags you want to look at depend on the content you’re looking for, and who you want to talk to. For example, many TV programs will have their own (#AOTS, #WalkingDead) though in some cases they’re fan-created rather than being made by the organization producing the content (which is bad, but on the other hand if your group can capitalize on this then your fans have done a lot of your work for you!). Some organizations are large enough that they will promote more than one hashtag, with each focusing on specific aspects. This is important to know as a community manager, as a content creator, and as someone participating in these types of discussions. Using proper hashtags improves your chances of getting a response, of having your message seen, and of reaching your target audience.
Here’s some things to keep in mind when creating a hashtag for your organization:
How long is it? Keep it short and simple. You’ve only got 140 characters per tweet, and if your hashtag is too long then it’ll be hard to include it.
Is it easy to understand? #BeADonor. #cdnpoli. #fail. You know what you’re getting yourself into searching for those.
Can people spell it? Our hashtag is #TKNonCFRA because, for some, Talknowledgy might be hard to spell.
How many people will be using it?If it’s a large group, and you can split them because they don’t all need the same messages (ie. they aren’t all attending the same conference) consider having a second hashtag.
Who else is using the hashtag? Hashtags are almost like old chat channels in that anyone can use them, so it’s hard for you to ‘own one’. But if you ‘move in on someone else’s turf’ then you’ll have two groups trying to overshadow one another. At the same time, people may go looking for your content and could find other, totally unrelated content which could be confusing. Be original, be unique!
The question arises: should your company have a hashtag? Ultimately, there’s very little downside to specifying something as ‘your hashtag’. You can tag tweets with as many hashtags as you can fit in, so you aren’t limited to just ‘yours’. You can tell people to tweet directly at you as well, but if you’re all tagging your tweets the same way then it’s a group discussion instead of a series of 1 on 1 conversations. It helps cultivate a community, promote your product, and makes the life of the social media manager easier since s/he’s got help creating content.
As a side note, never use hashtags that are irrelevant to your posts! Only tag your tweets with things that you are talking about. If you talk about a lot of diverse things, that’s OK. Just don’t be like HabitatUK. And don’t make your goal to turn your entire tweets into a series of hyperlinks. It’s unpleasant to read, and it looks spammy. Not everything needs to be a hashtag, as Twitter will tell you in their Hashtag FAQ.
Finally, if you want to see what’s getting the most buzz on Twitter, make sure you check out the top 10 Trending Tweets list on the right hand side of your Twitter home screen and look at your area or the nearest major city. You can also check if there’s a Trendsmap Twitter account for your area (@TrendsOttawa, for instance). But again, don’t tag your tweets with those hashtags unless they’re relevant!
Hope that helps explain some of the function of hashtags. What are your favourites?