Hashtags are the quickest and easiest way to search for and find out what Twitter users are currently talking about.
They’re also key to productive Twitter engagement – hashtags put your tweets in front of the people who are interested in them.
Check out this post for a short history of the hashtag.
But most importantly: how do you use them? And how do you use them well?
Don’t overuse them. Hashtags are most effective when you use them judiciously. Including more than two in a single tweet is overkill. And irritating. Rule of thumb: you only need to tag the most important word that represents the theme of your tweet.
Be obvious. Often, the best hashtag is the most obvious one. Consider this case study: the producers of the American version of X-Factor wanted to differentiate their show from the original British version, so they settled on using the hashtag “XFUSA.” But then a funny thing happened: fans, of their own accord, started using the non-promoted #xfactor five times more than the official #XFUSA.
So the producers listened to their fans and changed it up, using #xfactor to promote the show in its second episode. They saw an immediate increase in the Twitter conversation surrounding the show.
Join a conversation. You can benefit from the power of hashtags without generating them on your own. Find a Twitter chat that’s relevant or interesting to you by identifying its hashtag, and follow along.
There is a Google Spreadsheet online that lists all of the active Twitter hashtag chats, which is a great place to start browsing for topics that interest you. Alternatively, you can find hashtag chats through Twitter.com’s search, by asking your followers about any chats they might participate in, or by stumbling across one in the trending topics list. Bonus: If you join in a popular conversation on Twitter using a hashtag, you increase the likelihood that you’ll get retweeted.
Try before you buy. Before jumping head-first into a dialogue, it’s best to double-check what the hashtag being used really means. Sites like What The Trend show you the top hashtag trending topics on Twitter, along with a short description of each, how long ago this phrase started trending and when it received its description. It’s worth taking the extra few seconds to look before you leap. Don’t want to make this mistake.
Target your audience. Ironic hashtags will always be a thing, but best practice on Twitter dictates that proper hashtags are used to target other tweeps with relevant messages. Take advantage of the hashtag as a filing or labeling tool by indicating to the Twittersphere who your tweets are intended for. For example, a marketing pro could use the hashtag #marketing101 to indicate that a tweet contains marketing intel; or if you are a freelance web designer, for instance, you might want to tag those tweets that contain tips for fellow designers with #webdesigntip.
Any other tips for using hashtags effectively? The comments are yours.
(Twitter hashtag image from The Drum)