Using Social Media Research to Find Your Audience
Improve Your Marketing with a Twitter #Hashtag Strategy
By Jamie Maloney
I’ve been asked a lot lately about hashtags, so I thought I’d put together a brief tutorial for those of you out there scratching your heads at the phenomenon of adding a pound symbol (#) in front of a word or phrase. What does it mean and how can you use it as social media research to improve your Internet marketing?
The hashtag first became used in popular culture on Twitter as a way for users to categorize or group messages together and as a way for their tweets to be found more easily in Twitter search. To create a hashtag, simply add the pound symbol (#) before a key word or phrase that you want to highlight. For example, if you are a retailer and you’re having a big sale on shoes, you might use #ShoeSale in your tweet to help get found by anybody looking for a shoe sale. (The capital letters don’t have an effect on search, but it makes the words easier to read). As Jeff Bullas points out in his blog, “hashtags are like Twitter SEO.”
At the same time, you can find other people who are talking about your product or industry by doing a hashtag search of your own. You would simply type your keywords into the Twitter search bar to find anyone who is talking about #socialmedia and join the conversation. Many events and conventions designate a hashtag that attendees can use to find other Twitter users who are attending the same event, and people who cannot attend may still follow along what is happening by following the hashtag. Televised events now have hashtags that are broadcasted to viewers so everyone can be a part of the same conversation, such as the Democratic National Convention (#DNC2012) and Republican National Convention (#RNC2012). If you do a search in Twitter for these hashtags, a list of tweets showing these topics will come up. Often, hashtagged words that are very popular become Trending Topics.
Another way to utilize hashtags is something called a “hashtag chat” or “tweet-up,” a virtual meet-up in which people take to Twitter at a given day and time and follow the pre-determined hashtag to participate in a conversation. An example is Sarah Evans’ #journchat, a weekly tweet-up for journalists, PR professionals and bloggers to discuss their industry. Not only can a hashtag chat provide additional exposure for your brand, but it can also position you as an expert in your industry, as it has done for Sarah. Other uses for marketing with Twitter hashtags include answering customer questions, running promotions or contests, and fundraising. MediaBistro has provided a simple guide for anyone wanting to join a hashtag chat.
Hashtags are not just limited to Twitter anymore, either. Other social media platforms, such as Pinterest and Instagram, have also picked up on using hashtags as a way for users to categorize their content and to make social media research easier – both to find what they’re looking for and for others to find them. How are you using hashtags for your business? Have you had success in creating your own trending hashtag?