#Tags – what they are and how to use them
Hashtags (#tags) are best known for their use on Twitter as a way of joining up conversations about a particular subject across many different Twitter feeds. #Tags signpost content for other members so that they can easily view content they are interested in. Other social media platforms also use #tags in a similar way. Using #tags can create opportunities for businesses and organisations through:
- Helping you reach other Twitter users who are not yet following you
- Giving you the chance to showcase your knowledge in a particular area by contributing to wider conversations
- Joining up related content in your social media channels to create an useful archive around specific subjects
- Building a following for events
- Communicating to different audiences
- Joining up your online and offline marketing
#tags consist of a “#” symbol followed by an acronym or words that relate to the subject matter or target audience of your Tweet. For example, to help draw attention to our blogs and services, we often use #socialmedia. (NB when using more than one word the space between the words is removed.)
#tags provide a convenient way to search for Tweets about a specific subject on social media. Our use of #socialmedia means that people keyword searching on the subject of social media will come across our Tweets. An example is below. A keyword search on “#socialmedia” shows four different profiles within the results. Our Twitter profile @qsocialmedia appears second on the list:
Linking to other tweets
You’ll notice the #tag is shown in blue like a website link. However, instead of opening a website page, clicking on it shows tweets related to that subject. Thus people using Twitter will often click on #tags to see other tweets currently relating to that subject. Once they have read tweets of interest and opened articles where applicable, they may follow new profiles that particularly interest them and perhaps check out their website.
Creating new #tags
There are no rules or ownership when using #tags. When typing a tweet you just add the “#” tag symbol to the applicable word or words (removing spaces as appropriate). The best of way getting a handle on this is by following others in your industry that are active on social media; look at the #tags they use and click on them to see related tweets. Once you have worked out the type of #tags you could use for your industry, you can start doing it yourself when typing new tweets. Try not to overdo it though – where possible keep to a maximum of three or four #tags per tweet.
You can introduce your own unique #tags by adding #tag to your own made up term. This could be to highlight:
- Your own top tips – helping to build trust by sharing knowledge with your followers (one of the best ways to use social media). By clicking on a unique #tag, followers could see all the previous ones they may have missed. Here is an example with this unique #tag – #Just90tvVideoTip:
- Building a following for events – here’s an example from the Business Network South West (#BNSW) where three different profiles have tweeted the unique #tag #BNSW to their followers, helping to raise awareness of these monthly networking events
- Collaborative Promotion – local independent retailers have got together in Exeter to promote their businesses via the unique #tag #ExeterTrails. (This followed the success of #indiexmas in Christmas 2012). It looks like the word has spread as far as Russian – wow!
Using #tags to differentiate between different audiences
If your customer base is made up of different groups, you can target your messages to specific groups by using a #tag aimed at that audience to group relevant messages together. We would advise when creating your own #tag that you do a search within Twitter first to check that no one else is using it. This will ensure it is unique. Bear in mind there are no rules or ownership of #tags so you cannot prevent people hijacking it for other purposes. However, if you keep it active, this should not be a problem.
Using #tags across different platforms
For those using more than one social media platform, #tags also work on Facebook & Google+ (not yet LinkedIn) in exactly the same way. This helps when sending a message to more than one platform using a social media dashboard application like Hootsuite.
Joining-up online and offline marketing
One way to complement your offline marketing is to mention your #tag in ads, flyers, leaflets etc. This will help raise awareness of it and encourage others to use it. You may have seen #tags used like this when watching TV programs like “Have I Got News For You”. At the start of the program their #tag #HIGNFY pops-up to encourage people to go online and follow them on Twitter at the same time as watching the programme.
Chris Wood – digital marketing specialist