Twitter without hashtags would be like cake without sugar – less palatable and a whole lot less fun.
Hashtags help you cut a swathe through your tweetstream to follow the topics that matter to you and as a result, discover people that will interest you.
[If you’re a Twitter newbie, you might want to read
my introduction to hashtags before you continue reading]
Today, I want to remind business owners or corporate account holders of Twitter of the potential of hashtags.
Hashtags help you find ‘your community’
No matter what field you operate in, chances are there’s a relevant hashtag that shares news and links that you’d be interested in. Don’t simply set up shop on Twitter and start broadcasting information about yourself. If you want to be known as a participant in your industry – even a leader – then actively tweet using relevant hashtags. Put your opinion forward. Follow others who use hashtags relevant to your business. If there’s a hashtag you’re particularly passionate about, you could include it in your Twitter biography.
Hashtags help to identify you
When you use a hashtag regularly, you’re telling Twitter what you’re passionate about. And that includes your industry on Twitter, potential customers or clients, and even traditional media who may be looking for someone as a source in your field. Hashtags help you build your brand online.
Look at potential of your own hashtag
Maybe you’re not happy with the hashtag for your field or industry. It might be US-centric or too inclusive of many other content or users which sometimes drags it off-topic. So consider creating your own hashtag. You can do it any time, just by typing it into a tweet. The trick, of course, is getting the buy-in of others! Use your hashtag frequently, perhaps using it within the same tweet as other relevant hashtags. That sends a signal to your target community that you’ve set up shop. Tweet the tag to influential users or people to encourage them to take part; explain the hashtag, invite them to use it.
Host a live hashtag conversation
If your own hashtag gains traction, consider organising live tweet chats. Plan ahead and warn your community when it’ll be taking place. Have some questions drafted to stimulate discussion. Welcome everyone when the hashtag conversations ‘opens’ and drip feed the questions (preferably the conversation will be confined to an hour). Say hello to participants; encourage them to keep using the hashtag. And of course, be open to a variety of opinions that emerge on the stream, like a good meeting host should. When the conversation time approaches its end, alert users and make sure to thank them for taking part. Consider using a tool like Storify to capture the hashtag conversation for posterity, and to share it with others who couldn’t take part.
Look out for topical hashtags
Lots of hashtags surround trending topics on Twitter. They come and go, rather than stick. You might be lucky enough to come across a tag you could take part in. Twitter.com itself displays ‘trending topics’ however tools like Twirus or Trendsmap may be better for looking at hashtags in your region. Make sure you assess the hashtag to fully understand what it means, and the context of any tweets you send. You don’t want to gatecrash a hashtag inappropriately.
If you use a social media dashboard like Hootsuite, you can set up a dedicated stream (column) for a hashtag that’s important to you. If you prefer to keep things simple and just use Twitter.com, you can have a hashtag as a ‘saved search’. Either route will help you keep track of the hashtags that matter to you.
Finding the right hashtag
Sometimes ‘the right hashtag’ for you is highly popular and obvious, at other times you’ll stumble across a more relevant and niche tag after spending time on Twitter and taking note of what your peers use. Over time, you’ll find and use the ones that are more suitable to you. For example you might enjoy #ttot rather than #travel, #adelhills rather than #adelaidehills, #hcsmanz rather than #healthcare, #saparli rather than #auspol and so on.
Don’t be shy
Above all, don’t be afraid of joining hashtag conversations. They’re built for sharing. Follow them to learn more. Use them when you need help. Offer answers where you can. They’re part of the community glue of Twitter.