Mar 222011

Why #Hashtags are so important.

Twitter as we all know is a great social media site. It's like a giant chat room that is open 24/7/365. In recent times, more and more people have joined Twitter and rather disproportionately making it more and more difficult to keep find things that are of interest to you, like people, places, or things that interest you, like sewing, or music. Enter the #Hashtag.

What is a Hashtag (#)?

Depends on whom you speak.  There is a really good definition that reads: “A hashtag is a tag used to categorize posts on Twitter (tweets) according to topics. To add a hashtag to a tweet, you just preface the relevant term with the hash symbol (#). That will allow people who follow that topic to find your tweet and perhaps follow you as well.”

What can I actually do with it?

Perhaps the most famous use of the hashtag is #FF or #FollowFriday.  As the name suggests, it's for "Follow Fridays" on Twitter which allows the person Tweeting to provide a link to other people or businesses that they think others would benefit from also following. For instance, if you are following your favorite political figure, and you think others may wish to follow you would Tweet "#FF @twittername".  Other folks that you are following will be able to see your tweet. Meanwhile, other people may just be searching for the hashtag #FF, and may very well use yours to begin following your suggestions.

One of the other great things about hash tags is that you can see what other people are saying about your topic of interest, without the need to follow everyone, and then spend copious amounts of time filtering relevant information from not. This is particularly important for businesses in general, as it allows for your Social Media team to keep an eye out for your brand, and points of interest (Competitive intel and such), and keep up with happenings, all while remaining invisible.

As some of you know, I work for a very large software company here in Canada, and one of the charges I have is to manage the companies social presence. I have found more often than not by tweeting about special events, such as shows or town halls the company participates in, actually increases customer turnout. I have also been able to find negative comments spoken by end users, and been able to engage them, fix their problem, and report back to the product managers for product enhancements. For a restaurant, it would allow you to promote special events (such as #MonkeyMondays where everyone under the age of 18 gets a free Banana Split), events you're sponsoring and be able to directly engage your customers.  Great example is a company from Washington, DC named "Curbside Cupcakes" - They use hashtags to let people know where they are on a particular day, but also to see what's happening in their local area.  If a particular local hashtag has become popular, they may move their van to that location. By so doing they are are engaging customers on the front lines, and going TO them, rather than waiting for them to come to them.

Watching discussions happening outside your direct circle of followers, you will be able to find new potential fans/customers and engage with them.

So, as you can see, the use of the hashtag is very important to both you, the consumer, and to businesses big and small.  Best part of it, it's free.