February 20, 2013

Hashtags 101, Part 1: What They Are & How To Use Them


Example search : #reallyfatcat

#Hashtags. Either you love them, hate them or have no idea about ‘em cause, well… what the heck are they?

Hashtags are actually a really fun and useful tool. Let’s talk real quick about what they’re all about :

  • Hashtags are essentially a searchable tag, topic or label (think the label you put on a file or the name of a folder on your computer).
  • Your hashtag becomes part of an overall online conversation (example : “I like cats.” = seen by your followers.  “I like #cats.” = seen by your followers AND anyone who uses/follows the hashtag #cats).
  • Hashtags are also used to hold live, online chats about a particular topic. It’s like jumping into a chat room with hundreds of people talking about the same thing.

Try it out! Join a Twitter #chat today.

In fact, Twitter chats are a fantastic way to learn about hashtags. You can easily get involved and figure out how best to engage online. You can simply watch until you feel comfortable enough to join in on the convo and post a thought or response. Superusers will be using hashtags left and right—observe how they’re being used and when. Just be respectful and enjoy the process.

How do you find a Twitter chat?

Especially when it comes to Twitter, there are a ton of different tools out there.  But here are two tools to start you off with :

  • Follow @twchat – a Twitter account dedicated to promoting Twitter Chats
  • Chat Wiki  – I love this list as it clearly outlines a ton of chats and when they are happening. Great stuff.

#Doughnuts, a favorite topic of Homer Simpson.

What you can do with hashtags:

  • Run a hashtag photo contest – Give your customers a chance to win something by sharing a photo of your product using a certain hashtag. Your prize can be anything from a free product or service, to a gift card, or even a book that they’d love.
  • Find new followers and friends – Let’s say you own a doughnut shop. Doing a quick search on #doughnuts right now shows us that there’s a lot of people out there in the world that love those sugary treats. Let’s connect!
  • Hashtags aren’t just for Twitter – There are other programs out there that support hashtags and you might just be surprised how many do! Instagram is a great example of that, and a fun way to search for images that match your topic.
  • Innovate – Show up with an idea or just an open mind, type in a topic of interest and put on your safari hat… you’re going exploring. There are conversations out there and people looking to engage. Learn more, explore more, and have fun.

Now, just because you can #hashtag doesn’t mean that you should. One last tip today : Don’t abuse your #hashtag. Like eating too many s’mores at a campout, you don’t want your followers to get a #bellyache over too many #hashtags in your #feed. JUST LIKE TYPING IN ALL CAPS, it’s not polite. Use them wisely, young hashtag master.

Next up in our series…

Part 2 – Useful tools and tips to managing hashtags

  • What you can do to go from beginner to pro
  • Make it unique… unless you don’t want to!
  • Track your results
  • Using Twitter’s advanced search tool
Part 3 – Implementing hashtags as part of a strategy
  • Being voyeuristic can have its benefits
  • Search, find and destroy – Twitter is like playing Battleship
  • Engagement via hashtags
  • Google Keyword, a hashtag treasure trouve
Part 4 – Hashtags for events
  • Where, when and how
  • Presentations
  • Editorial calendars = Lifesavers
  • Live social reporting

Happy hashtagging!

Photo Credit : Scene Marketing Group on Instagram


Questions?  Comments? Leave them below.    

What are some ways you like to use hashtags?  

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About the Guest Author
Shannon Pratuch

Shannon Pratuch is the owner and CEO of the Scene Marketing Group. With over 14 years experience in the marketing and public relations industry, she excels at project management and works with private businesses, associations and non-profit organizations nationally to provide public relations, marketing, event management and consulting services. Sustainable business practices are a focus for her clients, who actively provide positive growth and development in their communities.

  • keepalow

    No hashtags for me please. I’m cutting down.

    • Rignite

      Haha…I think a lot of us could go on a social media diet :)

  • Ming the Merciless

    Be a real stupid asshole, go “TWATTER”!!!

  • #sorryforbeingpicky

    Thank you for all the info. I really and truly appreciate it. By the way, just for your own info … in the “Next up in our series …” in Part 3 you have written: “Being voyeuristic can have it’s benefits”. You actually should have “its” as opposed to the apostrophe “s.” #sorryforbeingpicky.

    • Kim

      No worries…your pickiness is welcome here ;)
      I’ve made the edit. Thanks for pointing it out!