Hashtag--you're it!

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Hashtag--you're it!

These days, the ‘#’ symbol is most commonly used to produce a “hashtag,” which is a word or phrase that becomes a searchable subject worthy of a “stream” of comments and conversations in the social world.  But what exactly is a hashtag? What is its purpose? And most importantly, how should they be used effectively?

At their simplest form, a hashtag is a keyword or phrase, spelled without spaces or special characters, with a pound sign directly preceding it. Literally any phrase or idea can be a hashtag, from #Cool to #thisisincrediblydifficulttoreadandshouldneverbeused. #LOL

Hashtags are used as a search and browse tool. A certain word or phrase is placed into a feed with every other post that has used an identical tag. Thus, hundreds of thousands of users on any given social media platform are effortlessly brought together in their discussion of a particular topic – from #UFvsFSU to discuss the big game to #SexyFail to post funny comments and/or pictures related to failed attempts at sex appeal. Hashtags can create a temporary community around any type of discussion, but most importantly, companies who utilize hashtags wisely can easily attract positive attention.

Knowing what a hashtag is and knowing how it should be used are two very different things. Keep one word in mind when using hashtags: caution. When it comes to hashtags, less is more. No one wants to see a tweet in which #every #single #word #is #hashtagged. This makes reading difficult and defeats the purpose of a hashtag – unless, of course, you would like to see what discussion is circulating around the word “is.”

Creating specific and unique tags are of crucial importance. Something generic, like the abbreviation for an organization such as #AAA are not specific enough to relate directly back to your cause or organization. You also run the risk of cross-contaminating with a cause or organization which you would not in any way wish to be affiliated with. If you’re tweeting for an event that is only happening for a short period of time, it might be advantageous to craft a hashtag which contains the year of the event. For example, if Coca Cola is holding an awards night they could ask attendees to use the tag #CokeAwards2013 across Twitter and pictures they post on Instagram to document the evening.

Now that you know how to use a hashtag, equally as important are ways in which you should not use a hashtag. This includes piggybacking on other unrelated topics, which could result in bad press. Instead of positive attention, this could result in a garnering of users angry that you are using another brand’s success to further your own, without their consent. When developing your tag for a campaign, check out a website like #tagdef to see what tags are already being used– it also has lots of popular tags used every day, almost like a hashtag dictionary.

Now that you are well versed in the world of hashtagging, let the pros at The Pod help you get started on your very own Twitter campaign! We offer unique social media services that can make your organization or company stand out. Let us help you plant that seed of awareness before any more times goes by – we know you’ll be amazed by how much it will grow.