by Kim Niemi
Even if you didn’t know what they were called, you’ve seen ‘em. They’re on Facebook. They’re on your TV screen. In days past our elders called them the “number sign” or the “pound symbol.” When placed in front of a word or phrase, hashtags on Twitter enable everyone to categorize their tweets by topic. When a topic is popular enough, it will “trend” on Twitter, and that’s the Holy Grail, baby.
Go to Twitter and click on any of the hashtagged items under Trends and you’ll see just how many people are amped about any given topic on any given day – last week it was the #WorldSeries and #Halloween.
People on Twitter click on hashtags that are most interesting, relevant or amusing to them. So you want to be one of those things.
First the basics:
An important stat: Using hashtags makes it 55% more likely you’ll be retweeted than not using them. So you want to be using them. Twitter Fan Wiki states: “Start using hashtags in your tweets, preceding key words. It can be helpful to do a little research first, to find out if the subject you're tweeting already has an established hashtag.” Using an established hashtag can bring you much more visibility than starting a new variation of your own.
Less is more
Be frugal with hashtags as overusing them can be annoying, and might even send people running for the “unfollow” button. This video is hilarious, but it’s basically a “what not to do.”
Here’s another good example of hashtag frenzy:
Twitter recommends one to two hashtags, with other Twitter authorities upping that to three at most. Looking at the post above, what are the most relevant points? #Dancers is perfect because it gets the attention of their target audience. They could have left it at that, or chosen one more keyword to focus on. An overabundance of hashtags won’t necessarily help you stand out, and might make your tweets clunky and harder to read.
Follow the crowd
You can get yourself out there by jumping onto a trending topic and using the trending hashtag only if what you’re posting is relevant to the topic. In other words, don’t post an ad for an upcoming event at your dance studio with #WorldSeries at the end of it, unless your event is hosting a party for the winning team. That kind of behavior is considered spammy and might cause people to block you, unfollow you, or report you to Twitter – none of which you want. However, if you tweet relevant content that adds to the trending topic, you might find yourself with a few new followers.
You don’t have to use hashtags with every tweet, either. Hashtags are best used when they add to the content you’re posting in some way. If you try too hard to be overly witty just for the sake of throwing in a hashtag, you might swing and miss. Keep it simple and on point and you’ll be most successful.
Next week we’ll cover the last of our three most important Twitter steps, the Retweet. Until then, send us your questions in the comments below and we’ll answer in next week’s post.