They are, quite possibly, the #1 tool on Twitter (see what I did there?), but they also cause some of the biggest problems.
So let’s talk turkey. Hashtag turkey.
What are they?
Basically, they create internal one-click linking and search organization around Twitter. That’s how they were intended to be used.
There are two general purposes for hashtags in Twitter.
1) Joining, following or creating a conversation.
Example: “I really liked this week’s American Idol show! #idol”
Example: “I laughed so hard, Diet Coke came out of my nose #BecauseImAwesome”
Also, see the #YouMayNotBeASocialMediaPersorn transcript!
You can see the clear different.
#idol is an accepted search hashtag for comments about the TV show American Idol.
#BecauseImAwesome adds a certain snarky self-deprecation to the Tweet.
One enhances the visibilty, one enhances the content.
Both are totally cool.
But when they are misused, it makes you look, well, not good.
Here are some tips to rule the hashtag world:
1) Timing is key
In the American #Idol example above, anyone following that conversation will likely be doing so while the show is on TV (or shortly thereafter) or at least when it’s culturally relevant. So, in-season, off-season breaking news, etc. Tweeting on the hashtag in August when the show starts in the winter will likely be a lost cause.
2) Make sure it’s a used hashtag
Nobody wants to be shouting in the woods by themselves, right? You worked hard crafting that perfect message, so make sure that you are tagging it with words people are actually searching.
A caveat here is to make sure you aren’t forcing something into an unrelated conversation just because it’s popular. If you have a link about coffee, don’t send it to a sports group, unless there is a logical tie in.
3) Build off other hashtags
Are you trying to start a unique conversation about something? Post to other related hashtags to pique interest and attract attention. It shouldn’t bother the folks over there.
A perfect example of this is when #SIDchat (Sports Information Directors) was launching. They used the more established #SportsPRChat hashtag to find other SIDs who were on Twitter and interested in talking marketing. Victory!
4) Be careful of auto-fills
This is my biggest problem that I work on. I use Seesmic Desktop (which I LOVE). The program suggests hashtags as you type – no matter how popular they may be. It’s so easy to take their suggestions, but these are just as likely to be false leads as actual conversations.
What other hashtag tips do you have?