Hashtags are taking over social media. The revolution with hashtags started on Twitter and are now all over Google+, LinkedIn, and just recently on Facebook. Hashtags are misused all the time because people don’t understand what they are, why you should use one, and don’t do their research behind a particular hashtag.
What is a hashtag?
Hashtags (or #) on social media are ways to view and contribute to other conversations that have that same hashtag. For example, if I were on Twitter and put #SmallBiz on my tweet it would get grouped together with other tweets using that same hashtag.
The easiest way to understand a hashtag is to relate it to a search engine like Google. If you were to go onto Google and type in Small Biz you would find all sorts of websites, advertising, and sometimes pictures or videos that are associated with those two words. When you click on a hashtag (i.e. #SmallBiz) you are searching for all the conversations in that social media platform that have that same hashtag.
Why Use Hashtags?
It’s not enough just knowing what a hashtag is, you need to know why you use them. People use hashtags for mainly two reasons:
1. Gain new followers
When you use a hashtag you can reach out to other users that are talking about the same thing(s) you are. For example, a user who is talking about Justin Bieber would use the hashtag #JustinBieber to reach the thousands of other users who are interest in Justin Bieber. You could possibly gain new followers because they are interested in connecting with other Justin Bieber fans.
2. Brand certain posts
You can brand your posts with unique hashtags that no one else is using. For example, on Instagram users use #ThrowBackThursday or #TBT (for short) to post a photo taken sometime in the past. Every Thursday users post a picture of themselves as a child or another past time, talking about what was going on or how life used to be.
Choose your hashtags wisely
Anyone who has their profiles set to “public” can insert a hashtag in their tweet, photo, or update. Did you pay attention to what other people are posting in the stream of the hashtag you are using? Since you can’t privately own a hashtag you need to do some research. You need to make sure it’s not associated with another message, brand, or audience already.
Last week was National Small Business Week, which is sponsored by the SBA. The SBA decided to use the hashtag #SBW2013 as their main hashtag for all their social media campaigns. Whomever chose this hashtag didn’t do their research. #SBW2013 (or Small Business Week 2013) is also an acronym for “Senior Beach Week 2013”. When you explore #SBW2013 you not only find posts about small business but posts also from high school graduates partying on the beach.
The way we communicate has changed drastically because of technology. The misuse of hashtags is only going to get worse unless people get educated on the proper use of a hashtag. Help educate people by sharing this post on your social media.
What do you think about Facebook using hashtags now?
Mike Alder is a University of Utah business marketing student and marketing specialist at Lendio. Passionate about entrepreneurship, small businesses, and inbound marketing. Mike shows his passion by sharing stories of successful entrepreneurs and companies with small business owners on the Lendio blog. He makes these big success stories easy-to-apply in simple and easy to read language for the everyday small business owner and entrepreneur.