Let’s first define what a hashtag is and how you create one. A hashtag is a # symbol followed by any unbroken string of characters; unbroken being the key. If we wanted to hashtag our company’s name it should look like this - #thesocialsherpa NOT #The Social Sherpa. In the first example, we have a successful tag and in the second I have a successful tag of the word “THE” which is just a tad too generic.
Think of #hashtags as bookmarks of sorts but the author is bookmarking their content to be found at a later date.
How do people use hashtags
Users of social networks leverage hashtags to find the content their looking for and/or follow online discussions. If you did a Twitter or Facebook search for #socialmediatips, you would find ALL posts or tweets available where that hashtag has been used. Once you have gotten all that information in front of you, simply peruse at your convenience.
Currently these are the networks using hashtags, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, Tumblr, Orkut, Fluidinfo, Catch.com and FriendFeed. (Do not panic if you haven’t heard of some of these, its okay) The ones you should be most concerned with are the first five on the list.
It’s important to simultaneously stand alone and in the crowd, so I’m a two hashtag kinda guy. I use one hastag that is focused on our brand, such as, #SherpaApproved which is sort of our USDA seal of approval on other’s writings and ideas. It tells our followers that we’ve read it and found it worth reading and on track.
Well, let’s face it, we don’t have the social media cred of a Jay Baer (@jaybaer) or Mari Smith (@marismith) so we need to tap into some other hashtag that is more generic and has greater likelihood of being found WITHOUT hijacking a hashtag. Hijacking a hashtag is when you use one created by someone else for the purpose of getting caught up in their trending…booooo, very bad form.
So if we lay our #SherpaApproved tag on a retweet about, say hashtags, we might put the generic #hashtag on the retweet. Now if someone sees the retweet and finds value, they may want to see what else the Sherpa has approved and now we have a new follower.
So we are both standing alone (#SherpaApproved) and in a crowd (#hashtag) at the same time.
Take Your Shot!
Now that you know a little more, take your shot. Do a search for hashtags on your favorite social platform and see if you can come up with one that is unique to you and your brand, then find the most closely matching generic and start using hashtags.
What is the best use of hashtags you’ve seen? Lord knows, we want to encourage good hashtag use, so here’s your chance to toot your horn about someone. Likewise we need to #shame #into #submission #those #that #abuse #the #hashtag. What are your worst examples, present company excluded please?