You’ve heard about Twitter hashtags. Maybe you even use them. But do you understand why, and are you aware how powerful a hashtag can be to your brand, or your client’s branding campaign?

The Hashtag's Purpose

twitter hashtagThe hashtag began as a humble idea: the tweeter adds the # symbol (known as the hash key on your telephone) in front of one word or a word group, no spaces. Doing so allows Twitter to categorize the tweet and group it with others who have tweeted using the same hashtag. Think of the hashtag as a keyword tag and it is easier to understand. People searching based on a specific hashtag receive a list of tweets using that particular tag. The searcher is happy, and so are you, because, in one fell swoop, you have:

  • become visible to a new audience
  • joined the conversation
  • voiced your opinion
  • found a likeminded audience eager to read what you have to say

Easy, right?

But we’re not done. When the right hashtag is added to your tweets, your “retweet” rates rise (other people reposting your original tweets). This opens up your comment to new views and opinions, not to mention new followers, and so the cycle of growth and visibility continues.

What This Means for Marketers

First we must understand that Twitter processes 350 billion+ tweets daily. Talk about a noisy marketplace! For marketers who want results from their tweets, it comes down to carefully choosing the most potent hashtags.

For example, Domino’s Pizza UK reduced the price of its featured flavor by one cent each time someone tweeted with the hashtag #letsdolunch during pre-set times. Only one cent per order -- but enough motivation to generate 85,000 tweets and an accumulation of “crowdsourced savings” large enough to ensure some diners ended up with giant discounts.

Want to try creating your own hashtag? Getting it going isn’t difficult, but does take some finesse.

7 Steps to Creating Your Own Hashtag

  1. Consider the value you intend to create. Crowdsourcing? Buzz gen? Provoking conversation?
  2. Develop a clear intention so people get it. Your hashtag must be relevant to your purpose and your subject. Avoid broad concepts like #marketing. Be more specific and unique.
  3. Make sure your chosen hashtag is not already in use.
  4. Make sure your hashtag hasn’t taken on another meaning that could prove negative or create Twitter hijacking. (Remember McDonald’s?)

Twitter Search, Hashtags.org and Tagalus can help with your search.

      5. If your hashtag is truly unique, add it to Tagalus and other hashtag tools.

      6. Get going! Don’t spam people in your anxiety to make sure “it’s working”. Explain what the tag means and encourage others to use it. Always provide value.

      7. Set up an automatic email alert tool so you know when your hashtag is used. (Try Twilert.)

And always remember: you are a real live person talking to other real live people! Apply the Golden Rule in all of your marketing strategies for true long-term success.

(image: hashtag / shutterstock)