Hashtags are Twitter's user-led taxonomy. They provide a way to link similar topics and events together amid the endless stream of tweets. Hashtags are a publisher's best friend for collecting and promoting topic-driven information via Twitter.
Hashtags are a great way to market content so that someone trolling for information about the topic will see it. The problem is finding the right balance. The trick is to avoid meaningless tags, over-tagging and inconsistent tags. Here are a few tips to make the best use of hashtags.
Pick a good hashtag
When considering a good hashtag for a topic you cover, it's usually best to be specific about the topic, but broad enough to make the hashtag recognizable to a large group of people ― all packed into your 140-character limit.
The best way to find out whether your hashtag will be useful is to do a quick search on Twitter.com for “#yourtopic” to make sure there's traction on the tag you want to use.
If it's a topic you write about a lot, it might be worth taking a deeper dive to find the best tag. Mashable
offers a good list of tools to track and identify trends in hashtags.
A couple of things to keep in mind when you're hashtagging: Keep it simple ― one or two tags per tweet will usually suffice. #Nobody #likes #an #overzealous #hashtagger. And don't overthink it: Finding the right hashtag shouldn't take more than 30 seconds.
Promote your event hashtags
Many media companies have gotten the hang of using hashtags to promote events
. But having an event hashtag isn't enough to get your attendees to use it; you still need to promote it heavily. Send the hashtag to attendees before the event and make sure to display it in obvious places: on the event website, on signs at the event, on name badges, etc.
The hashtags can easily be aggregated into a website widget
or a big screen at the event to highlight what people are saying about the event.
Use contests and crowdsourcing
Hashtags are great tools for revving up your Twitter community about topics. The Huffington Post has used hashtags
to involve readers in the editorial process, asking users to come up with a headline using the tag #headlinehelp.
Hashtags can also be used with advertisers to monitize some of your Twitter content. For instance, you can ask readers to tweet something specific with a hashtag for a gift certificate offered by a sponsor. For free stuff, people will tweet.
In some cases, readers don't even need much incentive. Perez Hilton
was able to use hashtagging to get hundreds of followers to tweet about a sponsor. He tweeted: “Sponsored: I love to mix bright colors with classic styles to shake things up! Tweet style tips to #gapstyletips to appear on CocoPerez.com!” Of course, not everyone has 1.3 million followers.
On the other hand, hashtagging doesn't always go smoothly. A Starbucks contest was hacked
last year when anti-Starbucks activists posted negative tweets in the stream. Like all user-generated content, the hashtag can sometimes get messy.
Have you had any positive or negative experiences with hashtagging as part of your Twitter strategy?