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Unlock the potential of hashtags


The cover of our Loop e-book on unlocking the power of hashtags in social media marketingWhen Twitter first introduced the hashtag in 2009 it seemed like an interesting quirk of the social network that made it easier to filter through the constant stream of information.


Simply by putting the # symbol in front of a keyword or phrase (with no spaces or punctuation) Twitter users could easily create a hyperlink to an ongoing global conversation about that topic.


Since then hashtags have even been adopted far and wide, as a way of inviting users to join in conversations and discover content. Most significantly, Google+ recently started supporting hashtags, automatically inserting them into posts. In addition to aiding content discovery on the social network, it’s also helping Google to deliver more relevant content in its searches.


And, even with some recent discussion surrounding rumours that Twitter is currently reviewing the role of hashtags, they’re here for a while yet. And more likely to eventually change in appearance, rather than in principle. So start making use of them now.


Why use hashtags?

Whatever platform you use a hashtag on, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ or YouTube, the aim is always the same – to reach a larger audience by participating in and starting conversations relevant to your brand.


Hashtags have a search engine optimisation (SEO) role, too. Just as Google is clamping down on the over optimisation around keywords, they are fully embracing hasthtags as a way of understanding your topic and when to return you in searches.


Even more, Google is now returning live, scrolling feeds of hashtagged Google+ posts when a hashtag is searched for.


The possibilities for your online marketing

When a brand uses a hashtag it’s inviting relevant users to join in conversations. The hashtag might be related to a brand’s field, to a specific product or service, or designed to bring a level of cohesiveness to an online campaign.


Although there might be the temptation to leap into popular conversations that are not relevant to your brand this isn’t always helpful. While it may attract some new eyeballs the chances are the people reading the tweets aren’t part of your brand’s target audience.


So research and choose hashtags carefully – but as long as it has some connection it should reach the right audience.


The pitfalls

While an engaging hashtag can be a powerful thing, and open up your content to people who might not otherwise have discovered it, there are also pitfalls. As some major brands have discovered. For example, McDonalds #McDStories was pretty disastrous – many of the stories shared were ones that would put you off your lunch rather than make you feel hungry.


Other mishaps include unfortunate combinations of words like when BlackBerry, formerly known as Research in Motion (or RIM), tried to help recruitment with the hashtag #RIMjobs.


Some limitations

That being said, not every social network has found them to be such a successful innovation. Last year LinkedIn briefly allowed hashtags to be included in posts but removed them a few months later. Facebook also enables hashtags in its posts but it’s debateable if they’ve yet to catch on in the same way as they have done on Twitter and Google+.


However, because not every social network has had the same success doesn’t mean hashtags are something to be ignored.


The future

The popularity and power of the hashtag shows no signs of diminishing.


The majority of the main social networks take advantage of them in some way, so it’s important to know when, why and how to use them.


They might seem like a small thing but they pack a punch, and are one of the quickest and easiest ways to engage with a greater number of potential customers.


Download this how-to guide as a PDF


Simply fill in the form opposite. You'll be able to access lots more resources, too.


Even more info, just for you


A beginner's guide to using hashtags by Mashable.


The role of the hashtag in social media and search marketing by Search Engine Watch.


How and when to use hashtags by the Content Marketing Institute

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