I hate discussing hashtags.
Four words and one mark of punctuation into this post, and I’m already rolling my eyes. (I’ve drawn you in already, right?)
Frequently, when hashtags are being discussed – in blog posts, books, whitepapers, as part of campaigns, in meetings, or wherever – their importance is held so high that I find it verging on laughable.
A hashtag, plain and simple, is a tool Successfully using hashtags doesn’t have much to do with a hashtag itself.for sociability and really only has one of two purposes: 1) to organize conversations around a particular topic, and 2) to start conversations around a particular topic.
Sure, both of these purposes could be grouped together under ‘organizing conversations’, but special considerations make me hesitate to colour them quite so simply.
I stated off the top that I hate discussing hashtags, so you may be wondering why on earth I’ve written this blog post.
Well, I’ve decided to weigh in on hashtags this one time only because I strongly believe that we all need to be a little more social on social media, and undeniably, hashtags can, and do, assist in that area.
So, here’s my brief guide to hashtags, which will hopefully simplify your view of these renamed pound signs, and provide some clarity for how to effectively use them:
PARTICIPATE IN A CONVERSATION
Everyday, people are having conversations on social media that may be of relevance to your brand, and many of these conversations are organized – by design or accident – through consistent hashtag use.
A tremendous opportunity for your brand is to identify these conversations and associated hashtags, and participate! Simple, right?
START A CONVERSATION
This is where I find there to be most confusion about hashtags. Businesses frequently want to “create a hashtag” that will get the masses talking about a “conversation they start”, and have it all be directly attributable to their brand.
You’ll note there are a couple of phrases that I placed in quotation marks above: “create a hashtag” and “conversation they start”. I did that, because there’s more to discuss in each of these areas.
“Creating a hashtag” is a pretty silly notion in my opinion. This exercise should be less about ‘creating’ and more about ‘identifying’ what hashtag people are likely to use to discuss the topic of conversation you are hoping to ignite. Except out of irony or dated sense of humour, people don’t ‘create hashtags’ that experience any kind of traction. They simply use hashtags that are relevant to a topic of discussion that will be easy for others to identify and use as well.
“Starting a conversation” is not difficult. However, in the world of social media marketing, “starting a conversation” that gains participation of scale, which is typically the measure that success is based on, is hugely challenging. No creative or clever hashtag is going to make this any less daunting. To get people talking, you need to give people a reason to talk: do something amazing, create an amazing product, provide an incredible experience, and on.
The point is that successfully using a hashtag doesn’t have much at all to do with a hashtag itself, it does however, have everything to do with the topic of discussion that the hashtag merely represents.
If your business is conversation worthy, or you do something conversation worthy – guess what – people will talk about it. When they do, have a readily accessible, easy to understand, and simple to remember hashtag to organize their conversations.
How does your business successfully organize conversation around certain topics?
How does your business use hashtags to find relevant discussions to participate in?
How have do you observe your audience using hashtags?
It would be great to chat with you about your thoughts and experience in the comments, or on Twitter @RGBSocial
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