How to Use Twitter Hashtags for Effective Marketing

Hashtags — also called #hashtags — allow Twitter users to tag their tweets to provide context to their tweets or designate them as being part of a particular conversation. You can use hashtags in your marketing campaign to build a temporary community, create a buzz, or start a discussion around a particular topic. While you talk about that issue, other people will start to talk about it, too.

You tag things by placing # right in front of whatever keywords you’re using. You can find Twitter hashtags for cities, states, countries, current events, brands, sports teams, or anything else you can think of.

The # symbol also carries a lot of meaning around it. It’s basically a message to other twitterers that you’re talking about this topic, and if they want to talk about it with you, they should use this hashtag in all their tweets; otherwise, you may not know that they’ve tweeted about it (if you are not following them). It may be hard to believe you can put all that into one little #, but you can.

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You can’t really use a hashtag in a wrong way. You can tag anything you want. The question is, will people follow suit?

One of the best ways to use a hashtag is to see what other people are talking about and use their tags, rather than create your own. Otherwise, you run into the problem of having too many hashtags in a single tweet. You don’t want to waste characters by having hashtags that are three variations of one idea. For example

#BlogIndiana #BlogIN #BlogIndiana2010 #BlogIN2010

would take up too much space on a single tweet (49 characters, in fact), so use the most common hashtag and ignore the others. Many event organizers decide on the hashtags that they want twitterers (those attending and those following the event remotely) to use before the event even begins and ask people to use those hashtags in their tweets. Of course, you also want to remind people from time to time to use the correct hashtags.

Make sure that your hashtags are one word, even if it’s a two- or three-word idea. If you create a hashtag that says #blog Indiana, the word blog is the only word that’s actually tagged.

You can also create your own hashtag if you can’t find an appropriate hashtag created by somebody else. But make sure that your hashtag is both as short as possible and as understandable as possible. One of the least effective ways to use hashtags is to tag common words, such as car, computer, or lunch. Although you can probably get some people to use those kinds of tags when talking about your topic, you’ll have a real problem getting people to follow those tags. Save your hashtag energy to create ones that twitterers will most likely follow.

Don’t start a hashtag for your own company or product. If you do, you’ll look like you’re trying to create a movement yourself. At worst, other twitterers will accuse you of astroturfing (creating an artificial grassroots movement). At best, you’ll just look desperate and sad.

It’s generally expected that hashtags come at the end of a tweet, sort of like the second verb in a German sentence.

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Sometimes, you can work a hashtag into a normal tweet and make it sound natural and conversational.

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