How To Use Hashtags to Expand Your Twitter Audience?
A hashtag is a keyword or a key phrase (without spaces) that is prefixed by the pound sign (#). It is essentially a metadata tag whose function in social media (particularly on Twitter where it first appeared) is to group messages that contain the keyword or key phrase together in one set. It makes the search for messages (or tweets in the case of Twitter) a lot less difficult since all the user has to do is search for the hashtag and he will get all the messages (tweets) contained in the set.
But on Twitter, a hashtag is more than just a mere word or phrase. It is a powerful tool, which will help you expand your Twitter audience, connect people with common interests, and spark a stream of conversation about the topic at hand. Twitter users have in fact elevated hashtags to the next level —i.e., into unabridged, un-moderated, impromptu discussion forums with tremendous potentials to trend and go viral.
Unfortunately, however, the hashtag is one Twitter feature that is largely misunderstood, often misused, and a lot of times gravely abused by some Twitter users. As you will notice later on, once a hashtag starts trending, a lot of opportunistic users will use it to piggyback on the trend and promote their selfish ends without contributing anything of value to the discussions.
Used properly, hashtags can reap tremendous marketing mileage for you; if misused, it can lead to epic failures as in the case of the hashtag #McDStories of the famous McDonald’s food chain. It drew quite a lot of responses alright, but unfortunately, the hashtag turned into a ‘hashtag’ as disgruntled customers started tweeting negative comments about the food chain.
To avoid such epic fails, here are some hashtag best practices you can put to good use:
Create your very own hashtags so that your followers can easily identify with your brand as well as with each other. Avoid doing a piggyback on an existing hashtag.
Keep your hashtag simple yet unique. Don’t forget that you only have 140 characters in a tweet and the hashtag shouldn’t take up a big portion of it. Make sure that your hashtag is not only short and simple; it must also make sense and be quite easy to recall.
Blend your hashtag with your tweet making sure that it goes well with the flow and readability of the tweet. It doesn’t matter if you put it in the beginning or at the end or in the middle of the tweet itself as long as it does not disrupt the flow of thought of your tweet.
Use hashtags sparingly. Avoid overloading your tweet with a lot of hashtags as your followers may shy away from re-tweeting hash-tag-heavy tweets. The rule of thumb here is to use no more than two hashtags in a tweet.
Craft your hashtags wisely because once it goes live you can’t control how people will use it. It can backfire on you as in the McDonald’s case where it reaped more negative comments than positive ones.
Tweet an explanation of your hashtag before you start using it in your tweets especially if it is something people won’t be able to immediately understand.
Once your hashtag goes live, encourage your Twitter friends, fans, and followers to help you spread it around by re-tweeting it.
Spread your hashtag beyond Twitter by embedding the hashtag tweet feed on your blog site and other networking sites. There are Twitter tools available for this purpose like `Twubs”.