A Twitter hashtag ties the conversations of different users into one stream, which you can find by searching the hastag in Twitter Search or by using a third-party monitoring tool such as HootSuite. So, if Twitter users who are not otherwise connected talk about the same topic using a specific hashtag, their tweets will appear in the same stream. In that way, Twitter hashtags solve a coordination issue and facilitate a conversation. Popular hashtagged words often become trending topics — topics so many people are talking about that they are a “trend.”
So here are some tips to help you use hashtags effectively.
Create an everlasting conversation
Several years ago a group of marketers working in the healthcare industry were planning to attend the rapidly growing South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival in Austin, but felt frustrated at the lack of panels and conversation devoted to the topic of healthcare. Wanting a good alternative, they banded together to create their own show they called South By Social Health (SXSH). For weeks they used the #sxsh tag (and a secondary tag of #hcsm – “health care social media”) to bring the conversation together. For years after the event, both tags continued to be used to bring digital healthcare conversations together. What’s the lesson for brands? Sometimes a hashtag can offer the ultimate means to foster a conversation on a topic broader than your brand, and let you do it in a way that can last far beyond any one campaign.
Don’t Hijack Hashtags for Sensitive Situations
Hijacking hashtags designed for serious and sensitive issues can lead to some bad consequences. Designer Kenneth Cole, for example, tried to insert his brand into conversations about the Egypt uproar by using that in his tweet. Through this tweet, Kenneth Cole tried to hijack the #Cairo hashtag in attempt to promote his spring collection. His message was received with strong public disapproval and media criticism.
Keep it Short
Be sure to keep your hashtag short and easy to remember. Remember that Twitter users are only allotted 140 characters in each tweet, with or without a hashtag. By keeping the hashtag brief, you’ll save your audience some room to include more commentary about your content.
Domino’s Pizza in the UK, for example, got creative several years ago by offering 1 pence off the pizza for every person who tweeted #letsdolunch during a specified timeframe. All the Tweets managed to drop the price of a pizza from £15.99 to £7.74 – a deal which was then honored for ALL their customers (even the nontweeting ones). The more brands run hashtags as a key element of a campaign, the more the lesson in Domino’s success becomes clear: having a good incentive makes a huge difference.