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How and Why You Should Use Hashtags When You Tweet

How and Why You Should Use Hashtags When You Tweet

[By Kait Fowlie]

Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake may have made hashtags sound pretty silly when they showed us what a Twitter conversation sounded like in real life, but research shows that incorporating hashtags into your tweets is anything but.

A recent infographic by QuickSprout reveals an impressive stat: tweets with hashtags have the power to generate twice the engagement in the form of clicks, retweets, favorites and replies as tweets without. Before you go sprinkling #’s all over your tweets without a strategy, be warned – using them too liberally (more than two per tweet) can actually come off to your followers as spam and have a negative effect on your engagement. So, knowing hashtag best practices before you take your message to Twitter can mean the difference between making a connection or missing the mark. Here, we address 3 ways to use hashtags for optimal content-sharing.

What a Hashtag Can Do For You

The concept of trending has become one of the biggest barometers of success on social media, and bloggers, journalists and publishers are using hashtags to “jump into” popular conversations. But simply piggybacking on trends isn’t all a hashtag is good for. Hashtags can be used strategically to identify and engage with Twitter users who are valuable to your brand and campaign efforts, gather instant feedback from a specific niche, and crowdsource ideas for content to make sure you’re always adding the most value to the conversation and your customers.

  1. Increase your Reach and Meet New Prospects Where They Are

Incorporating a hashtag into your tweet makes it easy for your content to be seen and searched by anyone interested in the same topic. This is a great way to get introduced to prospects you might never have imagined would be interested in what your brand has to offer. While you might be focusing your marketing efforts on a particular demographic or niche, you never know who is participating in conversations around it and who might be a star influencer – until you track a hashtag.

Beyond identifying new prospects within one-to-two degrees of separation, a hashtag can amplify your message exponentially. In fact, it’s been proven that tweets that contain hashtags are 55% more likely to be retweeted than those that don’t.

  1. Target Your Message and Connect With Qualified Traffic

Aside from extending your reach in general, hashtags can help you deliver a targeted message to a specific niche you want to reach that might be outside your network or list of subscribers. The more specific you can get the better chance you have of honing in on qualified traffic. For example, if you’ve got a message that will appeal to Hershey’s chocolate lovers, the hashtag #hersheyslovers will earn you views by a lot more of your desired followers than using #hershey’s or #chocolatelovers.

Use a social listening tool to identify hashtags that are being used around a certain topic at the time of your content distribution. Savvy digital marketers know it’s not always about quantity of traffic coming to your site; it’s about quality of traffic.

  1. Crowdsource Content Ideas and Retool Your Content Strategy

Hashtags are like a news crawler that can show you relevant news in real-time – and, you can use them proactively to gather ideas for content. Scour a hashtag feed and you can find out what your current and potential customers are talking about, their sentiment around certain products, branding messages, people, and what you might have to offer the conversation. Social media is where people talk about their pain points uninhibitedly, and it’s here you’re likely to get the most valuable feedback about your brand.

Listening to your target audience will provide you with a direction for your content strategy – but don’t just stop there. Continue to track the hashtag feed to find out how you can continually strengthen your messaging. Is your content adding value? How can you use this feedback to engage in further conversation and build positive relationships?

How to Define Hashtag Success

Many variables will determine how you define hashtag success. If you’re announcing a product launch, for example, your lift on a message will be much less if your company is small vs. if it’s large. Consider contacting select influencers beforehand to help your hashtag gain traction, or see if you can position your message as a response to a news item or pop cultural topic (or even #ThrowBackThursday, #WellnessWednesday, or #SundayFunday).

Before defining your idea of a successful hashtag campaign, get clear on how niche your announcement or message really is, and what kind of reach or engagement is reasonable to expect. Then, begin with the end in mind. Whether its number of click-throughs, time spent on a specific landing page, or simply more followers, steer your hashtag monitoring efforts with that end goal in mind.

If you’re curious to find out more ways to leverage and define hashtag success, access our tip sheet, How Twitter and Hashtags Can Help Your PR and Marketing and be sure you’re making the most of each tweet.

Set the stage for maximum reach and engagement by creating great content and getting it where the right consumers can see it. All it takes is a couple of strategic #s.

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