Hashtags are ubiquitous in this day and age; there’s just no escaping them, they permeate pop songs, everyday conversation and, most importantly, social media. Let’s just take a minute to consider exactly what this innocent set of intersecting lines does.
Basic Use of Hashtags:
Their main role on social media is to tag certain words or phrases as a search term. For example, if you were to tweet about the upcoming World Cup you might tweet “Don’t fancy England’s chances in the World Cup #Brazil2014”. Anyone searching through Twitter for “#Brazil2014” will then be presented with all the tweets containing #Brazil2014, including your depressing prediction for England. Hashtags act as beacons to bring people together and share information/views.
Hashtags on Twitter:
Twitter is synonymous with hashtags and were the first social media platform to introduce them to the world. Their entire site search algorithm is based on hashtags.
However, Twitter is not the only social network to use hashtags as a powerful marketing tool. We’ll quickly run through a few of the others and see what they can do.
Hashtags on Google Plus:
Google+ allows you, much like Twitter, to search for conversation topics relevant to your needs. Clicking on a Google+ hashtag doesn’t just bring up posts containing that specific hashtag, it also brings up related hashtags and posts in your stream. This is very useful for seeing which topics are currently hot on Google+ and how to maximize your audience. It also opens up opportunities to shape these topics in your favor by dropping in a hashtag relevant to your needs e.g. if you ran a movie theater chain, you could join a conversation about the latest Brad Pitt film and drop in your chain’s name as a hashtag.
Hashtags on Instagram:
Instagram also offers hashtags a comfy sofa to lie back on and feel at home. A quick flick through their search options reveals that #lolcats brings up 80,421 posts. Useful if you like pictures of cats on a piano, but how do you go about promoting a brand? Instagram gets people creative and this can be used to create a buzz behind a brand – Samsung launched a photo contest last year using their tagline #LiveInTheMoment. It currently brings up nearly as many posts as #lolcats which proves how successful it was! Instagram may not provide the most dynamic hashtag experience, but it allows brands to connect with their users and share unique experiences.
Hashtags on LinkedIn:
One social network where hashtags have found themselves booted out of is LinkedIn. They were introduced in February 2013 and offered further options to network with like-minded professionals. However, in Summer 2013, it was announced that LinkedIn were “developing more useful products and features” and hashtags ceased to operate. It’s not too much of a surprise as LinkedIn is a network for networking rather than seeking out dynamic interaction and content. It proves that not every social network is a hashtag shaped hole for a hashtag.
SEO and Hashtags:
Hashtags have also found time in their busy schedule to get involved with search engines.
Head to Google and search for ScarlettJohannson – you’ll get her Wikipedia, IMDB and many other official sites. Add a hashtag, though, and #scarlettjohannson brings up Instagram photos, Twitter posts, and a variety of other results in the SERP.
And it’s not only the search results which are affected by hashtags, the search trend has also adapted itself to this new form of communication. As you can see, searches of Ashton Kutcher with a hashtag get quite a few monthly searches, and the competition shouldn’t be too hard here. This is still unfamiliar territory for most SEO experts.
Identifying Social Trends via Hashtags:
By using hashtags to identify key trends on Google, you can discover social engagement trends which can later be incorporated into posts on Google+ and other social networks. This means that SEOs can get their social content to the top of the pile by promoting posts successfully across Google+. The important thing to remember about hashtags, though, is their short lifespan. You have to move quickly if you want to use this kind of marketing technique.
Hashtags, then, have a number of uses across social media. They’re a form of communication which is still evolving and online marketeers need to learn how to use them effectively. No doubt things will change in their usage over the next couple of years, but now is the best time to start using them and driving traffic towards your brand.