You can see how deeply the Internet has affected us by observing how dexterously we have turned popular websites into everyday verbiage – just think “googling” and “friending,” for example. Another term you’ve probably heard lately is “hashtagging.” (Thanks, Twitter.) If you’re not already familiar, hashtagging simply means putting a # symbol in front of a word to promote topics or initiate conversations.
Yes, this little # symbol is that effective for joining conversations, starting new ones, and searching for online discussions that you’d like to be a part of. Hashtags can be applied to any word(s) you want and can be a powerful tool — not only for starting conversations, but tracking how many others are talking, too.
So, how do you use a hashtag? Well, suppose you just published a blog post with an exciting giveaway that you’d like to get in front of a lot of people. Add “#giveaway” to your tweet (remember, no spaces) and now anyone who searches that term, regardless of if they follow you or not, will see it. (And do think that people search for #giveaway? You bet they do!)
While #giveaway is a very common hashtag, you could also personalize the hashtag so you can more easily track it and distinguish it from other bloggers using the same term. You know, something like #JanesAwesomeGiveaway.
Going way beyond giveaways, the hashtag has become a very effective way for brands to market themselves and retain Twitter mindshare over those who want to continue the conversation. Chobani Greek Yogurt has done a great way of branding its #nothingbutgood hashtag and frequently uses it in its tweets. Chobani followers who respond with that same hashtag get involved in the conversation and help fuel the company’s branding efforts.
And hashtags can apply to any industry and any brand in an effort to engage followers and keep the conversation going. Recently, the FOX TV show Fringe applied a hashtag strategy to get its very loyal followers to promote it (and attempt to save it from getting cancelled). Every episode was given a special hashtag relevant to that episode and was broadcasted on the air during the show and via Twitter. Loyal fans took it upon themselves to spread the word by tweeting the same hashtag. And thus, through the magic of its fans, Fringe was indeed renewed for a fifth and final season, thanks in no small part to the reach its hashtag had in the Twittersphere.
Of course, that Twitter strategy alone didn’t get the show renewed, but it certainly helped prove the power of the people. And the hashtag.