Hashtags are essential in any social media campaign if you actually want to grow your following or make your content easily accessible to people who aren’t already fans/followers of you or your brand.
A friend of mine digs at me often about my liberal use of #’s – he appends everything with #GetALife – clearly he doesn’t understand what hashtags are and what their benefit is so I don’t begrudge him these digs. His digs certainly won’t stop me using hashtags anytime soon, because I’ve seen and know the effect of their use on the reach of my social campaigns. And why are we taking the time to post to these social networks after all if we don’t want as much reach as possible?
Okay – so first of all – for those who don’t know what hashtags are – here is a non technical explanation in layman’s terms:
What are hashtags?
Hashtags are any word or phrase (with no spaces between words) beginning with the symbol “#” for e.g. #FoodPorn (click on this link to see #FoofPorn in Twitter) or #100HappyDays (which is quite common at the moment and you may have seen recently … click here to see #100HappyDays in Facebook) or the latest big one #OscarPistorius (click here to see #OscarPistorius on Google +) which is being used extensively during the Oscar Pistorius murder trial currently on in Pretoria.
What do hashtags do?
Hashtags enable people (both followers and not) to find and see your posts or content. So if you have posted a photo of your food at a restaurant with the hashtag #FoodPorn anyone, anywhere in the world on that social network who clicks / searches on #FoodPorn will be able to see your post (of course there are some caveats here depending on your privacy settings in Facebook for example but we’re speaking generally here).
Why do you want people who you aren’t friends or who aren’t following you to find you?
Well, this is the whole point of networking! Both in the real world and online, we want new people to find us and use our services. Social media just allows you to cast a larger net and reach far more than you can face-to-face. And using hashtags allows you to target your market. So for e.g. If you are a legal eagle hoping to grow your network or extend your reach or become known as an industry expert you’d start tweeting on Twitter using #OscarPistorius about now – people will start seeing your profile and after a few tweets may start following you (step 1 – gain followers) – as your followers grow, you get more clout and as you continue to post good content with that hashtag the media houses start noticing you so suddenly you’re invited to comment on an article for a popular news website (step 2 – you’ve become an industry expert) – due to this comment you gain further clout and when the local TV station is preparing their slot for the news or a popular actuality program, their producer or researcher finds your hashtags, sees you’ve been quoted in popular media already and invites you to comment and be featured in their segment on Oscar Pistorius! This is a very real world example of how simply using hashtags can lead to your business being raised to the next level almost overnight. Suddenly people who aren’t even on social networks are watching you on TV or reading about you in the newspaper. Who doesn’t want that kind of exposure?