Welcome to the fifth edition of the Social Strategy blog series, and our last Twitter-focused blog (for the time being, at least). Over the course of the series so far, you've learned which metrics to pay attention to and how to drive impressions and engagement through post times, images, and content curation. It's fitting that for this entry, we focus on what is Twitter's arguably most important social feature, one that has as many lovers as detractors: the hashtag.
When one thinks of Twitter, or really any social network, they usually think of hashtags, those short, octalthorpe-prefaced keywords that denote a tweet as part of a larger conversation. While hashtags may have risen to modern prominence through Twitter, the platform didn't invent the concept, which dates back to the IRC chatrooms of 1988. In 2007, Chris Messina, a former Google employee and open source advocate, posted the first hashtag to Twitter as a way to tag topics for easy searching, and as they say, the rest is history.
Given the rise in popularity of hashtags, you may think that it's a good idea to affix one to every communication you send. If people are looking for a specific topic, and you post with a hashtag, people are more likely to see your tweets, right? This actually isn't the case; hashtagging every tweet, or including multiple hashtags in a number of tweets, can create the perception that you're just trying to gain popularity by including as many search terms as possible. While your intentions may be the best, this practice is less-than-favorable and should be avoided.
If you look at some of the top brands on Twitter, such as Amazon, you'll notice that while there is some hashtag use, it's always used in an organic way to the content that makes up the tweet. Through the use of their created #PrimePet hashtag, they can leverage what has been a popular type of content since time immemorial (pictures of animals) and associate it with their brand, allowing other people to get in on the fun without drawing a direct association with their service. This kind of zero-sell technique is very popular on social networks, because brand promotion is not part of the equation; everyone is on equal footing, embracing the ideology of the social network.
It's important to note that using a hashtag will have different results depending on the network. While using hashtags may be common practice on Twitter (to denote conversation topics and events) and Instagram (to draw attention to a certain aspect of your content), using hashtags on Facebook actually leads to less engagement, even if people can and do use them. It's always a good idea to thoroughly research a concept, even one as well-known as that of a hashtag, before using it in relation to your business so you can understand the ins and outs and how you can apply it to your posts.
Speaking of Facebook, the next entries of the Social Strategy series will focus on the largest and most popular social network in the world. Whether Twitter or Facebook, SimplyCast has you covered with its suite of social tools, allowing you to schedule posts from multiple accounts. Sign up for a free 14-day trial, and make sure you check back in two weeks as we explore one of Facebook's most hotly-anticipated features and how using it can increase the reach of your content.