You've probably heard the word hashtag bandied about quite a bit over recent years. Are you one of those people who still ask what does hashtag mean? You're not alone. Even those already using hashtags are not confident they are harnessing social media as effectively as they could be.
Twitter first came up with the hashtag as a means of organizing information. The hashtag soon took off on other sites such Instagram, Pinterest and Google+ because it provided a quick, simple way for people to find and share things. In fact nothing could be simpler than the # sign at the beginning of a hashtag followed by words with no spaces. #ThatsIt (you don't even need to use capital letters if you don't want to).
You may find a number of applications and benefits for hashtags:
Content curation is the gathering tagged content from the internet. Perhaps your a tourism business and wish to display and share travellers Instagram posts on your Cape York Tour. By using an app like www.storify.com you can show all the posts for #capeyorktour. Just ask your staff and travellers to hashtag their posts and the content is readily available
By researching which hashtags customers are using to search for products and services in your industry, you can ensure your business has a presence and is easily found. There are many tools available to help identify hashtag trends and shape marketing strategies.
The other important benefit of hashtags is the ability to create your own unique tagging. For example many businesses incorporate their brand name into a hashtag when running a promotion or competition. The goal is to get as many people seeing, sharing and engaging with hashtags as possible.
All businesses, large an small, can benefit from using hashtags in their social media campaigns. The trick is not to dive in without testing the water first. Carefully research how your target market communicates and which hashtags they are most likely to use and engage with.
There have been some spectacular hashtag failures, mostly because the marketers did not bother to do their research first. By all means make good use of popular hashtags but don't jump on a trends just for the sake of it. Your efforts are better directed towards something that reinforces the brand image you are striving to create. Contribute to and share other hashtags before going out on your own, and most importantly don't treat marketing as a one way flow of information from you to the audience.
Now more than ever marketing is a two-way street where engagement and communication are key. For those still asking the question what does hashtag mean, this deceptively simple tool is essential to creating brand awareness and quality connections for you and your business.