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Twitter Tutorial: Using Hashtags

There are a handful of words that never fail to make me hungry, and one of those words is “hashtag.” Whenever I lay eyes on that word, visions of perfectly browned shredded potatoes come dancing through my mind.

Sadly, hashtags couldn’t be farther removed from hashbrowns. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing, because when’s the last time a potato did so much for your marketing strategy?

If you’ve been on Twitter for any length of time, you’ve seen a hashtag in action. A hashtag is any word or phrase preceded by a # symbol. The hashtag is used to denote key topics, similar to the way a tag is used on a blog.

Fun fact: Hashtags were popularized in 2007 by Twitter user Nate Ritter when he used #sandiegofire to categorize updates on the San Diego forest fires.

Whenever a hashtag is used, it becomes a clickable link to a page where all the tweets using that hashtag have been collected in one place. The very most popular hashtags often appear as “Trending Topics” on Twitter.

What does this mean for you? If you use Twitter to promote your business and brand, using hashtags can drastically expand your reach. Effective use of hashtags enables people who aren’t already following you to find you. How’s that for targeting the right potential customers?

Okay, I’m sold. So where do I find these hashtags?

Many sites exist that aggregate, identify, and sort hashtags., for example, features categories you can browse to narrow what you’re looking for. Once you’ve established which hashtags you’d like to watch, there a number of ways to go about tracking them:

  • Web-based applications. Monitter, Twist,, Tweetmeme, or using the search function within Twitter are popular options.
  • Twitter accounts. Follow users such as TweetingTrends and Twithority for trend updates right in your Twitter feed.
  • Mobile applications. Need to track trends on-the-go? There’s an app for that! Summizer and Retweet are among those to check out.

One particular solution may not necessarily be the best. Try a variety until you find what works for you, your business, and your campaign.

Hashtags: get ’em right

Now that you have some hashtags in your arsenal, here are some tips to get the most out of them:

  • Use hashtags sparingly — no more than three per tweet! Overuse dilutes both the message and the impact of the hashtag.
  • Give ’em some meat! Tweeting only hashtags is not just annoying, it makes your feed look like spam. And spam definitely isn’t meat.
  • Focus on the message of the tweet first, then add hashtags where relevant.
  • For hashtags that include more than one word, try CamelCast — that is, capitalize the first letter of each word in the tag. This improves readability. #SocialMediaMarketing looks a lot better than #socialmediamarketing.
  • Inventing your own hashtag? Great! Make it clear in an explanatory tweet what it means, and make sure to choose a word or phrase for your hashtag that provides context. Make it easy for people to pay attention, and they will.

Happy hashtagging!

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