We live in an era where communication has changed from telegraphs, letters and straight forward landline telephone calls – to instant messaging and using things called hashtags and emojis – Oh and don’t forget stickers like the ones in Facebook messenger and Wechat too.
If you use Twitter and Instagram, you are probably familiar with hashtags, but if not you might have seen posts like #TBT (Throwback Thursday) on Facebook and wonder what that # is doing there? The #PoundSign is what is known today as a hashtag, a word or a combination of words prefixed by the # symbol.
What does the symbol do?
A hashtag offers searchers an easy way to look for tweets related to a topic. If you need to look for the latest information available on Social Media Analytics, for instance, you simply type #SocialMediaAnalytics in the Twitter search engine (or even on Google). You get a list of all the tweets and other content across the web on the topic.
Hashtags even allow you to reach communities or groups of people interested in the topics that you tweet about. All you need to do is include the right hashtags in your tweets. People interested in the topics you deal in may see your messages.
Hashtags are very popular with events and companies even sponsor hashtags on Twitter to reach an audience that is taking part in the particular event – an example is #Rio2016 which we’ve done a post about using Scraawl advanced analytics to analyze this hashtag – Read Here.
How did hashtags get started?
Twitter doesn’t take credit for the creation of the hashtag — not directly, at least. It is not an official Twitter feature. It came into existence simply because it was easy to create. It started with a tweet about a US Airways plane that went down in the Hudson in 2009. A Twitter user tweeted about it, including the text #flight1549 in his message; readers picking up on it added the term #flight1549 to their retweets as well. Because this was a major incident, it did not take long for the tweet and the term #flight1549 to be shared widely. Thus the practice of using hashtags was born.
What is it used for?
Initially, hashtags were used for grouping or categorizing topics, but their use has expanded. They automatically show up next to the names of major events. They are used to cheer someone on (#GoTeamAustralia) or to put someone down (#Fail). Hashtags are also used to promote events (#instacar). They can be used for anything that you want people to read about. Your daily life (#breakfast), your interests (#fashion), or your emotions (#love). They can be used anywhere in a sentence. Hashtags now work on more than just Twitter. The symbol also has currency on other social media sites such as Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram.
Build a community with hashtags:
If you are aiming to build an online community, a good hashtag might be a good start depending on your business. We are not talking about any type of community, but communities that are interested in a specific topic.
For example, whenever you are uploading an image to Instagram, using the right hashtag could increase your visibility by multiple fold, but when you create your own unique hashtag for your business or campaign it doesn’t just help with reach but it starts building that loyal and active community for you. Building traffic around your own hashtag will take some time, but once it gets popular the return on time investment is well worth it.
How many hashtags?
When you use more than two hashtags, your engagement actually drops by an average of 17 percent. Twitter’s own research into hashtags confirms that there is significant advantage to using them. Individuals can see a 100 percent increase in engagement by using hashtags.
How do you create a hashtag?
It is simple to create a hashtag. You need to first perform a basic search on Twitter (or other social media platforms like Instagram) to check if the hashtag that you have in mind already exists. You can use Scraawl to search any hashtags and get relevant information on your search as seen in the example below:
When I run the example hashtag you get a summary of analytics for the hashtags that you can then start filtering and analyzing for your business or research purposes:
If the hashtag you want to use doesn’t exist or is not being used anymore you are clear to make your choice. However, if it does, you need to be creative and think of other possibilities. Long hashtags are not a good idea as they are harder to remember for your users.
Hashtags have changed a lot in how we communicate today. It has become an everyday activity to use a hashtag to describe or find something. Finding and making sense of conversations are vital for any business who takes digital marketing and brand awareness seriously.
We wrote a post about word clouds and topic modeling too discussing how they are different and how you can use topic modeling to your advantage just as you can do with hashtags – Most social media analytics tools currently available in the market today, do not perform topic modeling as defined in the machine learning and NLP literature.
Word clouds are used as proxies for topics. For social media feeds such as Twitter, this is driven in part by the complexity associated with performing topic modeling on short text of the posts and the complexity associated with the content and structure of posts (mix of URLs, hashtags, symbols, etc.). Putting theory into practice can be a challenge.
Scraawl offers topic modeling as one of its advanced analytics – Read more here.
It’s a great idea to keep trying new ideas for hashtags. The world could pick up on an idea that you come up with, and run with it.