Just last week I had a customer ask me a question that definitely stumped me a bit. She said “What are hashtags and how are they relevant to the social media campaign you are helping to run?” Admittedly, I was like a deer caught in headlights. I wasn’t too familiar with the concept, so I set out to find the answer for her and myself. Thanks Amy for the question…. Here are my findings and why they are relevant to you, the marketer.
Hashtags or #hashtags are actually pretty simple, yet can appear confusing on the surface. Here is my interpretation based upon its history (or at least the history that my research dug up) .
In early 2009, many people found that grouping (aka “indexing”) Twitter messages (or “tweets”) was difficult because there was no simple methodology for bundling them based upon topic matter. The Twitter community came up with the idea to include hashtags to key words in the messages. It was as simple as putting a # in front of the words or words you wanted to become “tags” that are then grouped your posts with others using the same tag or tags. So for example, I could use #marketing as a keyword in my Tweet and that message is grouped with other posts that used the same #marketing tag. Pretty simple, right?
SO WHAT’S THE BENEFIT FOR #MARKETERS?
Very quickly after being introduced, hashtags seemed to have become a powerful and free tool for marketers to track trends. Marketers who love analytics and “trending” will tell you that trending data helps shape messages, targets and campaigns as a whole.
Its still early on, but I found two great sites (http://www.hashtags.org & http://trendistic.com) that index/group content based on hashtags. You can see how topic matter trends over time and find those that are talking about it. Twitter of course allows you to search by key word itself to find tweets, but it doesn’t do the trending.
I see marketers using these sites in two ways. the first of course is the data. Is this topic hot or not hot to the social media sphere at large? Secondly, finding specific people, organizations and sites by reading through the posts related to tags and possibly contacting them about your topic. Think brand ambassadors who may want to review or in some way mention your company, product or service.
Social Media continues its evolution with Hashtags and proves yet again that marketers can and do need to implement social media programs into the mix if they are going to stay relevant and in touch with their customers.