Increase Your Reach On Twitter Using Hashtags

Wordpress BBQ Hashtag - photo by Robert Scoble

WordPress BBQ Hashtag – photo by Robert Scoble

When you start to use Twitter for your business one of your key objectives will be to maximise the reach of your Tweets. The obvious issue will be that you will have minimal followers, at first.

So how can you extend your reach to ensure you get maximum impact from your messaging whilst growing your followers?

One way is to use Hashtags.

Named ‘word of the year’ in 2012 by the American Dialect society, the hashtag was proposed by Chris Messina. Chris is alleged to have been the first to post on Twitter including what would become the “hashtag”:

“how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?”Chris Messina, (“factoryjoe”), August 23, 2007.

What is a Hashtag?

A hashtag tag is a word, or number of words combined, preceded by a # sign. A look at any Twitter stream is likely to reveal a number of hashtags used by the people you follow.

Hashtags in the Twitter Stream

Hashtags in the Twitter Stream

Hashtags are user generated, which means you can make them up as you wish. With this flexibility obviously comes some responsibility to use them both effectively and efficiently.

Hashtags are also clickable. Clicking on a hashtag will return the latest Tweets using it.

Why Use Hashtags?

Hashtags help group Tweets around a common word or phrase, making it easier to follow a certain subject. Many advanced Twitter users will track certain hashtags looking for interesting information and people to follow.

Some hashtags are derived from events, based on political discussion or even natural disasters.

Choosing a Hashtag

There is no point in using a hashtag for the sake of it. You also don’t want to use a hashtag that may be misconstrued.

Ideally you should create a list of potential hashtags based on what you are likely to Tweet about. Keywords related to your business or website would also make a good starting point.

Identify that these potential hashtags are in use by searching for them, either on Twitter directly or using an application like Hootsuite. Make sure the results are relevant.

If there are no returned results you can remove the word from your list. If the hashtag isn’t being used it’s likely it’s not being monitored by others and therefore it won’t achieve your goal of extending your reach.

Using a Hashtag

Having written your Tweet and knowing which hashtag you are going to use you can now add it to your Tweet. You can either make one of the words in your Tweet a hashtag:

Hashtag in a Tweet

Hashtag in a Tweet

Or you can add it to the end if the word you wish to use isn’t in your Tweet.

Hashtag at the end of a Tweet

Hashtag at the end of a Tweet

If a hashtag comprises of more than one word then they should be joined together, and for readability, the leading letter of each word made into a capital.

You should not over do it, otherwise you Tweets can look like spam.

Also, you don’t need to add hashtags to every Tweet. Use them to serve a purpose and on relevant updates to maximise their potential.

Some Words of Caution

Hashtags often trend on Twitter, you can see examples of trending topics in the Twitter sidebar on the left when you are logged in.

Trends

Trends

Opportunistic Twitter users monitor these trending topics, often quickly producing tailored content and tweeting it out with the trending hashtag.

This is called “Newsjacking” and done well is a great way to get seen by thousands of people. It can have its pitfalls however.

Natural disasters are a prime example of hashtags you shouldn’t “Newsjack”. It may also be advisable for businesses to avoid political events such as elections.

You can make your own judgement on this, but jumping on the back of trends should be done sparingly.

Hashtags Away

So have some fun, experiment and see if you can leverage hashtags to grow your reach on Twitter.

If you want to take your use of Twitter to the next level you might like to try my online course How to Use Twitter to Build Authority Online.

About Sean Clark

Building successful online companies since 1999, we help you market your business online. Whether you need help with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Paid Search (PPC) or Social Media Marketing call us today on 01603 343477 for a free initial consultation.

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  • Found this in #triberr, Sean, and did you know over fifty social networks use Hashtags, not just Twitter? RiteTag suggests hashtags to reach further,
    but relevantly – for any/all of nine social networks
    integrated (just for starters). Robust information to base your decision to use a tag
    upon, recent content that’s gone out
    with tags to determine relevancy to the tag, and
    options to save content, tags, tag sets… and we’re
    just getting started. The site is
    live, though, and working well in its
    beta iteration.

    For those in PR, whether as their profession, or lean startups,
    etc., solopreneurs, and anyone aiming to reach beyond their
    followers with smarter, far-reaching hashtags, I would suggest a
    look at http://ritetag.com, a social media tool site that takes your
    query and networks you intend to post to, and shows you recently
    used hashtags. You can click any tag to see who is using them, how
    many times each, what they’re tagging, and when the tag has been
    used. Still in private beta, people register for free with
    Twitter. Ritetag offers tag optimization for Twitter, Google+,
    Instagram – and six other social networks.

    Many more networks with topic hashtagging are in the plans for
    integration, as our first users tell us how they need to tag their
    photos, images, and hand-made goods better to get seen more, and
    thus sell more. Rather than rush to add every
    social network with an open API, we focus on relevancy and honing
    the results in the RiteTag Reports.

    As an example, even without registering (free) for RiteTag, you can
    use the public Ritetag Report for ‘appdev’ to get your tags and go.
    Sign up to order your own reports for hashtags related to your query
    – on any/all of the nine social networks already integrated, and
    also to save content “collections” and “tag sets” in
    RiteTag.http://www.ritetag.com/report/1e7919b93e9179927ae601a427b94fed995059a0

    The founder, Saul Fleischman is available for interviews and helps
    new RiteTaggers daily, as people aim to “reach beyond their
    followers” with relevant, non-spammy hashtags that are actively and
    passively followed. The best way to get help with RiteTag is to G+
    Hangout with Saul. Circle and gtalk Saul to hangout from
    http://iplus.im/saul

    Article material and screenshots available upon request.

    http://ritetag.com

    Best regards,

    Saul Fleischman

  • Saul

    Thanks for your extensive comment, although I did know about the wider use of Hashtags I wasn’t aware of RiteTag which looks awesome! I have come across a few similar services in the past but nothing quite as comprehensive.

    I’ve signed up for the beta and look forward to giving it a try.

    Sean

  • Thanks, @seaneclark:disqus, looking forward to your take on the tool. Happy to show you, in a Hangout, what I do with it.

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  • I like your balanced approach to using hashtags. I stopped using them altogether awhile back, just got out of the habit. But now that I’m trying to grow my audience a bit it is nice to have some guidelines on how to use them tastefully.

  • Jesse glad you found it useful, it really is a great way to expand your reach beyond your immediate audience. And don’t forget they work on many other platforms too not just Twitter.

  • So many people use hashtags without really knowing what it is for. This article is refreshingly informative.

  • Thanks for saying so.