#hashtags rule on social media

Monitoring social mentions and trending topics is crucial for any brand or business, and tapping into social media conversations using a hashtag can give companies powerful insights into the opinions of consumers and other stakeholders. By Fiona Powell.

Author and digital entrepreneur, Penelope Trunk recently mentioned on Twitter that her son was practicing a list of cello songs for his recital and when he came to the Minuet #2 he asked her, “Why do they call it minuet hashtag two?”

The # symbol has become ubiquitous to young people as a hashtag rather than a pound or number sign. Although hashtags have only been clickable since 2009, in the world of social media that’s a long time – and a hashtag in social media is now like water to a fish.

The hashtag is how we organise and categorise on social media – and how we search and discover things of interest. There are millions of conversations, photos and videos being shared on social media – and searching a hashtag allows us to drill down into specific niche subjects, categories and keywords. For example, clicking on, or searching for, #management will find all the public messages tagged with #management.

The hashtag originated on Twitter but is now used on many social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Pinterest and Tumblr, albeit in slightly different forms.

This simple innovation means as well as tagging your posts so they can be easily searched and discovered – especially on Instagram where users search for relevant content and contributors by hashtag – you are also able to search for specific words, phrases and trends across many social media platforms.

Monitoring social mentions and trending topics is crucial for any brand or business, and tapping into social media conversations using a hashtag can give companies powerful insights into the opinions and general sentiments of consumers and other stakeholders.

Savvy brands leverage hashtags to call attention to their campaigns – with the usual risks. Woolworth’s recent ANZAC campaign #freshinourmemories resulted in a social media backlash and the campaign was removed.

Twitter hashtags are useful for following discussions, like Twitter chats, which are popular for bringing like-minded communities together virtually.

For example, #NZLead is a community of HR and recruitment practitioners who discuss relevant HR topics over Twitter on a weekly basis in real time. Using the hashtag #NZLead, Twitter users can contribute to, and track, the discussion. Tools like TweetChat help to track the Twitter chat and to make some new Twitter friends.

Most events and conferences today will create a hashtag so attendees and organisers can tweet messages about the event. An event hashtag can give speakers real time feedback, encourage interaction and allow non-attendees to follow along.

There is some etiquette around the use of hashtags; mainly not to over-use the hashtag and to make it relevant #butrulesaremeanttobebroken. For campaigns, make your hashtag brief, unique and easy to remember – and check if the hashtag is being used already.

Finally, using the hashtag can be just good interactive fun. A while ago on Twitter the hashtag #NewZealandifiedMovieTitles went viral locally. No explanation was needed and users quickly jumped in with their contributions.

A search on the hashtag discovers many witty gems like ‘Puss in Gumboots’ and ‘Catch Me if Youse Can’. 

Fiona Powell has presented, trained and managed large and small businesses in social media. She is currently publisher/producer of WebShowCentral.tv and an aspiring web series creator. She is also the former editor of Management. 

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