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What is a Hashtag? A Deep Dive Into Examples and Applications.

Posted by Michael Reynolds on 6/26/12 9:18 PM
Michael Reynolds

As one of the most popular social networks, Twitter is still gaining momentum as a place for quick conversations, thought leadership, and a variety of business applications.

For a lot of people, however, Twitter is still very mysterious. It's filled with odd syntax, unfamililar rules of ettequitte, and a bit more snark that some are used to.

Included in this list of odd quirks is the hashtag. So what is a hashtag?


A hashtag on Twitter is a keyword prefaced by the pound symbol (#) and is a way of tagging a tweet with context. We dug into this a bit in our previous post on Twitter hashtags but now you're probably asking: why should I care? How can I use this feature in my organization?

There are a few different categories of business Twitter usage and hashtags can play a part in each one. Let's take a look at a few scenarios and see how we can use them.

Conferences and events

One of the most interesting ways to use hashtags is through events. Many conferences set up a special hashtag for the event that attendees can use to talk about the conference and group conversations together. So how can it promote your event? Build buzz by emailing out the hashtag with your invitations and then promote conversation about it via Twitter using this hashtag. This gets the word out and uses existing momentum to get more people interested. Also consider running contests and special limited-time offers (such as registration discount codes) that are shared via this hashtag. Ask each speaker to display their hashtag on their first slide, and make an announcement before the session begins.

Trending topics

The most popular hashtags currently in use are called "trending topics" and show up on the sidebar of your Twitter feed. You can piggyback onto these hashtags by creating content that relates to the topic and then use these hashtags in your posts. While this can bring more traffic to your website, you also need to be careful that you are providing relevant content so people don't feel as if you've "hijacked" the hashtag.

Market locally on Twitter

If you serve a local market, consider tagging your Tweets with the name of your city, such as #Indianapolis or #NYC. This targets a local audience and gets your content in front of people who are monitoring this hashtag for local events, offers, and news. As always, be mindful that you are providing value and not being spammy.

Customer service

Providing customer service on Twitter is one of the most popular ways to use this network. Many people are jumping straight to social for service before picking up the phone and wise organizations are embracing this trend and investing in resources to provide customer service on Twitter. By using a company-specific hashtag or even topical hashtags around common problems, you can invite people to contact you for help on Twitter. Since it's a public space, you can even attract prospective customers who are looking for help related to a problem you can solve with your products or services.

Find great employees on Twitter

We recently discussed how to hire great employees using social media. By using the hashtag #jobs (especially when paired with your local city hashtag) you can get your job posting in front of all sorts of active job seekers. The nice thing is, this helps you find smart, savvy, connected people who know how to prospect using social media. This typically helps you meet quality candidates.

Monitor hashtags

On the flip side, you can also monitor hashtags to find conversations relevant to what you do. By monitoring local hashtags (like #Indianapolis, or #NYC), topical hashtags, or brand names, you can find opportunities to engage in conversations with people who could be good connections. My favorite tools for monitoring hashtags include HootSuite and HubSpot.

Integrating hashtags

As you can see, hashtags have many business applications and can be a very flexible feature of Twitter. Try experimenting with some of these techniques and see if it provides any value for your business.

Social Media and Company Culture

Topics: social media, twitter

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