You only have 140 characters on Twitter, so make them count. The symbol “#” on Twitter is known as a hashtag. Adding a hashtag in front of a phrase makes it searchable and categorized. Users can then search for these categories and participate in conversations of interest. In the image below, #marketing is an example of a Twitter hashtag in context.
Relevant hashtags are important.
Hashtags help group Twitter conversations together, so only use hashtags that are relevant to your tweet and the conversation you want to join. In the above example from BlackDog Advertising’s Twitter, the tweet is related to “marketing,” so the hashtag #marketing is relevant and clear.
Twitter best practices suggest that users include no more than two to four hashtags per tweet. There are two main reasons for this:
- Too many hashtags make a post difficult to read. Your Twitter followers don’t want to be spammed with hashtags. A tweet with too many hashtags might look something like the following: “I love ice cream! #icecream #chocolate #vanilla #strawberry #yum #cold #summer.”
- Search results should be user and information friendly. More than 2-4 hashtags could potentially dilute the usefulness of search results for others.
If you select a common theme or idea for each tweet, your posts will be clear and consolidated for your followers.
Don’t sacrifice creativity.
Just because tweets should be relevant and concise doesn’t mean you should sacrifice your creativity. When you click on a hashtag, it takes you to a page on Twitter with all tweets containing that hashtag. Below is an example of a search results page with hashtags circled in blue:
After you check out how others are using hashtags, feel free to engage your followers in new, exciting ways without spamming or randomly hashtagging. Creating a new hashtag is one way to do this.
If you want to get creative, you could host a live question and answer session on Twitter for your followers with the hashtag #ask[yourtwitterusername]. You might even offer a special discount only available to Twitter followers who use your promotional hashtag. These are clever ways to spark conversations and interactions without being cluttered and confusing in your tweets.
Research your hashtags.
You want to participate in the conversations that interest Twitter users and your followers. This is why investigating trending topics and researching hashtag ideas is important. There are numerous tools to assist in the research process, including www.hashtags.org and twubs.com. On these sites, simply type in the hashtag you’re interested in and view the traffic or information related to that topic.
What’s the difference between #hashtags and @mentions?
While hashtags are used to affiliate a tweet with a particular topic, mentions directly engage specific Twitter users. If you’re talking about someone in your post, you can include an @twitterusername by tagging them with @ followed by their Twitter username in your tweet. The user will then receive a notification that they have been mentioned, and the conversation can continue from there. See the example below for an effective usage of the Twitter mention:
In this post, the unifying theme is the city of Boston, indicated by the #boston. The mentions at the end of the tweet bring this post to the attention of potentially interested Twitter users, including @BostonTours and @bostonnewsnow. In turn, these followers might re-tweet the post, generating interest in your profile and topic. Your tweet will also be viewed by all of their followers.
Another important feature of this tweet is the shortened link, indicated by the “bit.ly/WinNdn.” Link shortening saves you valuable Twitter characters and, as an added bonus, websites such as bitly.com help track clicks to your link. You can use these numbers to better understand the information that engages your followers and other Twitter users.
Remember to have fun!
Twitter is a social media network, so use it to interact with your followers in entertaining and interesting ways. Social media presents an opportunity to humanize your business, create a strong brand and bond with your audience through engaging conversations. Followers and likes are important, but don’t lose out on the many enjoyable aspects of Twitter, Facebook and other social media networks.