How to Develop a Twitter Hashtag Following

5 Steps to Use Twitter Hashtags for Marketing

As Twitter’s answer to tags, keywords and categories, hashtags are a folksonomy for classifying tweets and associated content on Twitter and related applications. Hashtags facilitate users’ ability to search Twitter for specific information. Marketers can leverage these capabilities to aggregate an audience and/or broaden the reach of their Twitter messages.

Here are five steps to help you use Twitter hashtags to achieve your marketing goals.

  1. Choose a hashtag. Give thought to your Twitter hashtag to ensure it makes sense to followers and the public, is as short as possible to minimize character use, and is memorable to facilitate follower and attendee use. Therefore develop a handle that’s a shortened version of your name or use abbreviations that make sense to your audience.  You don’t want a jumble of letters that no one can remember (or they won’t use them.)
  2. Check Twitter search or a hashtag directory before publicizing and using it. Is someone else using the hashtag? Is their purpose similar to yours? Are you willing to have other people using the same hashtag? If their purpose is different, try another option to avoid confusion. This precautionary step reduces the chance of unexpected content in your hashtag’s Twitter stream.
  3. Incorporate hashtags into Twitter communications. Hashtags can be used anywhere in your tweet. Purists prefer hashtags only be used at the end of a tweet so they don’t interrupt the message flow. Others are more liberal in their hashtag use to broaden their message’s reach. This tends to happen with popular words like social media. Further, it’s good form to limit the number of hashtags per tweet to three.
  4. Use hashtags to achieve marketing goals. Here are six ways to use hashtags.
    • Broaden audience. Integrate hashtags into your tweets to be seen by a larger audience interested in that keyword(s). The hashtag helps your tweet to show up for people tracking those words.
    • Support branding. This works best when your hashtag is the same as your brand or company name.
    • Promote and expand event reach. Incorporate hashtags in your pre-event marketing to get the word out for both live and online events. Use hashtages during the conference and/or event to gather audience feedback, collect questions from remote attendees, and distribute live tweeting to remote attendees. To this end, create Twitter bait for your talks and include your Twitter handle in your presentation.
    • Communicates major news events in close to real time. Hashtags provide a means by which ordinary people can report the news live as it unfolds. The US Airlines plane landing in New York City’s Hudson River was one of the first big news stories to break on the platform.
    • Facilitates communication via one-to-one, one-to-many or many-to-many by allowing members to track the conversation. For example, #UsGuys started when a Twitter conversation was thwarted due to the length of participants’ Twitter handles.
    • Follow and/engage in memes. Hashtags can be part of a meme insofar as they are an idea or behavior that spreads quickly from one person to another.
  5. Support your hashtag with marketing. Just tweeting your hashtag doesn’t translate to followers. You must build knowledge and interest around your hashtag to gain prominence. Here are four ways to market your hashtag to help achieve your goals.
    • Build a social media tribe. Since it takes time to build a recognizable hashtag, get help from your social graph and colleagues. Of course, don’t overlook the need to be an active participant on Twitter. Building your hashtag following requires dedication and consistent promotion over time.
    • Leverage your internal media to spread the word. Mention and explain your hashtag in your internal media like emailings, direct mail, website, blog and customer service letters.
    • Integrate your hashtag into your event marketing. Events are prime examples of Twitter hashtags at work, particularly for Twitter chats and offline conferences Includes emails, website and blog. You need to continually remind people about your Twitter hashtag. At live events project a slurp of the hashtag for attendees to see.
    • Develop content to support your hashtags . To help make your Twitter hashtag memorable, write about your hashtag on your website, blog and social media networks to give readers a context to remember your hashtag and use it.

Regardless of whether you create your own Twitter hashtags or leverage existing ones, realize that they are a powerful way to extend your reach on Twitter. To get started, check some of the keywords related to your business and follow them regularly. These will lead you to other relevant hashtags and users to follow on Twitter.

Have you created Twitter hashtags to support your marketing efforts? If so, how have these hashtags performed and what would you recommend that others do with theirs.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


Here are some related articles about Twitter.

Photo credit: Edans via Flickr

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  • http://www.maurerconsultinggroup.com tlmaurer

    Great article, Heidi! Have had hashtag marketing on my back burner for a while. Now that you’ve spelled it out so clearly, I have no further reason not to do it now. Thanks.

  • http://www.YourGreenShop.com Shawn Macedo

    Thanks Heidi, this article is very informative. We are active in building a tribe on Twitter but have not used HashTags. We will now.

    Thanks again.

  • Ted Grigg

    Very helpful information that undoubtedly works. But every new iteration adds to digital marketing complexity, time and cost. It’s getting tougher to allocate time resources because the opportunities and options keep piling up ad infinitum.