If you’re confused about the use of the hashtag then sit back for our quick primer.
Hashtags can be fun but the original purpose was very practical. The hashtag symbol–originally known to anyone who is not a digital native as the pound or number sign–found new life on social media organizing conversations into subjects and themes. If you want a deeper dive into the history of hashtags, this article on AdWeek has a good infographic. And if you want to see the first suggested use for hashtags on Twitter click here.
A random comment on social media has a better chance of being found online if accompanied by a relevant hashtag. Hashtags are also used for scheduled chats on Twitter and other social platforms. Below are a few examples of how to use a hashtag and a few things we thought you should know about this small but powerful symbol.
Hashtag as revolution
Let’s start on a serious note. Hashtags have been used to organize activists and revolts. Remember the Arab Spring and Occupy Movement? Both heavily used social media to organize and relied on hashtags to keep people informed. It’s not hyperbole to say that hashtags helped to keep both these movements going and connected people from all over the world to popularize and bring attention to their causes.
When a hashtag becomes popular (or when an organization decides to launch its own hashtag) the results can be mixed. People can hijack the hashtag either for fun or profit. This means that they populate their own promotional posts with a trending hashtag to help the message get in front of a larger audience. They could be selling something and want to piggyback their pitch onto viral content or a person could use a hashtag to make a sarcastic (or inappropriate) comment about the hashtag’s subject matter.
Don’t do this. The backlash online can be damaging and it’s not worth it. Unless you are part of the conversation or what you are saying is directly involved in the subject avoid hijacking a hashtag just because it’s trending.
Fun and original
Hashtags aren’t all business. People like to add hashtags to a post to be fun and even invent their own silly hashtags. Comedians have used hashtags to invite people to contribute to their skits. Jimmy Fallon is famous for reading funny Tweets on his show that he picks out from a custom hashtag. You can take a page from the professionals to invite patients to post about a specific topic using a hashtag that you can then share in a blog post. Consider #BracesOff to ask what the first forbidden food patients imagine they will eat once they are done with treatment.
On thing to remember: You might find that some people load their Tweets and Facebook posts with irreverent hashtag keywords but most businesses can’t get away with it, at least not very often. So try not to stuff a ton of them at the end of every post.
Join the conversation
Do your research. Find out what hashtags others are using and see if you can contribute posts to the conversation. It’s also perfectly acceptable to use hashtags to call out your specific town, a holiday or some industry related topic. In our industry #ortho #teeth and #smile are all fun or very specific hashtags you can probably use often. Just remember there is a fine line between joining in a conversation and hijacking a hashtag.
Want to learn more about how you can supercharge your social media with hashtags? Our work builds trust in your practice online to help you get new patients in a digital era by convincing them (before even meeting you) that you’re the practice to choose. For more information, or a free marketing analysis, you can contact People & Practice today at 888.866.DOCS, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.