In the second part to this series, you will learn about the practical use of hashtags and additional tools you can use in your marketing efforts such as Hashtag apps…
John Mitchell writing for ReadWriteWeb, discusses what is belived to be the original proposal that Twitter users adopt hashtags.
how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?
— Chris Messina™ (@chrismessina) August 23, 2007
Used in August of 2007, the #barcamp hashtag was intended to bundle conversation about the global technology unconference gatherings called Barcamp that Messina helped found as well. Now hashtags are showing up everywhere.
Tools for choosing, defining, and analysing hashtags
The process for choosing which hashtags to use is fairly to the way in which you might choose keywords to optimise your content for conventional search engines. There are plenty of free and paid-for tools that can be used to help you to discover the most relevant hashtags to use, and choose the ones that will be most effective in reaching out to your target audience. Here, I shall provide a brief overview of some of the most useful tools towards this end.
This is an online, browser-based tool for choosing hashtags. Users type in a hashtag into the search bar, and are presented with a list of the most popular recent tweets to have used that hashtag. Alongside this, there is a choice of animated graphs representing the hashtags that it is most commonly used in conjunction with, the most influential Twitter users connected with its use, and a breakdown of the languages that it is used by. The connected hashtags can then be clicked to provide the same information about them. The free version of the service can only sample 1% of the available tweets, which is the maximum that Twitter will give away for free, but you can access more by signing up to the paid version.
This tool from hashtags.org offers similar functions to Google tools such as Trends and Analytics, but with a focus on hashtags. Like Google Trends, users can type in a string of hashtags, separated by commas, and see how much they have been used over time in the form of a line graph. This shows you broadly which ones are more popular than others, and also the trends regarding their usage, so that you can see which ones are increasing in relevance, those that are increasing, and seasonal factors that affect their use. As well as the trends graph, there is also a list of the most prolific users of that hashtag, and a pie chart showing the related hashtags and how much they are used.
The free version offers 24-hour graphs only, which is useful to get an idea of overall and current popularity, but if you want to observe longer-term trends using more than a 1% sample of tweets you need the full version. Hashtags.org also offer a paid hashtag tracking service that allows you to see detailed Google Analytics-style insights into the reach and influence of your hashtags across 100% of all tweets.
With the use of hashtags expanding far beyond Twitter, it can be useful to analyse their use across the full spectrum of social media platforms, and use this to make new connections and gain an insight into the people that are using certain tags. RiteTag is essentially a tool to help you decide which hashtags are best to use in the context of different platforms and types of content, and discover content produced by those that are using them.
Service provides detailed, real-time social media analytics across over 100 social platforms including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Google+. This makes it easy to track and measure what people are saying about any topic, such as you, your company or a new product.
This simple online tool allows you to see what certain hashtags mean and add your own definitions quickly and easily, and also see a list of related hashtags.
These are both tools for gaining a geographical insight into the use of certain hashtags. This can be especially useful when you are targeting particular regions with your campaign, and give you a greater insight into which hashtags to use and how they are performing in the areas you are targeting.
If you have defined your own hashtag, or wish to track one that is used relatively sparingly, it can be useful to be alerted when it is used. This service, which has a free trial and a number of paid options, will send you email alerts whenever a particular hashtag is used, so that you can engage in that conversation while it is still active.
Other notable tools include Twubs, TweetReach, SeeSaw, Topsy, and TagBoard. These all provide services that are similar to some of the platforms mentioned here, although there are obviously some platform-specific differences between them.
How to Use Hashtags
The most important thing to remember when using hashtags is that they are most effective when used sparingly. While you might get a greater search reach by including lots of them in your tweets, it can make your communications look spammy, which will ultimately result in lower engagement.
Another thing to remember is that people aren’t necessarily going to know what a particular hashtag means, so it can be useful to give it some context. This can be done by explaining it briefly in one of your tweets, or making it very clear what you are talking about. If you are introducing a hashtag, it’s well worth adding a definition to the database using a tool such as TagDef or similar, as this will help people who are curious about its meaning, and ensure that it is defined in the way that you intended.
One of the most useful aspects of hashtags is that they enable you to organize information for you and your followers, and this can be especially powerful when promoting a conference or event. This allows you to track the conversation between guests, speakers, performers and attendees before and after the event. In order to do this effectively, you need to define a single hashtag early on in the process, and remind people of it as frequently as possible in your tweets, your website, and at the event itself. In general, it is better to keep them short, so that they are more memorable and won’t take up too many of the allotted 140 characters per tweet.
Although they are very much on the way to being firmly established as a part of mainstream culture, you have to remember that not everybody knows what they are, or how they work. One thing that can help to bring people into the conversation that aren’t au fait with the ways of Twitter is to put a conversation tracker widget on your website, such as the one in the screenshot above. These can be made using online services such as Widgetbox and easily inserted into your website or blog, and will allow users to see all the latest tweets that use a certain hashtag.
What is the future of # Hashtags?
At present, all the signs point to hashtags becoming even further embedded in popular culture. Facebook’s adoption of clickable hashtags, and the ability to make them public or private, also means that users are about to get a lot more savvy. This opens up the possibility for users to engage with brands using hashtags, rather than by posting directly on brand pages.
Most importantly, hashtags are likely to emerge as strong identifiers in the semantic web. Web search seems set to evolve into a single dominant search engine, where hashtags are used to find a specific topic across the web regardless of whether it is trending on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Google+, Twitter, or any other channel that may emerge. Parallels can be drawn with the way that apps have adapted to user habits, so that instead of always using a Facebook app to upload photos to Facebook, people can use apps like Instagram and Tumblr.
The web is about to become much more intelligent, real time and integrated and there is no doubt that hashtags have a key role to play in this development. Looking beyond hashtags, I believe that a UPIC (unique personal identification code) will emerge, which will accompany #hashtags with data about a user´s gender, socio-graphics information, their online status, moods and so on. It will, of course, be up to the user of course to decide what to make public and what to keep private. Get ready for a very intelligent web 3.0.
This article was originally published as a smaller version and is an augmented version of: The Origin of Hashtags and their role in the upcoming Web 3.0