Unlocking the Power Behind Twitter’s Secret Weapons: Hashtags

Social media has quickly catapulted into our lives, allowing us to update our statuses at a moment’s notice or upload vacation pictures for friends everywhere to comment on. Most importantly, social media has changed how we do business and has challenged business professionals everywhere to up their game. With more and more people jumping online to communicate, network, and purchase products and services, it is critical that your business have a strong online presence. For example, Twitter now has more than 200 million members sending out approximately 65 million tweets per day. With numbers like that, what business can afford to not be engaged?

For those finally jumping on the social media bandwagon, Twitter seems to have its own language. Tweets containing the ‘#’ symbol are everywhere. Often the first question received when individuals and businesses dive into Twitter is, “what’s the deal with the number symbols everywhere?” Little do these newcomers realize that these mysterious symbols, known fondly by social media fanatics as hashtags, are Twitter’s secret weapons, helping your tweets reach a broad number of people. Hashtags unite specific topics people are tweeting about and can actually enhance your Twitter efforts by grouping tweets together and helping those on Twitter find similar topics easily.

To fully be engaged on Twitter, one must embrace the power of the hashtags. Any “Tweep” or Twitter enthusiast will tell you that hashtags can be extremely beneficial for monitoring the visibility of your business and products on Twitter. You can categorize your tweets according to topic. By using hashtags when tweeting, you draw followers through relationship marketing and creating connections to those with mutual interests, therefore increasing your Twitter followers and allowing your influence to grow. Prime examples of hashtags in action can be found during major events, such as the Oscars, World Series or presidential election. Want to know what is happening on the red carpet? Search for the hashtag #redcarpet or #oscars and you will have every event detail you could want gathered from millions of tweets.

Hashtags can be entertaining, but can also be extremely beneficial for your online business presence. To have a strong social media platform and truly contend with your competitors, businesses need to have an effective strategy. Create a hashtag for your business name and see what people are saying about you.  Decide what hashtags you will use research hashtags that are trending in your industry. For example, if you are a technology company, you could follow hashtags such as #MIC2011, which would keep you updated on the happenings at the 2011 Morningstar Investment Conference.  Once you know what is trending, incorporate them into your tweets. This will allow you to connect with others who follow those selected hashtags, ultimately presenting the opportunity to build virtual relationships. Ultimately, the true value in hashtags is discovering new people to market to and build relationships with. Hashtags are an online extension of your brand, allowing you to gauge the interest of your followers, prospective customers and new business partners.

So you have a strategy and are consistently active on Twitter; there is still one more important aspect you should consider adding to your strategy: don’t just be a commercial for your business. At first, you might see this as a curveball. After all, you joined Twitter to promote your business. However, it is just as important that you find information relevant to your industry that you can share online. If you find a great news article, recommend it in a tweet and incorporate it into relevant hashtags. Offer free advice or tweet helpful tips. Or, some general conversation will give your followers a reason to engage in discussion. That way, you are not tweeting “look at me!” every second that you are online. Instead you are establishing your business as an expert in your field. You will acquire more followers by adding this to your business’ strategy than you would by just tweeting about yourself.  By maintaining an effective strategy and consistently engaging with your followers online, you will find success on Twitter and quickly forget the days when you were intimidated by those pesky hashtags.

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