Why it’s important to # (and how to do it)


Hello everyone! 

It’s been a busy couple of months and apart from a few sparse assignment posts, I’ve been far too quiet! So to ease myself back in, let’s go back to basics..

It was back in 2007 when open source and open standards advocate Chris Messina (@ChrisMessina) first used the number sign as a tag on the newly created Twitter. A few days later and the ‘hash tag’ was born.

With usage rapidly increasing on Twitter, through 2009 and 2010 #’s soon became hyperlinked with ‘Trending Topics’ showing the most popular hashtags of the day. (Can you imagine Twitter  without #ShareaCoke or #ManOnTheMoon?)

Other social networks soon followed suit, with Instagram and Facebook just to name a couple (audiences however, are still critical of its use on the latter). In its brief life-span social media has been revolutionised by hashtags. The notion of sharing ideas with a community was not a new one, but with hashtags frequently highlighting campaigns, elections and even an episode of EastEnders, those communities became a whole lot bigger.

The hashtag is essentially the dream of PR practitioners a decade ago, a space where conversations can take place with audiences that actively want to be involved. Areas such as customer service and brand identity can be worth millions to corporations, so it’s crucial that conversations with the disgruntled or unhappy can take place swiftly and in one place.

With a new generation of PR practitioners (myself hopefully included) slowly rising through the ranks, it’s imperative that they’re social media savvy – it’s become expected of them – and this includes the use of hashtags. However, there are a few rules:

  • Be sensible, you know exactly what I mean!
  • Hashtag-ing puts your account (as long as its public) into the world wide web, be prepared to receive responses from people or companies you don’t even know.
  • You don’t always have to start the conversation, joining one that’s already active or trending can create just as many conversations and relationships.
  • Only hashtag a word that’s relevant to the subject, else you could join a conversation that doesn’t reflect your tweet or interests at all.
  • By starting conversations, you might gain recognition so keep the conversation going, no-one likes talking to a brick wall.
  • And finally, don’t spam with tags (I’m looking at you Instalike), over-tagging can ruin your credibility and make even the most crucial information lose importance. Try and aim for a maximum of two #’s a tweet (On Instagram aim for no more than 10)

In previous posts, I’ve also detailed the importance of apps such as Hootsuite, which make it much easier to follow conversations once you’ve started them, other analytical tools and apps can also provide useful measurements once it’s taken off the ground.

This blog post isn’t a lecture (more like half history, half consultation), because from this weeks research I’ve learned that there are things I should be doing differently too (what an admission). That’s why from this day forward, #thebettinsonblog will be attached to relevant tweets about this blog.

It’s never too late to start the conversation, so why don’t you get talking?


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