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What is #hashtag?

Written by Andrew Littlewood.

You’ve heard all about them and seen them strewn across blogs, videos, images and Tweets all over the internet.

Sometimes they’re humorous. Sometimes they don’t make any sense to you at all.

A lot of the time they seem pointless, but for some reason everyone you know is sprinkling them throughout their content as if they are the answer to magically gaining more followers and driving more traffic to your site.

So what really ARE hashtags, how do you use them, and how do you get the most out of them?

To put it simply a hashtag is a word or phrase, unspaced and prefixed by the hash character, that is used to characterise a collection of similar content.

The purpose of using a hashtag is to collate related electronic material, so it can be easily viewed all in one place, all under the one heading – or hashtag.

For example, instead of spending hours trawling through Instagram looking for great ways to redecorate your office space, but having to contend with streams of pictures of cats, food and endless selfies, you can find exactly what you are looking for by searching something along the lines of #officereno, or #officeredesign.

Originating on Twitter in 2007, the hashtag has grown in popularity insurmountably over the past eight years. But what exactly can it offer you and your business, and how can it help you get your content noticed?

The most common use for hashtags in online marketing is branded hashtags, for example KitKat’s #HaveABreak campaign, or Coca-Cola’s #shareacoke, as it allows you to create a new and unique online tagline your consumers and followers come to know as being part of your marketing strategy.

The more you add the hashtag to your content, the more it becomes synonymous with your product and service offerings in the online sphere.

Hashtagging also encourages interaction and facilitates two-way communication, allowing the consumer to get involved with the content. The more you stimulate two-way communication, the more your brand hashtag will be shared; the more it’s shared, the more attention you will receive.

Seems like a pretty good payoff for the small amount of time you will spend developing a usable hashtag, right?

The increase in traffic to your website after the addition of hashtags is not only driven by the repeated usage of the hashtag, but also the fact that SEO is accelerated through hashtag use.

An increase in traffic after the addition of hashtags occurs because SEO is accelerated by the hashtags, as Google and like search engines are bumping Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and general newsfeeds containing hashtags to the top of their search results.

By using your branded hashtags on as many social networks as possible, you are giving your brand and business more exposure - though there are a few things to be cautious of when using hashtags to categorise content.

  1. Make hashtags concise and simple. #JAMMediaWagga, is more likely to catch on, and be seen as a trustworthy brand than, #jammediacanhelpwithallyourcreativeneeds. If the audience find your branded tag too confusing, they will most likely steer clear of your business entirely.
  2. Use capital letters if necessary. #JAMMediaWagga more clearly defines the business you are talking about than #jammediawagga does.

Whatever your business or the product you are marketing online, whether you are looking to reach a new audience, interact with your existing consumers, or further develop your brand identity in the online sphere, it is worth spending a few extra minutes and dedicating a few spare thoughts to creating some catchy hashtags for your next campaign.

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