"hashtags"Last week as I was organizing my Twitter account I decided to re-evaluate the search terms I was using to find interesting content.  I started wondering if hashtags are important.

As many know, the use of the pound sign (#) is at the crux of the hashtag. Putting symbols in front of words for taxonomy purposes isn’t a new concept. The @ sign has been at the center of email universe for decades now. Not surprising, it’s also used to address someone on Twitter.

However, the Twitter hashtag is more than a simple way to categorize content, identify themes or track real-time conversations. They’re increasingly being used by companies to drive positive online conversation and build brand recognition and loyalty.  Although not terribly complicated, hashtags have some unwritten rules. The primary one to remember: don’t overuse them. If every one of your tweets IS a hashtag, you dilute the usefulness of them by fragmenting the conversation. In addition, many people will shy away from you because it seems spammy.

Another simple tip: give your hashtag context. Most people won’t actually know what your hashtag means, so give a quick explanation in one of your tweets or, if you’re making a hashtag, make it very apparent what it’s talking about.  Finally, if you’re looking to create a hashtag, be sure that it adds value for yourself and your followers. The best way to utilize them is when you need to organize information. Conferences, major events, and even reminders (i.e. #todo) can help organize specific tweets and make life easier on you and your followers.

While hashtags can drive massive attention for a branded campaign, some companies are going even farther by using them organically to convey value proposition. Red Bull’s tagline, “It Gives You Wings,” has been parlayed into the #givesyouwings hashtag and is quite popular with consumers when discussing the brand on Twitter and referencing other activities synonymous with the tagline.

The Oscars brought on a new hashtag phenomenon that will make you want to smack your forehead.  Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie arrived at the Awards’ red carpet ceremony in a strapless black Versace dress with a split revealing her leg. Being one of the most well-known celebrity runway events of the year, Jolie’s red carpet entrance became a much talked-about topic during and after the awards ceremony.  The next day, Twitter went abuzz with people taking photographs of themselves in similar poses, which were uploaded under the hashtags #angellegging and #Joliening.  Twitter feed dubbed “Angie’s Right Leg” accrued more than 12,000 followers within hours.

"Twitter Hashtags"

Marketers need to think about how hashtags can be integrated into broader media campaigns without losing control of the narrative. This is especially important since hashtags are now moving beyond Twitter and into other media channels. We’ve only witnessed a glimpse of their true potential.

In summary, all the really good social media strategies are like the common cold… they get right in there, move around making an impact, then they spread like MAD.  There’s merit to that.ntial and the real opportunities that they can bring for brands and the marketers that use them.