Tweets in 10 – #Great #Idea #for #Twitter

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on March 11, 2011 in: Twitter Tips & Tools

In this eleventh post of the TweetsIn10 series, I’m going to talk about hashtags. Hashtags are those things you see in tweets with a number sign in front of them:
#coffee
#bookkeeping
#TigerWoods
#BusinessLunchClub
#dogs
#NYC
#NASCAR
#WSJ
#Apple
(etc., etc.)

These tags are ways for people to label their tweets to give them some context, to help make them searchable, and to help make them trackable.
Context: Let’s say that you see a tweet that says: “I love Sumatra!” You might wonder if your friend has suddenly traveled to one of the largest islands in Indonesia. But if their tweet says: “I love Sumatra #starbucks #coffee” then the context of the tweet is much clearer. Your friend hasn’t journeyed to the other side of the world, they just happened to be in Starbucks around the corner. Now you can tweet with something like “Bring me a mocha latte” instead of “Why didn’t you tell me you were leaving the country?”

Okay, obviously that’s a silly example but it does illustrate my point: hashtags help to explain your tweet in a fast, efficient way. Since you only have 140 characters, why bother saying something excessive like “I’m at Starbucks drinking a Sumatra coffee and I really like it” when “I love Sumtra #starbucks #coffee” says exactly the same thing?

Searchable: As well, hashtags help to make your tweets searchable. By adding the “#” in front of keywords in your tweet (either inside a sentence or before or after the main content in your tweet) you can highlight the important words for Twitter Search (and other search apps). The truth is, search functions do look through all of the words in your tweet but the hashtag helps to make it clearer for people once the search pulls up the tweet.

Trackable: There are sites set up that watch specifically for hashtags and can provide a variety of metrics and additional information about that hashtag activity on Twitter.

So, this context + searchable + trackable feature of hashtags make them very much like labels or tags in your blog. They are a way to indicate the subject matter and help people to find what you are talking about.

The great thing about hashtags is that you can make them about anything you want. You’re not stuck with a pre-set list of hashtags that other people have decided. All you have to do is tweet and add the # in front of keywords.

So, a tweet like “Enjoying the weather in Orlando” can become something like “Enjoying the #weather in #orlando”. Or “having a coffee with a friend” can become something like “having a #coffee with a friend at #starbucks”.

So, how can you use hashtags?

  • Use them on references to your industry – #dentist, #consulting, #freelance
  • Use them on references to your products and services – #coffee, #bookkeeping
  • Use them on references to your city or town – #miami, #nyc, #la, #denver
  • Use them on references to your favorite past times – #movies, #music, #MLB
  • Use them on references to conferences, seminars, or Twitter-based groups – #followfriday, #businesslunchclub

These are the most common uses, but what about some of these less common uses that can help you build your business or your brand?

  • Use them on references to your own name. Sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer adds his own name at the end of every tweet (without the hashtag but in a similar way to hashtags). So I might use one like #HeatherVilla. In general, use these when you are quoting yourself or using your name as your business brand. For example, I might tweet a quote like “‘Project management is the heart of entrepreneurship’ #HeatherVilla”.
  • Use them on references to your business name. A company might do this if they happen to be tweeting about themselves. For example, you might see “Mention the phrase ‘tweets for eats’ next time you’re at #mcdonalds and get 10% off your meal”.
  • Use them on references to your product brands or other thought-leadership that you develop. If you created a blue widget, then add #bluewidget at the end of a tweet.

Next, you’ll want to register these hashtags at wthashtag.com. WTHashtag is a user-editable site (like a wiki) so registering your hashtag there doesn’t give you any specific rights over it, and others could come in and edit it. However, registering does help to “lock it in” so that it is defined and trackable. You can click to a hashtag at WTHashtag and see more information about it, see who tweets about that hashtag the most, and you can see usage trends.
Hashtags are useful tools to help other people understand you better and to help you brand yourself and search important information.

Bonus Tip:  My Favorite Hash Tags

Here are some Hashtags I love to follow on Twitter:

#VATip:  These are tips for Virtual Assistants and working with a Virtual Assistant.

#smbiz:  These are tweets related to small businesses.

#smallbizchat:  This is a chat that exists every Wednesday from 8-9pm EST relating to succeeding as your own boss.

Heather Recommends:

If you are a coach, freelancer, or entrepreneur who wants to succeed like a pro, I can help.

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