If you’re a social media novice, #hashtags — those short links preceded by the pound sign (#) — may seem confusing and unnecessary. But they are integral to the way we communicate online, and it’s important to know how to use them.
On Twitter, the pound sign (or hash) turns any word or group of words that directly follow it into a searchable link. This allows you to organize content and track discussion topics based on those keywords. So, if you wanted to post about the Walking Dead season 6, you would include#WalkingDead in your tweet to join the conversation. Click on a #hashtag to see all the posts that mention the subject in real time.
The hashtag’s widespread use began with Twitter but has expanded to other social media platforms. Developer Chris Messina proposed, in a tweet, that Twitter begin grouping topics using the hash symbol. Twitter initially rejected the idea. But in October 2007, citizen journalists began using the hashtag #SanDiegoFire, at Messina’s suggestion, to tweet updates on a series of forest fires in San Diego. The practice of hashtagging took off; now users and brands employ hashtags to cover serious political events (#Cairo) and entertainment topics (#MileyCyrus) alike.
#Hashtags now go beyond being used only for discovering the latest trending topics. They can now add value to your #SEO campaign and, by using them properly on social media, you can drive long-term, steady referral traffic back to your site. #Google has even begun incorporating hashtags into search results in a unique way. Now, searching for a hashtag on Google will not only give you a list of search results, but will also include a live scrolling feed of Google+ posts containing that hashtag and links to other hashtag feeds on other social networks, including Facebook and Twitter.
So how can your brand take advantage of this feature? Incorporating hashtags into your social media posts will mean you have more opportunities to place your content in Google search results. Well-placed hashtags in your blog titles, #Facebook, #Google+ and/or #Twitter posts create an additional way for users to search and discover your brand. Even links to hashtags in descriptions on #Pinterest, #Vine, and #Instagram posts are now showing up in Google search results.
For example, If you do a Google search for “Coca Cola,” you will see the Coca Cola website, Wikipedia page, and recent news articles. But add a hashtag and #cocacola will yield Google+ posts containing that hashtag, as well as links to every Coca Cola social media page.
Finding information by searching for specific hashtags has become a new form of communication. More and more people are using hashtag searches to discover information, which is a relatively new way of searching that brands can now take advantage of.
Give context: A tweet that contains only hashtags is not only confusing — it’s boring. If your tweet simply reads, “#happy,” your followers will have no idea what you’re talking about. Similarly, if you tweet, “#WalkingDead is #awesome,” you’re not really adding much to the conversation. So start incorporating #hashtags into your social media marketing plan and watch the affect it has on your #SEO.