Brandi Bleak

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How I Learned to Effectively Use #Hashtags

Technology, The ChatBrandi BleakComment

Everyone has seen them, some think they're annoying, a few try to be funny with them (see video below!), but how many people are using hashtags effectively? 

I've used hashtags here and there for a couple of years now, but until recently I didn't realize how how integral they could be to the way we communicate online. Knowing how to use them well is not only more fun and less annoying to readers, it's actually amazing how it helps you connect to people and businesses you may realize you have access to. During the last couple of weeks, I've done my research, learned the 'do's and dont's', and found how extremely helpful hashtags can be when used properly. 

Last week my husband and I spent a week in New York City, and it was incredible! I've never been more inspired to be productive, creative, and just myself. I have visited before, but this time I used my technology tricks to travel easier, see what's happening in the city, and express opinions about things I experienced. 

The first day we were in the city I had a friend mention that, coincidentally, it was one of the two times of year the sunset lines up with the east-west street along the grid and it was going to be an amazing opportunity for a photo (and in you don't know, I'm a techie girl by day and photographer every other second of my life!) The event, termed Manhattanhenge, was also trending on Twitter so I began my research. By simply typing in the hashtag into Twitter, I was able to find the best streets to photograph from and advice from those who had attempted the shot before. Once we arrived to a bridge outside Grand Central Station, there were people lining up to catch a great shot of the rare event. As the time got closer to sunset more people arrived, nearly closing off traffic from the street! It was an amazing feeling to be among such a relatively small group of people with the same focus there in Manhattan. I live-tweeted photos of the crowd and my view from the location using the Manhattanhenge hashtag to add to the trending topic. Several people, blogs, photographers then shared, favorited, and commented on my posts; reaching many more people than a post without the use of the relevant hashtag. After all that, the clouds obstructed the view of the sunset, but it didn't decrease the excitement of just being a part of the 'event'.

Throughout our trip I constantly searched for hashtags like #TriBeCa, #TimesSquare, #Yotel (our hotel) and anything else nearby that we were interested in. While attending the tapings of The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon and The View, I used the relevant hashtags in all my posts to brag a little. When we ate at a particular good restaurant or had great service, I used their hashtag so other viewers got the great recommendation! 

Then, on our way home I snapped a photo out of my window seat that included the engine which had Jet Blue's website across it (genius advertising!). The service and flight were among the best flying experience I've had in awhile, so I wanted to tell them. I tweeted the picture, along with a few specific hashtags that readers may find when searching for flights, and got a prompted response from Jet Blue. Not a huge deal, but imagine how you could utilize specific hashtags to connect to your favorite business. 

After arriving home, inspired from all the art and creativity I saw in NYC, I heard about the Outings Project from a good friend. The project has taken images of artwork outside of museums worldwide and is placing images of them on buildings along city streets. It's artist-led, and in partnership with the Cummer Museum, Jacksonville has artwork hanging around downtown with the hashtag #JaxOutings. The idea came from of a group of local artists at CoRK (Dolf James, Doug Eng, and Corey Kolb). I can't wait to take a walk downtown to see how many images I can find! As people pass them, they can photograph them and share the photo with the relevant hashtags to their followers. This project really has gotten my attention, liking every photo I see on social media, and has me looking forward to visiting downtown as well as the museum!

Want to know more about the hash, aka pound, aka sharp? I found this cool infographic that explains the History of the Hashtag, and it's pretty good! Who knew the evolution began in the 12th century. Social Caffeine is a blog I stumbled upon while researching hashtags with even more details about the topic.

Tips for using #Hashtags:

  • Hyphens and dashes will not work.
  • Special characters like "!, $, %, ^, &" will not work.
  • Don't use only numbers.
  • However, numbers can be used along with letters. They're great for events like #SXSW15.
  • Use upper case if you're using multiple words.
    Ex. #NewYorkCity
  • If you’re using a hashtag to comment on a specific topic, use relevant tags. For example, posting Tweets after a scene from a popular TV show to join the conversation is very entertaining. Use #Scandal or #GraysAnatomy to add your opinion to the mix.

USING #HASHTAGS in Business:

  • Select one account to use and a hashtag that will represent your brand well. Users need to be able to find you easily.
  • Decide whether you will have one or multiple hashtags. For example: #JetBlue, #JetBlueAirlines #JetBlueFlights.
  • Use hashtags specific to your target audience. See what is trending among them and use it to your advantage.
  • Create your own hashtag for an event or campaign you're promoting. Pick one that hasn't been used before to keep originality. Include the hashtag in any promotional materials to get customers to use it as . 

A few more great resources

A great site to check to see which tags are trending is Hashtags.org. You can also take a peek at Facebook and Twitter to see their top trending topics.

Want to see how a few campaigns have been successful using hashtags? Check out how these businesses are using them to their advantage! Link to Article. 

Another great resource I found was from one of my favorite websites, Mashable.com. I love checking their site for trending topics because I enjoy how they write and how current they stay. Below is Mashable's list of how sites beyond Twitter have integrated hashtags to their platform. 

The hashtag’s widespread use began with Twitter but has extended to other social media platforms.

Facebook: Facebook only recently added hashtag support in June 2013, and the practice has not picked up much steam. Nevertheless, clicking on Facebook hashtags will take you to a list of posts containing the same hashtag. The results are not limited to people you know.
Instagram: Hashtags can be used to complement photos shared on Instagram and help you discover new accounts and pick up followers. Some hashtags were created specifically for Instagram photo challenges — #ThrowbackThursday, for example, encourages users to post retro photos.
Vine uses hashtags in the same way — try accompanying each of your Vine videos with at least one hashtag to maximize shareability.
Google+: When you click on a hashtag in Google+, the search results will include the original hashtag as well as posts with similar tags and keywords. Google search results display on the left side of the page, while hashtag results from within Google+ appear on the right. Google also gives you the option to search within Facebook or Twitter.
Tumblr: Tumblr posts have a special “Tag” section where you can enter tags. These tags function like Twitter hashtags, organizing posts by topic, but the hash symbol is inserted automatically. Hashtags included in the main body of a post are not transformed into links.
Pinterest: Use Pinterest hashtags to mark and search for content. Click on the hashtag in a pin description to navigate results that contain the exact hashtag, plus pins with the same word or phrase in the description.