What is Twitter?

Twitter, with its recent ipo, is one of the most powerful free marketing platform that you can leverage right now to gain followers. One of the most important tools to that end is the # (AKA Hashtag). By making the proper use of the #hashtag, you can dramatically expand your reach and spread your tweets.

History

The origin of the hashtag goes all the way back to the ancient Romans. Hashtage was used as a similar tag to denote weights and other units of measure. This is why today, the hashtag is referred to as the “pound sign (#).” You can learn more about history of hashtag here.

In recent years, the hashtag sign saw use in assembly language, and then in IRC Internet groups. It was in the later that the hashtag found its modern-day calling. Computer-savvy users in the early ’90s began to use the sign as a way of organizing chats by topic. Computer engineer and Firefox advocate Chris Messina pressed Twitter to adopt the hashtag in a similar capacity early on in the site’s history. It has also been utilized in Linkedin, Facebook and Pinterest.

Usage

Clever Twitter marketers use the hashtag to organize their tweets around a central word or phrase. This helps consumers find their tweets, and at the same time, it introduces prospects to the marketer’s tweets. If you use the same hashtag in all of your tweets, prospects will see all of your tweets for the day if they search for your hashtag on sites like Hashtagify.me or Hashtags.org.

You should use these sites yourself before settling on a hashtag because while you don’t need to register your tag with anyone, there’s nothing stopping other Twitter users from using the hashtag themselves. As you start out, you’ll want to make sure that no one else is using the hashtag you plan to use.

In the beginning, though, don’t rely too much on a hashtag that contains your brand within it. No one will be searching for it yet. Instead, use hashtags that relate to your niche, product, or service so that you can plug into relevant conversation.

For instance, if you’re in the digital marketing niche, start off by sending messages to the “#digitalmarketing” hashtag. This will introduce your messages to anyone who’s viewing the #digitalmarketing Twitter stream. #digitalmarketing will be picked up by the Twitter search and your posts can appear in your follower’s recent news.

As you gain followers, feel free to begin including your brand’s hashtag in your messages.
But beware to to not over use the #hashtag sign as it can picked up as a spam by Twitter.

Make the Most of Twitter Tools

There are a few things you’ll want to do to make the most of hashtags. First off, you’ll want to become familiar with http://search.twitter.com. This is Twitter’s (somewhat hidden) search engine. From there, you can monitor any hashtag in real time.

Use it to get a handle on what people are saying about you, as well as what they’re saying about your competition. Next, you should use free tools such as HootSuite or Tweetdeck that allow you to set up automated search queries. For both HootSuite and Tweetdeck, you simply need to connect your twitter id and password. Then you will be able to utilize these tools. (Hootsuite has recently updated and requires you to purchase its services.)

These tools work like this: you enter your hashtag, and the tool will automatically update each time someone on Twitter mentions your hashtag. You can tab over to the tool every few minutes as you work to view the new conversations.

Finally, one of the most important things you can do to gain a following with hashtags as you build brand awareness is to use hook-ins. With a hook-in hashtag, you give a piece of information related to your industry, and you start it with a hashtag like “#didyouknow” or “#Iwonderwhy.”

Use the hashtag naturally in your tweet so that the entire message makes sense. Many people keep an eye on hashtags like these simply because they find it enjoyable to learn new things. Use hook-ins often for the added exposure.