The Power of the # Hashtag

In a recent conversation I was asked about what lessons I've learnt in growing my engagement and influence, and one of those lessons ALWAYS seems to surprise people. Granted, the large majority of business leaders I talk to are still struggling to grasp Instagram and Foursquare, so is it any wonder why many miss something simple as a hashtag? It baffles me that more people haven't cottoned on to the power of a few very simple tactics for building influence. I'll write an entirely separate post dedicated to the my top tips, but this piece is focused on the one 'magic recipe' that has given me proven results.

Many of us would have at least an elementary understanding of terms like trending, hashtags, keywords and sentiment. But when you fuse these four simple concepts together, you can create something that I guarantee is a thousand times better that what your doing today. Let's take a look at my theory, and I use the work theory loosely as its still an evolving method. For those with superior skills to mine, please help me develop the theory. I'm always keen to experiment and learn more about the new social framework of society.

My magic formula is super simple:

Trending Keyword + Hashtag = Influence

What is a Hashtag?

This may seem like a simple enough question, however the hashtag is all too often misused or misunderstood. The # symbol is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. This little cross hatch is a powerful tool for you in navigating the Social Media landscape. Born initially with Twitter hashtags have become increasingly common place on other social networks like Google +, LinkedIn and Instagram. Hashtags have become an integral part of the digital space with them being used in ever more frequently in creative ways to promote events, ideas and products.

Hashtags are the world’s chat room. Where else can you hop on the phone or computer and have an instant, passionate conversation about something that shares a hashtag? When it comes to primetime television, current events, or sports events like the Olympics or the Super Bowl, hashtags allow anyone with a Twitter account to take part in a universal conversation about a group topic. Who could forget Oreo's brilliance when they came up with #DunkintheDark, a hashtag that hijack the Super Bowl.

Google trends, Yahoo trends, Bing Trends, Ask Trends. Search engines have certain words and phrases that people enter to search for specific items, These are known as KEYWORDS. A word used by a search engine in its search for relevant Web pages becomes a keyword. A trend is when a LOT of people search for the same word or phrase. A trend is behavior or mentality that influence a significant amount of people to do the same thing, Google Trends, provides a way to search for the words that people search for on Google. How to use the information from the keywords can be key to any contents ability to influence.


Hashtags on the rise to influence

According to The NY Times, the uses of hashtags are ever increasing. Their appearances have grown year on year since their inception in 2009 about 1 in 8 tweets now include a hashtag. More interestingly, the average number of tweets per hashtag has remained consistent, even as corporate hashtag creation on the rise. The most widespread hashtags are included in as many as tens of thousands of tweets, there are still as many hashtags isolated to just one tweet then they have ever been.

Additionally, if a user RTs a company’s tweet that includes the hashtag as well, the company is not only getting an @ mention, but their hashtag remains visible. Clearly, making weekly hashtag tweet-ups part of a company’s overall Twitter strategy can help build community and increase social media brand exposure.

So when a topic (or keyword) is trending. It's and ideal time to be talking about that topic to build influence. This is why I put large amounts of effort into detecting trending keywords within my field. Words such as #Mobile, #DigitalNatives, #Innovation, and #Technology are all too generic, there are always millions of mentions. So one needs to be a little more creative finding the niche keywords that support the backbone keywords, such a #Mobile and #SocialMedia, when they together are trend you have a discussion at the intersection, a discussion that attracts listeners. These hashtags are then topics worth talking about if your want to be an influencer on that topic.

In recent years, no event has been a better example than the Arab Spring, a now infamous period in the history of the world, as social media savvy citizens were able to congregate around key themes, lead by hashtags. Is it any wonder why the top hashtags of 2011 relate directly to the top news of the year. So if you can be talking about something that's trending, you'll almost certain to draw attention and influence. Which is exactly what the early influencers of the movement were able to do.

Top hashtag of 2011


Top world news stories of 2011 on Twitter

  1. Mubarak’s resignation
  2. Raid on Osama bin Laden
  3. Japanese earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster
  4. Shooting of Gabrielle Giffords
  5. Colonel Gaddafi’s death
  6. Swine flu outbreak

If you haven't already, I encourage you to top up your knowledge on the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) space, as these theories go hand in hand with what I've found.

Hashtag & keyword links to search

In the web space, getting influence outside you closet friends can be tough. Your Mum might think your content is cool, but how is everyone else going to find it? Hence, you need to develop strategies for reaching people outside your direct and current circle of influence. On of the simplest is to match your keyword and hashtag use search trends, which are freely available on multiple sites.

Hashtag Keyword Search Trends

My hashtag secret sauce

The hashtag magic of the formula is fairly simple, ensure your talking about topics that are relevant your your industry in the moment and ensure your content is tagged appropriately so people can find your work. I put large amounts of effort into thinking through my twitter hashtags, keywords and when to tweet, share, post, etc. Behind the scenes in this very blog, I have nearly forty blog posts 80% ready to go, complete with keywords, SEO and my secret sauce. The super secret hashtag magic that gets me engagement, tweets, and new followers on twitter is I use automation tools to extract the keywords of my unpublished posts and feed them to my alerts and trends engines, so I always know when to publish my posts at the right time, and with the right #hashtags.

Did that makes sense? Share your thoughts and insights

#Hashtag Magic will change your influence on Twitter