Hashtags. Do they matter or are you unaware of them? If the latter, it’s time you caught up!

There may be terms you do not appreciate or are not willing to use, but they are unlikely to go away any more than the word “internet” is.

#fail or hash fail (meaning “That didn’t work then”) has already worked it’s way into everyday language, especially amongst those who use Twitter or see the term on social media networks. Just as OMG and LOL have.

AFAIK hashtags crept in from the IRC world. If that sentence alone leaves you cold, then you should bring in a marketing expert to get you up to speed. Because if you are not careful, you may find yourself cranking the engine on your business when everyone else has electronic ignition.

Hashtags allow you to simply categorise your content according to a simple term, such as ‘fail’, which is easily searchable upon across the Web by adding the hashtag # in front.

Let’s put this into context in marketing terms. Let’s say you are attending or organising an event. You want people to talk about the event, the speakers, the content, the networking buzz etc. You especially want people to talk about it online. You can send them all to your website (which hopefully you have a special tracking URL for to judge the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns), but you also need them to talk, comment, opine, add comments etc.

This adds a whole extra dimension to any event – whether it is a live product announcement, an expo, a conference/seminar/webinar etc, or a news story.

Your choices are to set up a forum within that site, which requires moderators and extra resource, or just set up a simple back channel using Twitter. (Accept the massive amount of research that has already been done and go for the second option!)

In order to benefit from global exposure, you need to group people into one place, and the #hashtag creates a “room” where everyone interested in that topic can gather. So, I might run a really small, rural event called Fibrewalk and the hashtag for the event is #fibrewalk. If you enter that into any search engine, as well as Twitter, you can see all related content.

Suddenly, you have a whole new tool at your disposal and shortly we will discuss when and where you should be using hashtags to ‘brand’ your products and marketing efforts so that they reach the target audience more effectively.

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of Silicon.com's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology