What Are Hashtags And How Do I Use Them?




Hashtags are everywhere online, particularly social media. But what are they, and how do you use them to help in your marketing?

How Did #Hashtag Begin?

“It was more sort of an accident,” says Chris Messina, who is credited with ‘inventing’ hashtags.  “I wanted a simple way for groups to form on Twitter that didn’t require me to think…and it kind of just grew organically.”

Hashtags started out as a way to help organise and search on Twitter, but they have since expanded to all the other social media engines, and Google has picked up on it.  Think of a hashtag as a miniature search engine.  You can type in “sign up for Karen’s marketing tips” on Google, or you can go to Twitter and search #karenstips.

A hashtag is quite simply a word or phrase to help organise conversations.

You put the hash in front of it (#) and then squeeze the words together with no spaces. #jobdone.

It’s become a bit of a slang speak. Hashtags are meant to be used for things that happen often, or popular phrases, or something everyone is talking about. But it is also used as a bit of a joke , spoken aloud: “hashtag where’s my red umbrella”, or “hashtag why is it even raining”.

The fascinating thing about hashtags is that they are used by teenagers you pass chatting about their McFlurry (“hashtag not the one I wanted”), and also by corporations promoting a product or holding an event (#xerocon).

You have probably noticed it yourself even amongst the (still learning social media) accounting industry. When you go to an event or conference, a hashtag is set up in advance so the people who will be attending can start talking about it, meet others who are going, ask questions of the event organisers.  During the event, you and all the attendees are encouraged to post about your experiences using the same hashtag, and after it’s over they might glean feedback with the hashtag.

How Do I Choose A #Hashtag?

The key with hashtags is that it’s anyone’s game – first come, first served. There’s no official hashtag directory telling you what you can and can’t use, and you can even use one hashtag for multiple reasons (or vice versa). You shouldn’t, because it’s confusing, but technically you can.  It’s policed fairly well – your account could get blocked or marked as spam if you try to push your business or services using someone else’s hashtag.  Plus, it’s just rude. The offline equivalent would be to book a room at a hotel in which a company was holding an event, and then direct people to your room instead of theirs.  At first people would be confused; then a little annoyed; then angry. And when it comes to social media, the people have the power. If you are trying to use a particular hashtag here and there, and then suddenly a big company comes swooping in with thousands of people using it for something else, you may as well bow out, or join the party.  Read about deciding on a hashtag.

Choosing a hashtag is important.  It needs to be short, memorable, specific, and relevant. The hashtag #ouraccountingevent is too long, too vague, easily forgotten, and could relate to hundreds of events all over the globe, not just yours. Take into account your event title or topic.  Think about whether you run the same event regularly? Will you want to distinguish different years or months?  I attended the Infusionsoft Conference in Phoenix last year, and the hashtag was #icon14. This year, of course, it’s #icon15, and so on.

But Before You Start #Hashtagging…

Before you consider the hashtagging opportunities for your accountancy firm, you will first need to set up business accounts on all the social media engines.  Twitter at a bare minimum, but ideally you set up Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and YouTube.

Next, get followers.  You need a few people in your tribe before you start a following.

Okay, you have done this. So, how do you use hashtags for your accounting business? (Note: this will all work much better if you have a niche area, a good website, and a content marketing plan. But if you just want to fire ahead, here you go.)

Research your hashtag before using it.

Remember my points above – keep it short and easily memorable. It needs to be something that people can remember (like event attendees who are sitting in your seminar), and don’t have to look up.  And check to make sure it doesn’t confuse (or offend) when it is written out – hashtags don’t use spaces.

Share the hashtag in all your marketing.

On leaflets, emails, website landing page, blog posts, imagery.  You have seen all the major companies do it. It is an incredibly simple way to encourage engagement.

Use the hashtag yourself.

You can’t expect your clients or prospects or event attendees to take all the responsibility. For an event, get your marketing team to start tweeting before the event runs.

Use the hashtag to glean testimonials and positive statements for future marketing.

The power of social media is the fact that if someone likes your event, company, service, product – they will tell their world, and you can share that with your world.

Some top ways your firm can use hashtags

Here’s a quick list of a few ways you could use hashtags for your accountancy firm:

  • Niche Markets (one of my favourite topics): Find out what hashtags your niche markets are using.
  • Use a hashtag for your accountancy firm’s tagline or strapline.
  • Check out ‘trending hashtags’ and see if you have content or insight that relates to them.  A trending hashtag is simply one that is very popular just now.  (Check out ‘trends’ on the left side of your Twitter screen)  In the accountancy world, #VATMOSS is a trending hashtag just now!
  • Product or service hashtag:  Choose one that relates to the service you’re offering.  #xero, #autoenrolment
  • Lifestyle hashtag:  Something that relates to your prospects, and to you.  #lovecofee might relate if you’re big on the new kinds of coffee in your accountancy firm, or some sport topic.
  • Location hashtag:  Focus on the prospects in your geographical area, and be as specific as possible.  #london is going to be a massive hashtag;  #oxfordcircus is extremely specific.