As I promised last week, here is my first post on why, despite the backlash, using hashtags can be a good thing. After experimenting with various hashtags for two weeks and reading other people's hashtag experience, I've compiled this short list of reasons to use them.
You can find a million different marketing blogs on "why using hashtags is imperative to your Twitter success." But you should think of this list as more of a "why you should use hashtags for your Twitter enjoyment."
Find Like-Minded People
I think the number one reason to use hashtags is to find people with similar interests. I don't mean that your goal should be to have tons of followers and that you should get those followers through hashtags. Instead, I mean that you can connect with people you might not have found
For example, let's say that you are super into Doctor Who, but all of your friends think British TV is weird (true story). You don't have anyone to talk to about the new doctor, John Hurt, or the epic 50th Anniversary Special (maybe coming soon to a theater near you!). What do you, as a super fan, do? Well, you can take to Twitter, and because of hashtags, you can easily find people who are geeking out about these very things.
Of course, there are people on Twitter whose only goal is to grow their following. I imagine that the best way to do that is to provide interesting, relevant information. But, in addition to good content, a hashtag makes it more likely that someone can search for and easily find your
Here is a personal anecdote to back up this sentiment: I don't have any real life friends that use Twitter. All of my actual friends spend their time on Facebook. So when I became interested in social media almost a year ago, I started my Twitter with zero followers. I don't have a personal business, or any real need for a lot of followers, so finding followers has never been a goal for me. However, I have noticed an uptick in people who follow me when I make several posts a day with hashtags.
Support A Cause
Supporting a cause is probably one of my favorite reasons to use hashtags. As I mentioned, I'm not trying to promote anything, so I don't need a lot of followers. However, there are projects and ideas out there that I support. And those projects often need followers. When something is "trending" on Twitter - meaning a lot of people are talking about it - it's more likely that the topic will get noticed.
As an example, I am currently very into National Novel Writing Month - or #NaNoWriMo. In November, people all around the world band together while trying to write 50,000 word novels. It's a pretty lofty goal, but it forces people to sit down and tell their story. One of the best ways to get the word out, is to use the Twitter hashtag. It shows my support, all of my followers can learn what it is, and if enough people talk about, it will start trending. So, every time I tweet about my novel (a real work in progress), I try to add the NaNo hashtag.
And while NaNoWriMo is a great example, you can also support your favorite store (think #maxinista) or social movement (think #occupy). It's just one way to let people know how you feel about a cause, product, or event.
I don't know about you, but for a long time my various feeds were blowing up with this Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake video about #hashtags.
I don't actually use hashtags.* I can count on my hand how many times I've used a hashtag. Once I posted #YOLO with a picture on Twitter as a joke, and the other time I used #copyrightabuse as the title of a research paper. Clearly, the title of my school paper doesn't give me any hashtag-cred. I doubt my professor even understood it.
As a late-comer to Twitter, I always thought hashtags were as ridiculous as these two make them sound. Who talks like that? No one. But I know that I am in a small minority. And, as lame as I think hashtags look, I've tried so hard over the past year to understand them and adopt them.
I have various friends in the social media industries, and like a good student, I've actually read books on using social media. The consensus among everyone is a resounding: "You should use hashtags." To be fair, I do understand the benefit. Hashtags sort data and help others find whatever it is you are posting about. You can even search hashtags and find out what others are saying about whatever topic. I've seen people live tweet events using hashtags, which seems like an excellent idea. But knowing the good doesn't make me comfortable with throwing out a #hashtag in the middle of my tweet.
So, for others like me, I am going to do a two part series starting next week on the benefits of hashtags and the best way to use them. In the meantime, I will experiment with hashtags to see what works and what doesn't.
*When I started this post, that was a true statement. Since then, I have started using more hashtags, and I am pleased to say that it has greatly increased my enjoyment of Twitter.
Rachel Paxton is a typer of words in Dallas, TX.