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Back “in the day” they were called pound signs. They also looked a lot like something we used to play tic-tac-toe. Now that I’ve aged myself, you’ve likely figured it out by now. I’m talking about what is now called the hashtag. Once upon a time, before there was Instant Messenger or Facebook Messenger or – “texting” with smart phones…in fact, before smart phones, there was something called IRC (Internet Relay Chat). Let’s just call it old-school messaging/texting but over a computer network rather than a mobile device. A group of computer programmers decided that they would use this “pound sign” as a way to label and group items across a network.

Pound Becomes “Hash” Incidentally, the “pound sign” in the UK means “hash” (and a few other things), so pound became hash, and hash later became hashtag. The hash was only known and used among people information technology. It stayed that way until 2007. In 2007 a computer developer (one instrumental in creating things like Firefox), Chris Messina, used a hashtag on Twitter. Chris posted the very first tweet including a hashtag. It read simply:

“How do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]? – Chris Messina (“factoryjoe”) 

Twitter didn’t seem to get excited about the debut of this little symbol. In fact, Twitter didn’t adopt it at all until it saw how widely used it was when the San Diego forest fires were making headlines. Then – well, it took off, like wildfire. (Sorry.) Most companies now include hashtags in their branding.

Is creating a hashtag as simple as using any random phrase or word that you feel is trendy?

A Hashtag Helps Users Find You on Social Media

News outlets also tag their articles with hashtags. It’s part of how organizations and companies identify themselves. Their unique hashtag is included on the packaging of the product, commercials- and of course their social media profiles. One small symbol has quite a bit of power these days. That’s exactly why if your business doesn’t already have one or two, you should read on and see how having them may help you market and grow your business.Why Use Hashtags For Your Business?

Think of a hashtag like a “call sign” in radio or station identification. (My dad has been in radio for years so that’s my best analogy!) A hashtag is a quick way to connect people on social media with who you are and what you do in a word or phrase. Maybe you have a new business and no one knows you exist yet, but they know and have need for the product or service you offer.

Let’s say your company name is Repurposing Stuff and you choose the hashtag #repurposing. While your company name isn’t widely known, the minute anyone on Twitter or anywhere else, enters the hashtag “#repurposing,” your posts would show up on the list of search results. Do you see how that could potentially help promote your brand? I thought so. How do you make a hashtag and what hashtags do you use? Is creating a hashtag as simple as using any random phrase or word that you feel is trendy? Not quite. There are some cringe-worthy hashtags out there. I’ve seen many. 

The “tweeter” may think it’s cute to use an entire sentence that’s meaningful to them as a hashtag. It may as well say: #IhavenocluewhatImdoing!

Here are a 5 simple steps to help you ensure your hashtag does not earn cringe-worthy classification: 

1.)   Give It Some Thought
The first thing to help you focus on choosing a hashtag is: the word or phrase that you choose as a hashtag is supposed to represent you and/or what you do. Think carefully about what would best identify with you and your product, service, blog, etc,. Put some time into selecting the most appropriate word or phrase that you want to be known by.

2.)   Do Some Due Diligence
Once you have a list of words or phrases you’d like to use, take a look around and see if it’s already in use. Try doing a search for that phrase (#whateverItIs) on Twitter, using the list you created in the first step

3.)   Let People Know
Once you’ve decided on a hashtag, let your friends, family and followers you already have know about it. Do an email blast. Start letting it be known that this is your “call sign.” Have them retweet, repost, pin, whatever platform they may be on, have them let their followers know who you are, what you do and how they can find you. You may be surprised how quickly your hashtag gains popularity.

4.)   Watch for Activity
Once you’ve done all your homework and word is getting around, make sure you’re watching for the posts and tweets wherever your hashtag may appear. Acknowledge each one and respond everywhere possible.

 5.)   Be Consistent 

Once you choose a hashtag, use it in every post, tweet, status update, email campaigns and all your marketing material. Ideally, your hashtag should become synonymous with your company name. Concerned that someone else may want to use that same hashtag? It may be wise to register your hashtag on a site such as twubs.com or hashtags.org., and copyright or trademark it as well. 

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