Taking part in the conversation with the “right” #hashtag

This is a guest post I wrote last month for The Lift Blog of Euro RSCG 4D Bulgaria. Euro RSCG 4D Bulgaria is an online marketing communications agency, part of the digital network of HAVAS-owned Euro RSCG Worldwide. I highly recommend you follow them on Twitter @4D_Bulgaria.

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Twitter has been growing quite significantly since its inception in 2006. Last month, the company presented some really impressive statistics about this. Currently, Twitter boasts more than 180 million unique visitors each month and it has over 105 million registered users. And this remarkable and growing environment is producing 140 million updates on average per day. Everyone can share posts without any restrictions as long as they fit within the 140 character limit.

But with such a big growth of new users joining and messages being posted, there is a great chance that your own updates will quickly disappear in the stream and your voice might not be heard. One can try to update more frequently, but this may be a time consuming and costly activity which might fail. So, what can you do to ensure that your message will reach its intended audience? Enter the #hashtag!

What is a hashtag?

A hashtag is basically a keyword. It can be used to easily categorize your messages and put them under a topic, together with updates from everyone else using the same keyword. Clicking on the hashtag or searching for it will take you to a corresponding topic.

Benefits of using hashtags

Using hashtags presents great opportunities for people to start or join relevant conversations about current events or common interests. Following a hashtag can help you find more information and expand your knowledge on a specific topic.

Furthermore, it is a great way of expanding one’s personal and professional network. Adding a hashtag to your message puts your update under a specific category where others can easily find it, like what you are saying, check your profile and decide to connect with you.

Another benefit of using hashtags is the ability to monitor the Twitter stream for conversations relevant to you. Either with the help of Twitter search or a third party application, you can browse thorough the noise and select only the posts that matter. This can be very helpful for brands who want to engage and maintain a conversation with their customers (prospective, current and past) online.

The “right” hashtag

There is another challenge facing users who are using hashtags. With more than 100 million people tweeting, a significant part of them posting more than once a day on various topics, we must accept that there will be many variations of hashtags for different topics. So, once again we can ask ourselves how to break through the noise and make sure we use the “right” hashtag to join the conversation?

Well, first of all, there is no right or wrong hashtag. They have been adopted by users organically and everyone can use and post with whatever tag he or she prefers. One way of ensuring that it will serve its purpose is to stick with the same hashtag over a long period of time so your audience can see it, begin to recognize it and adopt it.

You can also have a look at which hashtags the people you are following are using and take the same approach. Look at those users in your network who are well-connected, very influential and highly-recognized within their field of expertise. They usually have very broad audiences. And there’s no better way to reach out to these audiences by using the same hashtag.

It is up to YOU!

The use of Twitter and hashtags is different for everyone. Regular users and brands have their own unique motivation and purpose for using Twitter – for example, staying informed on current events. Others might want to expand or share their knowledge. Some will want to gain exposure for a new product or service they are launching. For all of these uses and many more there will be thousands, if not millions, of hashtags posted with new updates. So, it is up to you to decide what your goal is, do your research, and join the conversation with the “right” hashtag.

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Building relationships on Twitter

This post is will serve me in two ways: first, I want to share my appreciation to all my super-awesome followers with whom I’m having great conversations; second, I want to express my frustration towards all the “silent” connections who press the “follow” button, but don’t respond to any sort of communication from my side.

Over the last couple of months I have started to reap the benefits of maintaining an active twitter presence. I have met great people with whom I am constantly exchanging information and thoughts on a broad range of topics – from the simplicity of daily life to the complexity of the social media world. These conversations have richly expanded my mindset and also became foundations for a lot of great relationships. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of these friends in person – with the rest I hope to meet in the very near future. To all of you I want to say this:

THANK YOU! YOU ARE AWESOME!

That being said, I am about to turn my attention to those people who decide to follow me, but I have never heard from them. Even after I’ve tried to start a conversation. I appreciate the fact that you are interested in what I have to say, but how about saying “Hello” or at least respond to my personal message to YOU?! I take a moment of my time and make an effort to get to know you – I look at your profile picture, read your bio, check your website/blog (in case you have one), and write a thank you note with the intention to hear back from you and start a dialogue. And I get back nothing from you in return. What benefit do you see in approaching someone without caring about this person? Well, I don’t care too much about this, to be honest. As I said: I appreciate your interest and I am doing my part. Plus, I have plenty of awesome people to talk with, so there’s nothing to lose for me.

If you’ve read this post and you belong to the first group of people I mentioned I say THANK YOU once more. If you belong to the other group and never responded to my invitation – thank you as well, but what’s your reason for using social media? But if you read this post and want to drop me a line – feel free to do so – you’ll hear back from me!

Cheers!