Have you been using hashtags in your tweets? If you have not jumped on the hashtag train, you have no doubt seen them on Twitter.  Hashtags are the words, or sometimes just jumble of letters that you see following the # sign. Hashtags are not essential, or appropriate for every tweet. Before going hashtag crazy, it is important to know how they can help your business, and when they are actually useful.

Hashtags work for categorizing content. Adding a hashtag into your tweet makes it easier for other users to find. This can be extremely useful when discussing a topic other Twitter users may be discussing as well. For example, during the Superbowl you could search #Superbowl on Twitter and a display of Superbowl related tweets would be the result.

From a marketing standpoint, hashtags can also help to create some buzz around your product or business. For example, say you are the owner of a shoe boutique and you are having a sale on winter boots.  Tweet something about the sale, and then use the hashtag #winterboots. This is a broad category, and someone in the market for winter boots is likely to search “#winterboots.” By incorporating the hashtag into your tweet, your tweet will show up in the search results.

Keep the hashtag brief and easy to read. If you use the hashtag #WinterBootsAreHalfOffAtTheShoeBoutique it is not only hard to read, but it is also likely that nobody will search for that hashtag – and your tweet will not appear in any searches.   Your tweets are already limited to 140 characters, so use them wisely! Use hashtags to get your point across but still remain brief.

Remember there is no point in using a hashtag if you do not keep using it. In other words, be consistent with your hashtags. If you do not repeat the hashtag, your tweet may go unseen by potential customers. Make sure to use your hashtags. Last but not least, be sure your hashtags are relevant and easy to understand.  Twitter is about simplicity – so do not confuse your Twitter followers with a confusing hashtag.

Stuck for ideas on how to optimize your tweets? Here are 5 ideas for things to tweet about on a regular basis:

  1. Share things that are behind the scenes of your business. Tweet photos that provide access to things your customers can’t get or see in other ways.  That will build incentive for fans to follow you on Twitter.
  2. If there is any positive news about your business or even your industry – share it! That is absolutely something to tweet about. A good mention about your industry reflects well on you, and if it is about your company in particular that is even better.
  3. Tweet tips!  For example, you could start hash – tagging #TuesdayTweetTips in which every Tuesday you would share a helpful hint that goes along with your product or service. If you own a brewery, tweet tips on which beers compliment which burgers.
  4. Post questions that clearly urge people to respond. This way you can interact with the tweets that are responses to your questions. Once you have created some dialogue, you can post a tweet with a link to your company blog that holds the correct answers.
  5. Tweet a secret word or code that is only available to your Twitter followers.  When customers use the secret code, they receive a discount.

As you know, a tweet can be a powerful tool for boosting your online presence – you just have to make sure you are using it right!