What’s the Deal with Hashtags?

Hashtags see prominent use on many social media platforms- and they perform multiple functions within what seems like a very basic premise. This is how they are generally constructed across platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram: simply place a “#” symbol in front of a string of relevant characters, and there you have it. Done. It’s as easy as that. But, while it may be easy to make one and dispense into the void of the internet with little to no thought, it may be used by marketers as an effective advertising or promotion tool (social listening included, but will not describe in this blog unfortunately).

So, part of how hashtags function is to be “clickable”- clicking on them takes the browser to a page that contains postings containing the initial hashtag. Some hashtags are more popular than others, and the hashtag is often a conduit through which users may search for more information related to the hashtag of their choice.

How are marketers able to use hashtags? Outside of social listening pursuits, they can create their own or latch onto ones already circulating (and likely quite popular), but it depends on what exactly the marketer is trying to achieve.

For instance, if the marketer is tasked with creating a unique or limited-time advertising promotion online they may opt to establish a unique hashtag. Unique is a vague term, but in this case it is very important. There are many pitfalls to avoid when constructing a custom hashtag- especially if there is a significant budget going towards this promotion. Marketers should check that the hashtag they intend to use does not possess any current activity- if there is activity on that hashtag it should be made sure that the activity is not toxic, and maybe should be reconsidered to find something more unique. Equally, a hashtag should not be overtly long or obtuse as they are meant to be used in conjunction with user expressions (driving engagement and allowing for creativity), and some platforms place a limit on length of posts.

In other instances, it may make more sense for a marketer to just use a hashtag that is already popular or trending widely on social media. For example, conventions or sporting-related events generate their own massively trending hashtag, and without a specific contest to drive a marketer’s hashtag decision, it may most beneficial to jump on the latest hashtag bandwagon to stay relevant to the interests of a target market. When a target market searches for that large event, chances are they may be more likely to see the marketer’s post (among others) than they would otherwise.

Due to the wide use of social media, and the markets available to be communicated to through social media, careful consideration of hashtag use should be made to avoid wasted time, money, and efforts.

Michael Patterson (2014) has some more useful information about hashtags and their history: http://sproutsocial.com/insights/how-to-use-hashtags/

And some valuable information about who is using social media can be found here: http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/10/08/social-networking-usage-2005-2015/

Last, but not least, here is a video I produced to summarize the contents of this blog:

Also available at:




Your Target Market’s Tongue and the Categories of Intention

People morph and mix-up language on a regular basis. This is evident through the evolution of different languages around the world (also dead languages) and even how we write on the internet or in texts. So, it’s no mystery that when deciding which search engine optimization (SEO) terms to use we may have to think a little more deeply about our target market, the search engine itself, and how language changes online.

Target markets may vary dramatically for a given good, service, brand, etc., which makes understanding how they use the internet to search for information paramount in deciding what terms will be best suited for SEO purposes. When searching online (most likely through Google), keywords may have different intents ascribed to them by the user.

For example, a user’s keyword choice may have the intention of purchase behind them- the searcher is looking to buy something, possibly during that period of search. What the searcher could be looking to buy is often illuminated by what search keywords they may use in pursuit of their purchase. These keywords can be quite specific and can include valuable information about one’s target market and what their needs are- exact product descriptions (eg power tools), geographic locations, period of time (do they need a fast remedy to a tax problem?), a specific brand or organization, and more.

People use the internet to do extensive research for information related to topics of interest to themselves, and one of those topics could include, of course, a purchase (but not making the purchase yet). Research has its own place in a consumer’s decision-making process- and it is simple to identify which terms mark this behaviour. In turn, these search terms provide the marketer with insight into which keywords will be of most relevance to a target market. For example, someone gathering information may use certain modifying words in relation to the topic they are searching. These words may be used to infer things such as quality (“best” or “value”), locations (“Vancouver Island” or “Campbell River, B.C.”), and price range (“$10-$20” or “cheapest”). Or, the keywords used may even describe an inquiry regarding “how-to’s” in which a searcher may be looking for tips, procedures, policies, or goods/services to aid them in a project or work of their own.

What this culminates in is the existence of long tail keyword searches that contain three or more words to make a very detailed, very useful piece of information to a marketer. Adopting the tongue of your target market ensures your SEO efforts remain relevant to their interests, and more importantly, relevant to their purchase decision criteria.

OkDork’s article describes some of the principles discussed in this blog: http://okdork.com/2014/03/26/how-we-grew-okdork-200-with-these-exact-seo-tips/

Richard Baxter provides some techniques for keyword research as well: http://www.creativebloq.com/netmag/understanding-your-target-audience-part-1-keyword-research-8135486