Hashtag made of fries (courtesy Matthew Gilbert on Flickr CC

Hashtag with those fries? (courtesy Matthew Gilbert on Flickr CC)

(Part of my “Better Online Content” series of posts: quick tips on creating more effective content that takes advantage of the social web’s unique publishing environment.)

If you’re a marketing communications person who wants to connect with new customers, guests, or your “perfect visitor,” plus increase the chances of your online content being noticed at all, then you need to use hashtags when it’s appropriate to do so.

A hashtag – #wordgoeshere – is a way of grouping together all related content items in one place and, most importantly, making them searchable and more easily trackable.

You might also think of them as a flexible way to set up a focused micro-search engine, because people use hashtags to search social networks for specific information and influential people around a topic, rather than Googling around and dealing with huge piles of possibly irrelevant results.

Quick Hashtag Examples & How-to

When you add a hashtag to the body of a tweet on Twitter, it will be included when someone uses Twitter’s search engine to look for tweets with that hashtag.

On Instagram, you add it to the photo description, or in the photo’s comment box, and people searching that hashtag within the Instagram app or using a desktop tool like Iconosquare will see it.

Let’s say you are in the marketing department at a museum or historic site, and you want to learn more about digital marketing best practices and trends. Here are all the latest tweets with the hashtag #musesocial – people who added that hashtag to their tweet because it related in some way to the use of social media in museums.

To give you a more comprehensive picture, there’s a service called Tagboard that lets you collect all hashtagged content across multiple social channels.

Here is a Tagboard of all the current #musesocial tweets, Instagram posts, and Facebook updates.

Where Do Hashtags Work Best?

Twitter, and even more so on Instagram.

Do hashtags work on Facebook? Yes, but few people use them and they’re mostly seen as clutter.

Do hashtags work on Pinterest? Yes, but in Pin descriptions only. Although I think the power of Pinterest search is under-appreciated, I’m not sure that hashtags are particularly valuable there. Regular words work just fine in the search box.

Do hashtags work on LinkedIn? No. They don’t even hyperlink. A bunch of hashtags and @ symbols on LinkedIn tells me you’re auto-posting from somewhere else and ticking a delusional box that says, “Yeah, I’m active on LinkedIn!”

Do hashtags work on Google+? Yes. Does anyone care? Probably not.

Hashtags in Tourism

Many tourism organizations use and monitor a specific hashtag, like #LouisvilleLove in Louisville KY, #MTLmoments in Montréal, #SeeOKC for Oklahoma City OK, #VisitMS in Mississippi, #ILoveSharjah in the United Arab Emirates, and #LoveFL for the state of Florida. Many times you’ll find the hashtag that they’re using in their Twitter or Instagram bio.

Beyond using conference hashtags as free distance learning, here’s how I’d recommend getting started….

**  Make it simple. Participate in the “hashtag of the day:”

  • #MusicMonday or #MountainMonday
  • #TravelTuesday
  • #WineWednesday or #WaterfallWednesday
  • #TBT (the very popular Throwback Thursday, which you actually WILL find people using on Facebook)
  • #FridayFunday
  • #SaturdayNight
  • #SS or #SelfieSunday

**  My personal favorites for tourism-related niches:

  • #BuiltHeritage – historic preservation & architecture
  • #EconDev – economic & downtown development & revitalization issues
  • #MuseSocial – museums & social media
  • #MuseTech – museums & technology
  • #FindYourPark – parks in the U.S., because 2016 is the National Park Service’s centennial. Can be state & local parks, too.
  • #cycling – bike tourism is huge
  • #birding – NOT “birdwatching”
  • #craftbeer & #craftspirits
  • #EatLocal
  • #ShopLocal

That’s my quick-and-dirty introduction to using hashtags in social media, especially in tourism and destination marketing.

If you have hashtag advice or want to share some of your own favorites, the comment box below is open!

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