The first time people see Twitter there’s a negative reaction. I felt it too. There are too many people talking, too few people listening … and way too many haters.
It looks like lots of noise.
To make Twitter useful, we need to better understand and more consistently use the scheme for relating tweet content to topics. It’s done with a special tag for tweets, called a “hashtag”. These are simple key words that you and others define, typically on the fly. Over time, as the most common hashtags gain popularity, people start to watch who is using them, and to see what those people are saying. The hashtag basically serves to index your tweet for anyone else who might want to find it.
How does it work?
It’s easy, really. Just put “#” in front of any word that describes what your tweet is about. Most are placed at the end, especially if they don’t fit in the flow of your tweet, but they can be placed anywhere. You can use as many as you want. Just keep in mind you’re limited to 140 characters for each tweet. The shorter the hashtag, the better. And it needs to be sensible enough that others are likely already using it, or would think to search for it. For example, try tweeting:
Why doesn’t Twitter have a user manual? #twitter #socialmedia
then search, first on #socialmedia and next, #twitter.
You can use Twitter’s Search, but most eventually opt for a free 3rd party Twitter application like TweetDeck, TweetGrid or Seesmic that will let you define search criteria in columns. This let’s you ‘watch’ specific tweet streams without lots of repetitive typing. As your experience evolves, you can quickly change the hashtags you want to follow.
Another benefit? The rate that people post to hashtag streams is considerably slower than the public timeline. With the pace more reasonable, the conversation is easier to keep up with.
The social media marketing (#smm) implications are significant as well. Once you identify hashtags that are relevant to your product, company, or brand, tweeting to your target hashtags increases the chance that potential customers will see it.
But the silver lining may well be global networking. One day (soon) someone will respond to one of your tweets with helpful insight, and it will be someone you previously didn’t know, quite possibly from across the planet. You see, watching hashtags happens without relation to followers. All of the sudden, the world is your stage. You could say (or tweet):
Where else (besides #Twitter) can you message the world and get answers? #communication #paradigm
Twitter is what you want to make of it. Just be sure to put a hashtag or two in your most important and insightful tweets.
Sans hashtag, chances are your tweet is going to be lost in the Twitterverse. And that is a very large space indeed.
See you online.