Social media sometimes functions like a crowded train station where everyone is shouting all at once, running in different directions and racing the clock. Hashtags are the best tool to make sense of this chaotic environment, functioning for social media users much like signs and announcements do in the train station – telling dashing commuters where to go.
A hashtag consists of the # symbol and a keyword or phrase, written as one word devoid of punctuation. It typically labels an activity, topic or subject. Some hashtags have emerged as broad cultural phenomena, such as #winning and #throwbackthursday, whereas others shoot to meteoric notoriety and quickly flame out.
Although they are native to Twitter, hashtags are also popular on Instagram, Vine and other platforms. Hashtags are commonly used for events and conventions to help communicate with other attendees and inform others who are not at the event. Advertisers and PR professionals use hashtags to generate buzz for a business or product, hoping to get more people to join the conversation.
Many of the legal marketers and lawyers we work with frequently ask us how to grow the number of followers they have on Twitter. After all, you can write the most insightful and valuable piece of content, but if no one sees it, then the return on investment is minimal. Among the advice we offer to them is to use hashtags. Hashtags allow lawyers and legal marketers to categorize their content so that their intended target audience can find it, read it and share it.
Using hashtags is a powerful technique for reaching people outside of an individual or firm’s personal or business networks because posts will then be seen by anyone who searches for that hashtag, even if he or she doesn’t follow you or your firm. Being searchable and easy to find gives you a tremendous advantage in this chaotic and cluttered world. Therefore, using the right hashtags is critical. Sometimes trusting intuition works, but despite the idiosyncratic nature of twitter, there are more empirically sound ways to go about it.
As is often the case when it comes to social media, there are lots of choices about where to turn for help and more information. Below is a great list of tools for identifying and enhancing your firm’s use of hashtags:
• Brand Mentions uses Twitter’s streaming API to gather data about hashtags. Searching for a hashtag brings up a definition, related terms, relevant tweets and statistics on the hashtag’s use. This is helpful for identifying trends in order to plan content and devise a social media strategy. For instance, knowing how the hashtag #taxplanning is being used and its popularity and derivations can be of great value to the legal marketer who is interested in promoting the firm’s tax practice.
• Tagdef, works like a dictionary or thesaurus for decoding the acronyms and cryptic jumbles necessitated by Twitter’s 140 character limit.
• Trendsmap,shows marketers where hashtags are trending by location.
• Keyhole, unlocks a word cloud of associated hashtags, so if a marketer is using #lawyer, it’ll show that #attorney is commonly used in tandem.
• Tagboard, allows the user to track posts around specific hashtags, like a bulletin board.
• hashtagify.me, enables users to search for hashtags and helps to connect the dots between trending topics.
• Twubs, enables users to streamline Twitter chats.
Each of these tools serves a purpose and if used properly can provide legal marketers with a great advantage over their competition. We recommend experimenting with each and seeing which best suit your needs. Whichever tools you decide to use, it is important to remember best practices to using hashtags on Twitter and other social media channels. When we are promoting or curating content for our clients, we stick to the rule of not using more that two or three hashtags per post. To include more is confusing to the reader and it makes it more likely than not that the intended target audience will ignore your post.
The proper use of hashtags by legal marketers and lawyers will have a significant impact on the number of people who read and follow your content. Taking the time to use them properly and learning which tools can help you to use them more effectively will enable law firms to enhance their overall reach and engagement with their intended audience.
Updated and republished March 10, 2017.