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Twitter hashtag best practices

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Hashtags are a delightful, double-edged sword. On one hand, they enable you to organize your tweets so they can be found by others interested in the same type of content. On the other hand, they can be hijacked by those looking to capitalize on the popularity of particular hashtag. With that in mind, you’ll want to go through a checklist of several hashtag best practices to get the most out of using them without wasting a good tweet on a bad hashtag.

Create your hashtag

Keep it short, relevant, and simple. If you use a really long hashtag, people won’t have as much room to add their thoughts. For example: #MMchat stands for #MarketingMondays (a Twitter chat*), but the full version is too long to use in an interactive Twitter event. You want attendees to be able to add as much as possible to the conversation.

Test your hashtag

Once you’ve come up with a snappy hashtag, you need to find out: Is it already being used? Is this particular hashtag routinely spammed by random, unrelated accounts? (If you’re using a general hashtag to increase reach on a post- which we cover in the next section- you’ll want to avoid hashtags that get spammed by unrelated accounts.) Do a quick search on Twitter to see if a hashtag is already being used and, if so, how. For example, searching #socialchat turns up that it’s already a popular hashtag in use for a tweet chat which means you’d want to pick something different for your chat or event. The general hashtag #socialmedia is fast moving and full of information, but also routinely gets spammed. You might test out using it, but know that it’s easy for your post to get lost in the flow of information.

For a more detailed look at how to maximize your hashtag use for both tweet chats (similar to Twitter parties, but reoccurring) and events such as conferences, you might want to check out these other posts:

16 ways to use Twitter to improve your next conference

7 tips to maximize your conference attendance using Twitter

Miss a conference? 5 tips for getting the most out of the hashtag on Twitter

The key to a successful Twitter party? Planning ahead.

9 tips for getting the most out of Twitter chats: As a host

10 tips for getting the most out of Twitter chats: As a participant

Get more out of a hashtag

You can extend the reach of a post by using more popular and general hashtags– in moderation. For example: If you’re talking about analytics, #measure and #msure are great hashtags to use in order to expose your post to a larger audience of people interested in data measurement. We don’t recommend using more than three hashtags in the majority of your tweets, however; too many hashtags look spammy.

Searching broader hashtags related to your industry will also help you find interesting content to learn from and share on your own accounts, in addition to surfacing interesting influencers to follow.

Hashtags are also a great way to find people who share similar interests to you outside of work, particularly with the rise of social television:

9 tips for watching TV on Twitter

Track your hashtag: Includes TweetReach-specific tips

You can track hashtags using our tools- either to get an idea of a conversation in a snapshot report (free, or a $20 full report) or monitor an ongoing conversation in a TweetReach Pro Tracker. Why would you want to do this? Hashtags can give you a great idea of the conversation around specific topics or events that are affecting the general population– or you in particular, if it’s a campaign hashtag you want to know the reach and results of.

How do you make sure you’re getting all the information you need? Check out:

Common Tracker Mistakes

What to do when your campaign hashtag gets hijacked on Twitter

In conclusion

Have a hashtag question we didn’t address? Leave it in the comments, or find us on Twitter. Happy hashtagging!

*Twitter chats, or tweet chats, are reoccurring virtual events where people meet to discuss various topics using a hashtag to connect the conversation. They’re a great way to network, and increase or share your knowledge on a topic. 

Written by Sarah

December 11th, 2013 at 11:18 am

What to do when your campaign hashtag gets hijacked on Twitter

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Be thankful that at least you are not this train conductor. (Image credit: NYPL Digital Gallery)

You’ve planned a Twitter campaign, and you’ve launched it. Now you’re monitoring the conversation. People are using the hashtag! But wait, they are not using it to talk about what you were hoping they would; they have run wild and taken your hashtag with them! We’ve seen it happen before.

So what can you do? Abandoning Twitter isn’t really an option.

Obviously it’s a social media best practice to have an emergency policy in place, but every situation is unique and entirely impossible to predict. So take a deep breath, and bookmark these tips for how to deal with this kind of situation on the Twitter battlegrounds:

1. Monitor the ongoing incident: ideally you will already have this set up to track how your campaign is doing, but it’s possible users will have altered your hashtag into something else that you should also be tracking. Check out this post we wrote on Using TweetReach to monitor a social media crisis.

2. To respond, or not to respond? This is tricky. If you have a corporate policy in place you’re expected to follow, obviously it’s in your best interest to do that. Call in everyone in your company who can help you, but start thinking about and answering these questions on your own:

- Will responding do any good? There is a big difference between someone reaching out with a genuine complaint that you’re able to help with, and people en masse trolling your account. In the first case you obviously want to respond and make it right as quickly as possible. In the second case it might be better not to respond at all. Individually replying to every hashtag joke skewering and mocking your campaign might only serve to keep the incident fresh in the eyes of the public and tech news. Sometimes silence is the best policy to let it blow over quickly. Other times approaching the situation with a good sense of humor can win over some (but never all) of the haters.

- Should we consider a Twitter sabbatical? It might be best to lay low for several days to a week or so.

- Should we apologize? This depends on the context of the highjacking of your hashtag: are people just trying to be funny, or are they using it as an opportunity to point out a practice about your company that they don’t like? Address it accordingly.

3. Learn from it: If you’ve set everything up to monitor it beforehand, plus made the necessary adjustments once the incident took off, you should have everything you need to learn from the situation. Did a bad sentiment toward your brand already exist that your PR team should have been aware of? Was it just a complete fluke? Use the experience to craft a more in-depth social media crisis policy.

Overall? Don’t panic too much. It will be yesterday’s news soon enough, and chances are a little controversy won’t be enough to shake your most loyal brand advocates.

Written by Sarah

August 6th, 2013 at 9:29 am

Tracking and planning a Twitter contest using TweetReach

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Twitter contests can be a great way to engage with fans and followers of your brand, and hopefully also attract new ones. You won’t know how successful you were, however, unless you take some steps to set things up before you kick things off. (If that’s not you and you’re here hoping for a way to capture data for a contest that has already ended more than a week ago, see the note at the bottom.)

Plan how you’re going to capture your data.

You don’t want to be scrambling to collect data after your contest has ended. You don’t need to set up a TweetReach Pro account with a Tracker if that’s out of your budget. Do keep in mind that free snapshot reports only collect a maximum of 50 tweets from the past few days of when you run it; if you try to run one on a contest a week after it has ended, you aren’t going to get the data you’re after. The $20 full report will bring back up to 1500 tweets and goes back up to a week.

If you know this ahead of time, you can plan to grab snapshots of your contest hashtag at regular intervals so you don’t miss any data. (You might still want to skim the next section for contest planning tips.)

Already have a Pro account or going to get one? Then all of your work can be done ahead of time, and the Tracker for your contest will collect all the data you ask it to (within its limits, of course) until you turn it off and analyze it. We’ve got tips and examples below.

Plan what you’re going to track.

Of course you have an official contest hashtag or two that you’ll be tracking, but make sure you plan for any misspellings or misinterpretations of your hashtag people could use while they participate. You’ll also want to track just the words of your main hashtag, in case someone leaves off the “#” sign accidentally.

For example, a Canadian police department recently ran a Twitter contest called 8 Days of SWAG (Students Working Against Gangs) and used a TweetReach Tracker to track all of the following:

#8DaysofSWAG

#SWAG8days

#StudentsWorkingAgainstGangs

in addition to the phrase ‘swag8days’

This let them capture the maximum number of people participating in the contest, which was incidentally also a way to raise awareness of issues associated with gangs that teens in the area high schools might have to deal with. The contest was open only to teens from those area high schools, helping ensure their target audience was more effectively reached. Prizes leading up to an iPad mini were given away, to incentivize teens to participate.

The top hashtag results indicate that teens were both listening and participating:

When you’re planning your Twitter contest, think about who your target audience is and what kind of prizes they might be most interested in. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something fancy and expensive to get people involved, if you’re able to reach those who would be most interested in what you have to offer as a brand of entity in the first place.

Also, try to keep your hashtag as short as possible while still being relevant. A really long hashtag like #StudentsWorkingAgainstGangs leaves a lot less space for participants to tweet in. Depending on the nature of your contest- do they have to answer a question, or just tweet the hashtag to enter?- it could affect participation.

It’s best to keep the contest as simple as possible with Twitter’s concise character limit, and point participants to details at your website (you don’t have to build one specifically for the contest, but you should at least have a place on your site or blog that announces it in order to help people find out about it, promote it, and participate correctly). The Tracker will also show you the top URLs that were linked in tweets containing the hashtags and phrases that you’re tracking:

In this case, it paid off for the police department to have a website dedicated exclusively to the contest, as versions of it were the first two most shared URLs, followed by news stories about the contest and the police department’s attempt to raise awareness around key gang-related issues.

Finally, pay attention to the Top Contributors column in your Tracker– these people either participated the most or gave you the biggest boost in exposure. Keep in touch with them in the future, and if you have the means, consider rewarding them as well. It could be as simple as a handwritten thank you note with a little something else that makes sense: a coupon code for a discount, a piece of functional company swag. Think about what you would like to receive.

One Last Note.

Did you find us after your contest already ran? Our historical analytics can capture everything for you. Pricing is based on the volume of tweets and the time period your contest ran, and starts at $49 for a limited time. Talk to us at the link above to get a quote.

The end. 

Did we miss anything? Leave your questions in the comments, or catch us on Twitter or Facebook.

Written by Sarah

July 3rd, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Guides

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