From advertising to television, the hashtag has become ubiquitous, and now with Facebook also joining the hashtag party, the importance of the little # symbol can no longer be ignored. Now, many lawyers may be wondering, what’s the big deal with the ‘pound sign’? Well, the symbol is a rather big deal, and when used properly, can potentially be a powerful marketing tool for lawyers, and we’ll explain how.
What is a hashtag?
Besides being the symbol that you press on the phone when you’ve finished entering your credit card number, the hashtag is a tool that Twitter, Google+ and, now Facebook utilises, allowing users to search for a common topic. As an example, we’re going to go out on a limb and guess that many of you watch, Q&A (if you don’t, please humour us), and you may have also noticed the hashtag #QandA regularly appearing on the television screen during the broadcast. If you happen to also be on Twitter at the same time, you can click on the #QandA hashtag and any tweet using said hashtag will appear on your stream. Easy.
However, hashtags aren’t the exclusive domain of television shows, with lawyers also able to use it to their advantage. Say for example you’ve just tweeted or posted something related to estate planning – you may then wish to use the hashtag #estateplanning, ensuring that any person searching for the subject area, may eventually encounter your tweet or post.
The importance of the hashtag cannot be underestimated because for many people, the internet is Twitter, Facebook, or both. So it’s understandable that many people will actually be using the search mechanisms embedded on both networks – including hashtags.
Some important hashtag tips
Punctuation? Forget about it: well, forget everything you know about punctuation in relation to hashtags. Why? Well, because Twitter, Facebook and Google+ don’t allow for the use of commas, semi-colons, full stops, apostrophes, or any other forms of punctuation in hashtags. It may seem a tad bit strange to ignore everything you’ve learnt about punctuation since primary school, however, the use of punctuation may torpedo your hashtag efforts.
Be specific: when using hashtags, it helps to be precise. Therefore, if you’ve just published something related to unfair dismissal, rather than going for the #employmentlaw hashtag, maybe use the #unfairdismissal hashtag instead. By being specific, it may encourage a person to click on the associated link. Additionally, you should try to keep it concise. So avoid something like #propertydivisionafterseparation, because without the ability to punctuate, it may be difficult for someone to have a firm grasp on the subject of the hashtag. However, if you really want to use a long hashtag, perhaps this is the better solution: #PropertyDivisionAfterSeparation.
Be precise: due to the fact that hashtags don’t allow for punctuation, and a hashtag is seemingly one long run off sentence, mistakes can often be made in spelling, or worse, the wrong type of message may be inadvertently communicated via the hashtag. So always pay close attention to what your hashtag is saying, and avoid unintentional errors and misunderstandings.
Keep hashtags to a minimum: upon discovering the magic of hashtags, you may be tempted to use them at every possible opportunity. However, a #tweet or a #post that has too many #hashtags may come across as #annoying or #distracting. Resulting in a #fail.