Keith Kmett, a user-experience enthusiast whom I met through the social-media magic of Google+, responded to my last post (What Brand RU) with this comment: “I would add that social media can also help your personal brand.” Keith’s note prompted me to add a new section to that post. Below is the new section in standalone form—with all-new images.
A hashtag—a # symbol plus a text string, like #ThisIsAHashtag—is a powerful symbol for getting your words seen. Even if you’ve never sent a tweet (a brief message on Twitter) in your life and think you never will, you ought to know what hashtags can do. If you tweet without hashtags, you limit your visibility. Add a hashtag to any tweet, and you instantly reach many more people.
Here’s an example:
People who were following any of these hashtags at the time could have seen this tweet even if they didn’t follow me. One follower of the #xml hashtag picked up my essay and posted a link to it in his newsletter “The #XML Daily.” I was thrilled to see that my item had been selected. Then I noticed the item below it. I can’t say for sure, but it looked like Japanese. Clearly, the curation of this daily involved less discernment than I had allowed myself to suppose.
You can use hashtags (with or without capitals) with Twitter, Google+, and probably other social media channels that I know nothing about. Hashtags come and go. No one controls them; people use them by unspoken agreement because they work. They give people a way to slip off into side rooms, away from the bustling party.
To find out which hashtags to use, observe. Search. Make up your own. Creative tweeter Aaron Gray says, “My fav use of hashtags is as meta commentary on the post itself. Yesterday, I used the tag #peopleplease, and giggled.” Even if you make up a hashtag that few people will see, those who see it will #takenote.
Don’t barrage people with hashtag-heavy messages, though. Consider this message, which I found, ironically, when I searched to see what people were doing with the hashtag #HASHTAG.
Use social media wisely—as a tool for conversation and engagement, not as a megaphone—and it will help build your brand. Gary Vaynerchuk, who wrote a bestselling book on this topic, emphasizes the importance of getting social-savvy: “Right now, I’d say that social media is a bit like a kidney—you can survive with only one, but your chances of making it to old age are a lot better with two. Eventually, though, I think social media will be as important to a business as a strong heart.”
 The #XML Daily, http://paper.li/aramanc/1329738333.
 Gary Vaynerchuk, The Thank You Economy (New York: HarperCollins, 2011), 50.