Lisa Hester, Senior Account Manager

OK, so we all know what a hashtag is… a word or phrase preceded by a hash sign (#) used on social media and applications to identify messages on a specific topic. Right. But as simple as it sounds, the use of the hashtag is not fail proof. Here are a few important pieces of information you may not be aware of as you incorporate, or not, hashtags into your PR tactics.

According to Google Trends, a website by Google that analyzes the popularity of top search queries in Google Search across various regions and languages, the word “hashtag” was referenced first in 2009 but jumped to more prominent usage in 2011. Google searches, it states, leveled off in mid-2013, corresponding with the leveling off of Twitter usage. Search interest remained steady until early 2017 but has steadily increased since that time.

For those of us in the PR industry, hashtags are a good way to:

* Build your company’s brand

* Boost a PR/marketing campaign

* Keep in touch with your audience

    * Source: Hootsuite

Generally speaking, consumers use hashtags for conversations, while brands use them to track campaign performance. But while brands generate hashtags that encourage sharing, brands aren’t the sole creators of these identifying words. And that can muddy the waters.

In the spring, the hashtag #GameofThrones, a reference to the popular HBO series, was mentioned more than 6.1 million times, while #GameofThornes got more than 61,000 mentions, according to social media monitoring company Brandwatch.

The same mishap occurred with the movie Avengers: Endgame. Just a month ago, #AvengersEndgame got more than 5 million mentions, while #AvangersEndgame received nearly 55,000 mentions. That means one out of every 94 hashtags that tried to join the conversation was derailed due to a typo.

And statistics reveal the problem is getting worse, said a Brandwatch spokesperson. Data from 2013 indicates typos occurred less frequently…just one of every 400 hashtags had typos.

Does that mean we should end the practice of using hashtags altogether? I would not support this action. While we obviously cannot prevent hashtags with typos from springing up, even catching on and spreading, we can monitor for these misspellings. And, as the stats point out, mistyped hashtags still get far fewer mentions than the ones we create for our brands. The benefits of accurate hashtags far outweigh the fragmented conversations of the less-than-accurate ones.

In part II, we’ll talk about the art of creating a hashtag and the smart places to use them.