If (like most law firms using Twitter) you've just gotten started in the last 18 months with your Twitter account, you may not have paid much attention to hashtag trends. However, trending hashtags represent a significant marketing resource for your law firm if you know how to use them correctly. In this guide, you'll learn how hashtag trends get started and go viral, and how to leverage those viral hashtags for your own marketing purposes.
How Do Hashtag Trends Get Started?
Most advertising and marketing trends get started when an agency creates a tagline or slogan. However, Twitter is a bit different. On Twitter, anyone can create a hashtag just by putting a pound sign (#) in front of a word or other string of characters. The only way for trending hashtags to start is for people to start using a hashtag.
Keep in mind that because of the nature of viral media, like Twitter, even the smallest account with just a few followers can be the creator of new hashtag trends. However, because it's more likely for trending hashtags to “infect” more people when the person who starts using it has more followers, viral tags do tend to start on accounts with high numbers of followers.
Just because your numbers are high doesn't mean that you'll be able to create trending hashtags. If the content you're making isn't interesting or memorable, it'll never develop into hashtag trends that matter. You also need not just a high quantity of followers, but high quality followers that are likely to re-tweet what you say to an influential, large audience.
When Should We Use Hashtag Trends?
Generally, you shouldn't try to use trending hashtags right away when you start using Twitter. That's because you may not be able to use them correctly, and it's quite possible for you to actually hurt your company's reputation (see “Misuse of Trending Hashtags” below for more information).
Instead, get a feel for Twitter—and at least a few dozen followers—before you try to hop onboard any hashtag trends. This will make it much more likely that when you use trending hashtags, your use of them will be noticed and help get you even more followers.
How Do I Find Trending Hashtags?
One of the biggest websites for hashtag trends is WhatTheTrend.com. Just like the website name implies, this site can help you find what trending hashtags are most popular today. Because hashtag trends can change literally from day to day or even hour to hour, the site gives the option to look at trending hashtags on a range of time scales.
Keep in mind that if you use the biggest, trendiest hash tags of the moment, it's very likely that your post will be seen by a few eyes—but that's all, because before you know it, it will have disappeared from the top page of the feed. When hundreds of posts per minute are being made on a topic, you'll have no way to keep your tweet visible.
Because of this, it's often a good idea to look for trending hashtags that are slightly lower ranked. With luck, you can get into the “sweet spot” in which many people are searching for a tag, but few enough people are posting with it that you can get several new followers from each tweet.
Misuse of Trending Hashtags
There are several ways that hashtag trends can lead to a diminished reputation and a great deal of corporate embarrassment. For example, several companies have made the mistake of identifying trending hashtags, then trying to use them without fully understanding their meaning. When bakery Entennman's saw that the hashtag #notguilty was trending, they assumed it was about food and made a tweet: “Who's #notguilty about eating all the tasty treats they want?”
The problem was, #notguilty wasn't trending because of people who loved delicious baked goods. It was coming from people outraged by the verdict in the Casey Anthony criminal trial. Entenmann's got a lot of negative publicity for what members of the public perceived as callousness toward a murder case.
The Entenmann's debacle can teach lawyers (who could have easily gotten away with the #notguilty tag) a thing or two. First of all, know what you're actually talking about before you just try to use hashtag trends to your advantage. Not everything is obvious, and your own biases might be leading you to an incorrect conclusion. Second, make sure that you're always using contextual trending hashtags. Using hashtag trends won't really help you if they're so wildly out of context that they just don't make sense.
Using Trending Hashtags Effectively
Okay, so you've found the perfect hashtag trends to follow—they're at a great spot for getting followers and are absolutely contextual for what your law firm does. Now what do you do?
Don't try to use the same tweet over and over throughout the day. While some marketers suggest this, especially when using trending hashtags, it's a much better idea to vary up the content of your tweets even if they're using the same tag. This prevents your Twitter followers from seeing the same tweet pop up over and over in their feed and seeing you as a spammer.
It's usually a good idea to use trending hashtags several times in a day, just not several times in an hour. You might think you're catching more eyeballs by capitalizing on hashtag trends with repeated posts, but you're more likely to be alienating your followers.
Tracking Hashtag Trends
If you want to see which hashtags are trending right now, you have a lot of options. But what if you want to see how a hashtag has performed over time? Hashtags.org can help you to see whether a tag is becoming more or less popular, and whether it seems to go in cycles (for example, the hashtag #tgif is much more likely to be used on a Friday). This can help you time your posts for optimum marketing potential.