The famous Twitter trends are few unique aspects within the social network, and the one key that made it all possible was that little hashtag sitting ever-so quietly on your keyboard.

And it has so much power.

Its power lies in a universal conversation, where Twitter users can hop on the net (what the kids are calling it these days), and participate in a real-time conversation about a shared passion. And this is all possible with a simple #.

Topics can range from anything to everything, including sporting events like the Superbowl, current events like #Occupy (probably 2011’s most famous social media revolutionary), and even Justin Bieber, who, according to Ad Age, was ranked the top Twitter trend for 2011.

For one, the #trending occurring on Twitter not only provides an easy avenue for people to communicate, but it also raises awareness about topics, products, services, brands and companies on, to a certain extent, a global scale (so long as you have a Twitter account).

Users can also use the hashtag to increase brand recognition within a captive, engaged audience that is included in every Tweet. Each user that participates in trending Twitter conversations is tweeting not only to that group, but their followers as well, thus increasing word-of-mouth, increase your following and to a lesser extent, brand advocacy.

Even now, we are starting to see the popularity of that little hashtag – sitting above the number 3 on your keyboard – penetrating networks outside of its own (the most obvious being Facebook). Although users are well aware that the social network does not provide the same [marketing] advantage as Twitter, Facebook users are still treating it as such.

The power of the hashtag has its advantages, but it does have its downfalls (though not many). Some Twitter users overuse hashtags and creating more Twitter gibberish, including #OneTimeAtBandCamp and #ImSoExcitedForSnow (you won’t be able to find these on Twitter).

Another downfall is the misuse of hashtags. Some companies forget to do their Twitter research and pick a trend that has been seriously abused by its users. Take Wendy’s for example. Their Where’s the Beef? campaign with the little old lady sitting in front of oversized bread buns and barely-there meat was indeed hilarious.

Even more amusing, however, were the tweets coming from their – perhaps poorly chosen – hashtag trend #HeresTheBeef. You can only imagine what people were saying about their burgers.

The advice for hashtags, then? Have fun, but be wise. Twitter users, if following the rules, can seek great benefit – whether recognition or monetary compensation – if playing by the rules. If disrespected, however, they may feel the wrath of their own doing – becoming your best friend or your worst enemy.

Who knew the little # can pack such a big punch?

Photo credit: lightspandigital.com

If you liked this post, you may also like:

Social Conversations: Making Sense out of Chaos

Occupy Wall Street: Social and Traditional Media Power

Mobilizing Brand Advocates

Funny Tweets on SOPA/PIPA Blackout

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