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Opinion: #Trump illustrates power of hashtags

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At latest count, one of my recent tweets gathered 1,208 likes, 340 retweets and 26 direct comments.

It is far and away the most successful post I’ve had on Twitter, and the key was simple. Turns out, when you hashtag the president, you have a good chance of going viral. In my case, I was in for a few days of constant Twitter notifications.

My record tweet was one of many I posted Aug. 30, when President Donald Trump visited Springfield on his first stop in a series promoting his four-point tax reform proposal.

Much has been written about the president, often filled to the brim with either admiration or vitriol, and not much in between. This isn’t one of those columns. Rather, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to remark on what I would consider to be a fairly massive Twitter feat for my paltry account of 300 followers. That’s not to say I did anything particularly amazing. The post was straightforward.

“Rallies here at Glenstone and Division #trump,” I tweeted just after arriving at the intersection.

A group known as Springfield Indivisible gathered more than 1,000 people near Teamster’s Union Local No. 245 for what they called The People’s Protest. Trump protestors lined both sides of Glenstone Avenue, north to Commercial Street. People were exercising their First Amendment rights – as were the Trump supporters demonstrating near the shuttered Kmart at Glenstone and Kearney Street.

From my point of view and others, activists on both sides were on their best behavior and portrayed Springfield in a good light. They showed the Queen City can be civil, unlike others, where Trump’s presence has caused hateful protests or worse. But I digress.

My tweet featured four photos of folks waiving American flags and holding signs ranging from “Impeach Trump” to “Affordable Health Care For All.”

The post showed just a small portion of the gatherers. Later, I wished I had included #Trump with all my posts that day. Some who commented on the post pointed out the apparent lack of actual protestors, and had I kept up the magic hashtag, they probably would have seen the protest was quite well populated.

In an experiment for this column, I tweeted two separate photos during the week after Trump visited town. One featured a clever sign I noticed at the Trump rallies, while another was completely unrelated to the president. Both featured #Trump somewhere in the message.

Neither gained much traction. Perhaps, as they say, lightning only strikes once. More likely, the original post hit at an opportune time and had the right mix of luck and content. Arguably, other posts I made that day were more substantial, but I didn’t include #Trump.

The real takeaway here is the power of hashtags on social media. If your company is trying to launch a brand or improve its image, they can be a helpful tool to build interest. That’s why Springfield Business Journal uses hashtags at all of its events. It’s why large publications like The Guardian and giant brands such as Coca-Cola include them with posts.

For SBJ, we’ve found using a central hashtag around an event helps build buzz and centralizes discussion. It creates a better overall experience.

Posts using the same hashtag are gathered automatically onto a page with other tweets that also reference it. A quick glance at Twitter will show you the most popular tend to be simple and catchy.

But there’s more to it. Consider these four tips from technology blog Lifewire.

1. Use shorter hashtags to allow more space for content.

2. Use unique hashtags that help set your tweet – and brand – apart.

3. Narrow your focus to make hashtags more meaningful and useful. Instead of #business, for example, use #healthcare, #manufacturing or something even more magnified.

4. Make your hashtag memorable. If it sticks in someone’s head, they might use it again and get their followers on board.

It’s probably best to let a professional marketer glance at your ideas and make suggestions. Remember, the internet moves fast. Guides on the subject of hashtags have varying tips, but if any lesson can be learned about the internet, it’s that users have short attention spans given the sheer amount of content out there. So if one thing doesn’t work, try again. Maybe you’ll have your #Trump moment.

Springfield Business Journal Web Producer Geoff Pickle can be reached at gpickle@sbj.net.

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