To #hashtag or not to hashtag. It's STILL the question. Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon would advocate for the latter. There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of blog posts about the subject…giving advice and best practices on how to properly use hashtags in social media. I have some to share, too, but I'm going to keep it simple and focus on one example of how you can improve hashtag reach with just a few minutes of research.

I'm a big fan of Vistaprint. They're a great print resource for small businesses needing fast and easy print solutions. They're a global company but their Twitter account is U.S. based. Their target market is, obviously, small business owners…so they target a lot of their social media topics and conversations to the small business owner. Great strategy. But I recently discovered an opportunity they're missing out on. Here's the scoop…

Vistaprint utilizes the hashtags #smallbusiness and #SMB in many of their Tweets. Using these hashtags help Vistaprint been seen by folks following conversations about small business on Twitter. A couple examples from their Twitter stream:

Here are three quick ways to make your "to-do" list your "done" list http://bit.ly/16eLm7E  #smallbusiness
Have you ever thought about how your #businesscards should mirror your website? Here are a few helpful tips: http://bit.ly/1asKMaO  #SMB

Because I, too, follow small business conversations on Twitter but prefer to use #smallbiz over #smallbusiness, I decided to check some data to determine which hashtag is getting the most play. There are numerous tools that provide hashtag metrics. I've done a very quick search using a free tool called Tweetreach (results below represent a specified number of Tweets over a specified amount of time):

#smallbiz
Estimated Reach: 723,850 accounts reached
Exposure: 836,993 impressions

#smallbusiness
Estimated Reach: 105,361 accounts reached
Exposure: 142,858 impressions

As you can see, #smallbiz procures approximately seven times the reach and exposure as #smallbusiness. Another perk? It uses less characters of the 140 Tweet character limit. I'd be curious to hear how using #smallbiz over #smallbusiness affects Vistaprint's Twitter engagement, results, and even (eventually) revenue.

If you're using hashtags in Twitter as part of a calculated strategy to gain attention around a specific conversation, take a few minutes to do your hashtag research. You might be surprised what you find. What are your tips for using hashtags?

Photo source: Enumclaw.com/Creative Commons