Hashtags can be very valuable if used the right way, so I thought I’d give you a quick breakdown of what the purpose of a hashtag really is and how to use them to your advantage. If you are wondering why I chose to write about a subject most people should know about by now…just scan through a few Instagram posts and you are bound to find someone who hashtags like this…
What are hashtags?
The hashtag revolution began in 2007. Twitter was the first social media network to use it as a method of indexing keywords for easy discovery.
Other social media sites soon followed suit, and now the hashtag is a common facet to most popular social media platforms. In fact, the term has become so commonplace that it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2010.
A hashtag is a word or a group of words preceded by a pound (#) sign, which is used to categorize and find conversations around a particular topic or trend.
How to use hashtags properly
Hashtags are a fantastic way to get your brand & message in front of people who are looking for your topic. Keep to these simple hashtag rules and you’ll have no trouble getting your content in front of the right crowd.
Remember that a hashtag is a single word. There should not be any spaces.
The different words of a hashtag can be distinguished by using capital letters. For instance, a very popular hashtag campaign by Red Bull #PutACanOnIt is basically “Put a can on it.” The use of capital letters makes it easier to distinguish the different words of a hashtag.
If you place punctuation within your hashtag phrase, you will break the tag. Only the part before the punctuation will be tagged. For instance, if you want to tag #Let’sGoEat, you need to use #LetsGoEat. In the first instance, your hashtag is actually #Let, because it’s broken at the punctuation.
Also…just because you can add hashtags doesn’t mean #You #should #add #every #word #as #hashtag. Please NO! Too many irrelevant hashtags will just make you look silly.
On that note…here are a few do’s and don’t to help you along and keep you looking professional and in the know.
- The first step is to discover the hashtags used by others in your niche. Then follow hashtags related to your line of business.
- Before using a hashtag on a particular social channel, check out the rules. Although the fundamental principles are the same, the rules vary from one social channel to another. For example, Twitter focuses more on the topic while Instagram focuses on the description.
- For a business, it’s important to perfect the art of targeting your audience. So get as specific as possible when using hashtags.
- Use less popular hashtags. Don’t go for the ones millions use daily, you won’t feature and if you are using hashtags to grow your following you want to stay in the hashtag feed for as long as possible. So look for hashtags that are below the 100 000 mark. This way if you have great engagement then your post will be more likely to end up in the top posts for that hashtag too.
- Get creative. The right hashtag has the power to go viral. After you’ve gotten the hang of using hashtags, try coming up with a new one. Who knows, it might become a trend!
- Hashtags are not just for marketing and promotion but for engagement as well. Use hashtags to start a conversation and participate in that conversation. Engaging with your users is key to a well-rounded business.
- Don’t use a hashtag without research. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Check whether the hashtag is already being used. If it is… note what it is being used for, to save yourself from possible embarrassment and also from being completely irrelevant.
- Don’t overdo it. Using too many hashtags will make your post look spammy and drown the message. Depending on the social channel, decide on the number of relevant hashtags that you can use. But in general, don’t have more hashtags than you have words.
- Keep your hashtags short. Using overly long hashtags will confuse the visitors and put them off. #thisgivesmeaheadache
- Don’t use hashtags on all platforms. LinkedIn dabbled with hashtags for a time but then eliminated them. Using hashtags on LinkedIn will only make you look out of touch.
- Hashtagged Facebook posts have been proven to get less engagement, so you’ll want to avoid using tags on those platforms too.
- Avoid acronyms which are not popular or well known. Acronyms like #YOLO may work but ones like #MCM may not. For example, an acronym used by the Burger King (#WTFF) meaning What the French Fry – failed to gain any traction mainly because of the unfamiliarity of the hashtag.