What’s the Deal with Hashtags? #NeedtoKnow
So have you jumped on the ‘hashtag bandwagon’ yet? Need to know more about this hashtag craze?
Hashtags are really nothing more than keywords associated with messages on a social network. Why have them? They’re crucial to organization of information: searching, categorizing, grouping so that information can be queued up for future reference. Remember – we tell our kids (or SHOULD tell them!) all the info you are posting on social media is traceable and indexed on the internet. Hashtags help organize this info so your public statements and phrases are categorized, found, and noticed based on subject or description.
The power of hashtags comes from other people using the same keyword(s) so that by clicking on a hashtag you can get a group of other messages on that topic.
Here’s an example… I did a search on Instagram for the hashtag #diamondsareforever – a popular tagline.
Look what came up…
I’m drooling over the one in the very center by the way. So… get the picture? (literally!) The folks who placed these photos categorized them under that hashtag so that anyone searching by using the tagline/catchphrase ‘diamonds are forever’ can find those jewels.
So here are the basics about Hashtagging:
Hashtags are preceded by the pound sign (#) and can be a word or a short phrase (i.e. #Happy or #IamHappy)
An interesting look at the life and different uses of the hashtag across history can be found in this Infographic.
How Do I make the tag?
To tag your comment with a hashtag, simply a pound (#) sign in front of any keyword(s) in your message and turn them into hashtags.
How can I use hashtags?
Typical uses of hashtags:
- Express emotions: #surprised #speechless #frustrated
- Identify places or brands or events: #Hawaii #Ferrari #CoolEvent
- Make recommendations: #MustRead #MustWatch #NowPlaying
- Connect with like-minded individuals: #CatLovers #TVaddicts
- branding with your tag line: #diamondsareforever #YourCharlotteRealtor #BestHaircutsInTown
Hashtags should make your messages easier to organize and find. The trick is to hashtag keywords that other people would use when looking for the content contained in your message. You can do a quick search for keywords prior to posting your message to see which hashtags are popular (called “trending”).
Three common mistakes to avoid:
- Hashtagging every word (i.e. #I #am #so #excited #today)
- Hashtagging the same word more than once (i.e. It is my #birthday. Here is a photo of my #birthday cake, my #birthday presents, and my awesome #birthday party!)
- Separating keywords. If your keyword is “black cat” your hashtag should be #BlackCat. If you write it as #Black #Cat this will give you two different keywords: “black” and “cat”.
Are hashtags case sensitive?
No they are not… have at it and do not worry about capitalizing or lowercase… just get the spelling right and no spaces, please. Uppercase letters do help the readability of a phrase with more than one word.
Where can I place hashtags?
You can use hashtags anywhere in your message – in the main body itself or as a postscript at the end. Here is an example with a hashtag in the main body of the message and two hashtags at the end.
Check out this #awesome site: www.masterpiecewebdesigns.com
Why should I use hashtags?
- Increase exposure
- Organize content
Both of these are compelling reason to use hashtags on your personal messages. They are even more compelling when it comes to using social media to promote your business.
What about privacy on Facebook? (source)
If you write a post with limited privacy (ie. Friends), then only those who you have authorized to see the post in the first place will be able to find your post when they search for the hashtag.
If your post’s privacy is set to public, then anyone searching for that hashtag will be able to see your post.
So now you are not in the dark about #UsingHashtags.
Here are a few ‘Do’s’ and ‘Don’ts’ to keep in mind when using hashtags.
Try and hone in on a passionate community that shares an interest in one specific theme. The more specific you can get with your hashtag, the more targeted your audience will be—and a targeted audience generally means better engagement. If you don’t have your own business hashtag, find one or two existing ones that really fit the photo. To use an example from Instagram’s owntips for using hashtags, if you’re after Volkswagen lovers the hashtag #vwvan will earn you a lot more of your desired followers than #van will.
DO – CONSIDER THE PARTICULAR SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM YOU’RE USING
For example, Instagram hashtags, for example, are often more focused on description of the photo and the tools used to take it than on a broader story or theme. This is at odds with Twitter, where hashtags tend to be more focused a topic of conversation, or a group of people (a chat for example) that you would like to engage.
Before using hashtags, do research on the proper way to use them for that particular network. Most networks will have guides for hashtag selection and use (here is Twitter’s). Also take the time to discover the most popular and most relevant hashtags on a specific subject for each network. This extra time you invest will pay off in engagement down the road.
DO – EMPHASIZE YOUR BRAND WITH A TAGLINE PHRASE
This is to encourage others to use your phrase as hashtag also. Brand hashtags don’t have to (read: shouldn’t) mention your actual brand name, but should represent your brand and what you stand for. According to an article on Hootsuite Media, Herschel Supply Co. is a good example of this. The bag and accessories retailer Herschel created a hashtag called #welltravelled, which they used to share beautiful travel photos featuring their products taken by their employees and followers. Seeing photos from regular people on the official Herschel account quickly prompted more of their followers to embrace the hashtag and share their own Herschel photos. As such, the company has created a growing movement that supplies them with fantastic, follower-generated content to use on their social accounts.
DON’T – MAKE IT TOO LONG OR OVERDO IT
In general, if you’re creating a branded hashtag you should try to keep it short and sweet- don’t go overboard on making it too ‘clever’. It’s like coming up with a tag line. Even though “#CharlottesBestNYBagels” might target a very specific audience, no one will use the hashtag because they just don’t want to type in that many characters. You also don’t want to try and be too offbeat (#CltsBstNYBagels) since you want people to naturally search for your tag. Hashtags are supposed to make things easier to find and engage with, but long, complicated hashtags can actually be more arduous. In this case, you’re better off with something like #CharlotteBagels.
DON’T -HAVE MORE HASHTAGS THAN WORDS
No! Dont’ get carried away. Social media users often use an excessive amount of hashtags ironically or when making a joke. But many Instagram users have also caught onto the fact that more hashtags can mean more reach and likes. Supposedly the rule is to limit it to 30 hashtags which is ridiculous. 5 hashtags is still too many. The last thing you want to do is come off as desperate and pick up too many of the wrong type of followers, opening yourself up to spammers etc. Don’t defeat your purpose by over hashtagging a single post.
DON’T -HASHTAG EVERYTHING
Every single thing you post does not have to have a hashtag. If your Tweet, post or comment isn’t adding any substance to the wider conversation, you might want to consider leaving the hashtag off. For example, if a news story breaks and you simply share the news, leave the hashtag off of it.
Using hashtags will allow you to make an impression on a wide social media audience. Make sure you’re sharing the best content, and making the right impression. Remember what we tell our children! Same rules apply.
So now you’re in the know about hashtagging. Don’t judge me – I learned a lot writing this article… I’m going to try to start minding my p’s and q’s and follow some #hashtagetiquette.
Credit where credit is due: The info from the do and don’t list on this post inspired by this article: http://blog.hootsuite.com/how-to-use-hashtags/