In math it is called a number sign, on a phone it is called the pound sign, but when it is used at the start of a word, or group of words that are connected in social media, it is called a hashtag. The symbol, which looks like this #, resembles a little tic-tac-toe board and outside of North America, this sign is called the “hash” on a phone, hence its name. Hashtags have taken the social media world by storm. And by now, most people have seen and heard of “The Hashtag”. It is used in advertising and in pop culture, but not everyone understands its full potential. This blog will share what it is, the benefits of using it in your social media posts, and best practices to get the most out of it.
Widespread use of the hashtag started with Twitter in 2007, but has extended to other social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Vine, Tumblr, & Pinterest. Whenever a person adds a hashtag to their post, it becomes searchable by users not in your network. So, what does this mean for you? The benefit of this is that people outside of your network can now see it. And since these users are looking for information related to the same hashtag, they become your target.
In order to create a hashtag, you simply place the # symbol in front of a word or group of words with no spaces or punctuation in one of the social media platforms that recognizes it. When you do this, it turns into a searchable link and it is aggregated with all posts that contain the same hashtagged keywords. When a user wants to find out information on a particular topic, they simply type the hashtag in Twitter, or the type of social media that they are using, and a list of others who used that same hashtag will show up. Let’s say, I would like to find a new recipe, I may plug in #recipe or #food to see what others have posted. And while I’m scrolling through one of these hashtags, I may see posts from the Food Network or a new cookbook. When you are promoting a brand or a business, just think how easy it would be for someone looking for a related topic to stumble upon and learn about what you have to offer.
And when a certain hashtag is being used at a greater rate than others, it becomes a trending topic. While it may be tempting to use a trending hashtag because of its popularity, it is normally a bad idea and could even result in getting your account banned. Read below to learn the right way to use hashtags.
To differentiate groups of words, use capitals at the start of every word, so that it is a quicker read for the viewer. For example, instead of #americanairlines, write it as #AmericanAirlines.
USE RELEVANT TAGS
While you can create anything you would like for a hashtag, make sure to pick something that is relevant to the content of your tweet or post. A news story may be a trending topic, but advertising a video production business with a hashtag associated with this story is a bad idea. Not only does it not relate, but it can be construed as insensitive especially if it is a tragic event. In addition, it is considered spam and you could get your account banned. Make sure that your hashtag is related to your post so that you reach the right audience and someone who is receptive to seeing it.
DON’T OVER TAG
With the exception of Instagram and Vine, keep hashtags to no more than two per post. Research shows that when you use more than two, your engagement drops and hashtagging on every word is overkill. It also comes across as desperate because you are trying to reach #every #single #possible #group. This is considered spamming and it is an easy way to lose followers.
Use hashtags in context of what you are referencing. If you ask a question such as “Do you know why #Twitter is limited to 140-characters?” and then follow it up with #blogging, it is pretty clear that this is a blog about Twitter. However, if you simply write #Twitter #limited #characters #blogging, it is going to be unclear to your followers as to what you are talking about. The only exception for using multiple hashtags is with Instagram and Vine, but more detail on using these types of social media will be covered in future posts. And by the way, if you want to learn why Twitter is limited to 140-characters, read my previous blog titled “The Twitter Saga: Part 1” by clicking here.
To make sure you are using a hashtag that is relevant to who you want to attract, research it. Go to Search.Twitter.com, or the social media that you will be using, and check to see what hashtags make the most sense for your tweet. Review what other people are posting. If you are promoting a digital marketing agency, you may learn that #OnlineMarketing or #SocialMediaMarketing is a better option for reaching your audience than #DigitalMarketing. But try different hashtags to see which is the most effective in attracting your target to your site.
CREATE YOUR OWN
Creating your own hashtag has enormous potential. If you have a new company, product, or service to promote, creating a unique hashtag is a great idea. However, keep in mind that you will need to promote this hastag in alternative awareness methods, especially if it is very unique. For instance, Kit Kat, the candy bar, uses the hashtag #HaveABreak because it is their tagline. However, no one would know this unless the company made you aware of this through other forms of advertising. And one of the best ways to use a unique hashtag is at a conference or special event. For instance, Adobe, the company that creates multimedia and creativity software, has a yearly conference called Adobe Max. While at this conference, they promote the use of using the hashtag #AdobeMax. Now, anyone attending the conference can join the conversation, ask questions and provide feedback. This has unlimited potential for creating awareness while attending the show and it strengthens their consumer’s overall perception of the company.
As you can see, there are many benefits to incorporating hastags into your promotional strategy. If you start with these best practices, you will see how using “The Hashtag” will create additional visibility and awareness for your business or brand. My next blog will go in to more depth about the benefits of blogging and what that does for your organic search results.
What are your thoughts? Do you have more tips on using hashtags?
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Want to learn more about hashtags? Check out the following resources, where I obtained some of the above information: How to Use Hashtags on Every Social Media Network, The Beginner’s Guide to the Hashtag, 3 Key Hashtag Strategies and A Scientific Guide to Hashtags.