Let’s Hash It Out. A Primer On Using Hashtags

Hashtags, #, aka the number sign or pound sign, are omnipresent throughout most social media. You will find them being used regularly on Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. Hashtags are no longer merely accessories to your posts, frequently they become the focal point of the marketing aspect of your post. It’s a good idea to take that little bit of time crafting and focusing your hashtags, as they can be extremely helpful in getting your posts noticed and in building your brand awareness.

Where the heck did all of these #’s come from?

Although the hashtag wasn’t invented by Twitter, that is certainly where they grew up and learned to walk. Hashtags found their start in the late 1980’s as a tool for categorizing items into groups on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) an early form of instant messaging and chat on those new-fangled internets. Twitter took the concept and honed it so that users could easily group conversations on like topics/interests. Their use became so prominent, hashtags eventually became a part of Twitter’s code, automatically hyperlinking terms that have a # sign.

The common wisdom on Twitter is that posts with #hashtags receive 2x the engagement The rule of thumb for Twitter is to use no more than two hashtags at a time. Yes, there is such a hashtagthing as over-hashtagging! Try to incorporate your brand and then capitalize on a trending hashtag. There are numerous resources for checking the popularity of trending hashtags, but a really good place to start is on Twitter itself, twitter.com/search-home. This search will show you current trends and allow you to look up a hashtag you are thinking of using to see where it is on the use spectrum. You can also see Trends right on your feed page and customize your hashtags accordingly.

Hashtags have migrated from Twitter to pretty everywhere else on social media. They do serve somewhat different purposes, depending on the platform. In Pinterest, using a hashtag on your pin description makes it really easy for a follower to simply click on that hashtag and be directed to other pins in that same category. Instagram #hashtags are the key to making your photos discoverable by other users and unlike the other platforms, the more hashtags you use the better! Facebook, while a little late to the #HTParty, provides a unique URL for your hashtags which can be clicked on to instantly aggregate similar content. Google+ has an explore button that let’s you directly search for hashtags and their related content, including relevant posts for that specific hashtag AND it also gives you a list of “related” hashtags.

 How do I make one of these things?tools

A good rule of thumb when creating hashtags is to figure out the audience you are targeting. A good place to start is with the three “C’s”

  • Consistent
  • Catchy
  • Concise

When creating a hashtag for your brand, Twitter only allows 140 characters per post PERIOD. If your company is the”Watchahatchee One Of A Kind World Wide Universal Wordsmith Collective and Distribution”, your company’s name as a hashtag would be: #WatchahatcheeOneOfAKindWorldWideUniversalWordsmithCollectiveAndDistribution.

That’s 76 characters RIGHT there, more than half of your 140 tweet allotment. That’s the saturated fat equivalent of 10 grams in a big mac to your recommended daily intake of 20. In addition to being less than a healthy dining choice, using the full brand name in your unique hashtag isn’t ever going to be replicated by another human being on earth. You could drastically abbreviate: #WOKWORDS, or #WWWUWords. Or you could use your brand’s mission or purpose: #UseGoodWords #WeTalkGood. I would go with #WatchWords or maybe #WatcheeWords which both abbreviates and lays out your mission. Or even #GoodWords or #WordsUp or #WordWise which are specific to what you do AND is concise and catchy. I would then check to see if these hashtags have been used in the past to determineif they would make sense for me to use as my brand from now on. I could then combine my brand #WatchWords hashtag with a tag like #WriteWell or something that may be trending like #SpeakUp #Languages4Life. Once I’ve figured out my hashtags, I would then be using them consistently on Facebook and Google+, as well as Twitter and incorporating them onto my Pinterest Pins and Instagram, if applicable.

Some other #quick hlittle bird told meashtag tips:

  • Do not use punctuation in your hashtags.
  • Humor is always a good tool for your hashtag.
  • Don’t separate keywords, i.e. #ChristmasBells as opposed to #Christmas #Bells, which is going to result in two separate topics.
  • Don’t be #TooLongAndTiresomelyPointlessWithYourHashtags
  • Don’t be repetitive with the words in your multiple hashtags, i.e. #ChristmasBells #ChristmasSongs #LoveChristmas. You would be better off using #ChristmasBells #HolidayTraditions to gain a broader and more diverse reach.
  • Don’t be too generic – #Bells
  • You don’t have to hashtag every single thing. If your post is really personal or very specific and individualized and not really part of a larger topic, you can skip the #.

I’d rather just eat hash browns then use those hashtags.


More of a Latke..

More of a Latke than a Hash Brown really…

Especially if they are well done, #YUM!

The use of hashtags can be daunting. There are multitudes of resources on how to create them, how to track them, what is popular, what is #failing. You do not want to ignore the great reach and exposure hashtag use can give your posts. On the other hand, you don’t want to just #turn #everything #into @ #hashtag. Learn to strike a good balance by really noticing what is trending on Twitter and how other businesses, large and small,  individuals, groups and public figures use their hashtags to increase engagement. There is no precise algorithm that exists on how to create a viral hashtag. Pay attention to current events, hot trends, celebrities and then play around with your own hashtags. After awhile, using hashtags will become #SecondNature.


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