It’s hard to imagine a world without hashtags. We see them all over social media, during our favourite television programs, and sometimes we even have the displeasure of hearing them during a real life conversation. (#Yuck!) The hashtag has become so popular, in fact, that the word was added to the Oxford Dictionary in 2010, and over 70% of people on social media use them in their posts.
But ask yourself this: do you honestly know how to use hashtags? And are you using them effectively on the right social media platforms? If you’re feeling #clueless, then don’t worry. Let’s take a look at the do’s and don’ts when it comes to hashtags.
What are hashtags?
The hashtag was initially synonymous with Twitter, with the first instance being used in 2007 by former Google employee, Chris Messina. It’s since been adopted by the majority of social networking sites, including Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Its usage varies depending on the platform you’re on, but the format is the same: simply add a “#” sign before a single word or phrase, without spaces or punctuation.
In their most basic form, hashtags are used to categorise content for users. With the right hashtag, it’s quick and easy to discover news, articles, insights and like-minded individuals. For example, if you’d like to join in the conversation during a prominent sporting event such as Wimbledon, it’s a good idea to add or search for the hashtag #Wimbledon.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) October 18, 2018
If a keyword gathers enough momentum, it becomes a “trending” topic. Which trends you’ll see, however, will be determined by your location, connections and personal interests. That’s why keywords which might be trending in Germany won’t show up for a typical UK user.
How to use hashtags
It stands to reason that using an incorrect or inappropriate hashtag can have a negative impact on your overall engagement. The same can also be said if you add too many hashtags. This can muddy your message and is generally regarded as bad online etiquette (yes, that’s actually a thing). Here’s a few tips you should keep in mind when crafting a winning hashtag.
- Don’t hashtag every single word. As we mentioned above, avoid hashtag pollution where possible as this can make your message difficult to read, hard to search for and will generally be frowned upon by other users
- Don’t make a hashtag too long or overly clever. Being unique is one thing, but hashtags should be kept short and sweet so they’re easy to find and replicate by other users
- Be specific. If you’re targeting a specific topic or community then make sure you pick the right hashtag for better engagement. Make sure that your content is relevant, however, otherwise you may receive some unwanted responses from frustrated users.
- Remember the social network you’re on. While the premise of categorising content is the same, bear in mind that the use of hashtags still varies depending on the network you’re using. On Twitter, it’s common practice to have no more than two hashtags that relate to a wider conversation, while Instagram hashtags are used for more descriptive purposes.
It’s clear, then, that hashtags can help you drive engagement for your content. They’re also the perfect tool to attract new followers to your brand while opening up a clear channel of communication. So the next time you tweet, share a post on Facebook or upload your finest shot of avocado on toast, take care when crafting your hashtags.
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