Why and How to Use #hashtags in Social Media
What is the hashtag’s relevance in a tweet or post?
“The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.” – Twitter.com
How do you use a hashtag?
A hashtag is now also being used on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube and other social media platforms. Why are hashtags relevant? What do they accomplish? How can you use them to expand your audience? And how do you use them properly on the various social media sites?
1. Using hashtags effectively can attract increased views from your specific target audience, as would keywords or tags on your website or blog content. If you are selling a certain product or service, use hashtags to categorize your post so someone looking for what you have to sell can find you.
- EXAMPLE: Here’s a tweet from a bridal shop: “Calling all
#2016brides; be on trend with tulle #WeddingDresses here”. (This is an effective use of hashtags within the content rather than just after the content, especially since Twitter has a 140 character limit.)
2. Make sure the phrase or keyword you are selecting to hashtag has relevance to the content of your post, so do not try to spam or overuse a hashtag. For example: “A professional website is just the beginning of your internet marketing journey #seo #webdesign #marketing.”
3. Never use punctuation, symbols, special characters or spaces in a hashtag. It must be written as a single word or words with no spaces. Example: #smallbusinesssaturday.
4. Placement within the tweet or post is irrelevant. You can put hashtags in the beginning, the middle or the end of your content.
5. Hashtags that become popular or viral, are considered Trending Topics. For example, the use of a certain hashtag after the Paris attacks to signal others who were looking for safe shelter became overwhelming overused by people just offering support. [Read article.]
6. Don’t hashtag everything you post. Only hashtag when you are adding content that will add to the story or commentary. If you’re just sharing an article or post, no need to hashtag. If you have additional information that will either inform, entertain or educate your audience, then by all means, hashtag it.
7. If you don’t already have a hashtag for your brand, organization or event, create one and promote it so others are encouraged to use it and share it. Provide a giveaway or incentive to anyone who is using your hashtag to start a trend with your brand. Example: “Use #startupproduction today to get $25 off your first web or graphic design project.” When you highlight followers using your brand, you encourage others to hashtag it as well, creating a domino effect and only promoting your brand to a larger audience.
“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.” – Hootsuite
8. There are hashtags that trend each day of the week. Here’s a few:
- #MCM or #ManCrushMonday
- #WomanCrushWednesday or #HumpDay
- #TBT or #ThrowbackThursday
- #FF or #FollowFriday
- #SS or #SelfieSunday
- [See full list]
How many hashtags should I use per post, tweet or comment?
Twitter recommends no more than 2 per tweet. The more hashtags your content has, the more likely you’ll be viewed as spamming, “it generally dilutes your message or comes off as desperate” (Hootsuite). Never have more hashtags than words in your comment and limit it to quality rather than quantity. A study by Social Bakers, shows interactions fall drastically after more than 2 hashtags per post/tweet.
- Posts with 1 or 2 hashtags averaged 593 interactions
- Posts with 3 to 5 hashtags averaged 416 interactions
- Posts with 6 to 10 hashtags averaged 307 interactions
- Posts with more than 10 hashtags averaged 188 interactions
- Exceptions to this rule: Instagram (see below).
- On Facebook, even one hashtag tends to diminish traffic.
Do I use Hashtags differently on different Social Media Platforms?
Yes! Consider the social media network when using hashtags.
- On Instagram, hashtags are often more focused on description of the photo and the tools used to take it than on a broader story or theme. You can use more hashtags per post than you can on other platforms. Some suggest using up to 10-12, but do research, use ones that will truly attract traffic and don’t overuse so that your posts become annoying.
- On Twitter, hashtags are used to attract a certain group or get into the conversation on a certain topic.
- On Facebook, hashtags are a great way to connect your content with your target audience. If you hashtag a popular topic of conversation for your specific audience, you can extend your audience outside your current fan base, which is the only way to do that without paid marketing (boosted posts or ads).
- On Pinterest, Hashtags are ONLY clickable in a Pin description. Putting them in your username, “about” section, or in board titles is pointless. Pinterest hashtags are most effective when they’re unique to your brand. Example: #startupproduction. Pinterest search doesn’t support hashtags at this point. So if you search “graphic design” it will search comments (with or without hashtags), photo names, link, board title or product page.
- “Google+ uses hashtags to explore a topic rather than curate it.” (Social Media Examiner) When you search for a hashtag within Google+, it will search and return related topics and related hashtags as well as the specific the hashtag you typed in. For example, If you type in #graphicdesign it will find all related topics #graphicart #webdesign, #digitalart, etc, not just topics with the exact hashtag you’re searching for.
- Irregardless of your social media platform, its imperative to do research to see what your target audience is interested in. Use tools like Hashtagify.me to find other trending hashtags related to your specific tag.
Who can see your hashtagged comments?
On Twitter or Pinterest, anyone can. To see comments for a certain hashtag, you can either click on the hashtag to see other tweets in that category (that are using that hashtag) or you can search for it on the search field at the top of the page. On Facebook, Instagram or Google+, you can only view hashtags that are open to the public or on posts that were shared with you by Friends.
In conclusion, use sparingly, make sure its relevant to the content, follow trending hashtags or even better, start your own trend. And as always, have fun but think first and foremost about your branding when using hashtags.