Thought Twitter was just another vacuous platform for celebrities to exploit themselves for mere self-promotion? This couldn’t be further from the #truth.
Twitter, alongside other social media channels, gives you a ringside seat to current events, up-to-date trends, and subjects that are relevant to your industry and interests. Additionally, you get to join in, add your own thoughts and share your insights.
Just one of the many reasons I love social media is because of it’s fantastic ability to let all its users in on the conversation. On both a personal and professional level it is a great way to find like minded people and quickly source current content.
One of the best and easiest ways to do this are through the hashtag functions which are used across most social media platforms, but they have a habit of leaving many social media beginners a little bit confused. We’re often asked: How do I use them? When do I use them? What is the significance of using them? How do you use hashtags on social media? Fret not, we’re here to help!
Let’s start with the basics … What is a hashtag?
Well, a hashtag signifies a ‘sharp’ note in musical notation. It’s a noughts and crosses board. More importantly, in social media it’s this: #
A hashtag is social media’s way of labelling content. Adding a simple ‘#’ before your text categorises it and stores it with all other tweets featuring the same hashtag, making it easier to draw attention to, organise, and promote.
A hashtag looks something like this: #Olympics or #Inauguration2017
These will then turn clickable and allow users to find the latest relevant content. Hashtags, however, are not limited to big news stories such as the two examples above. Anybody on Twitter can hashtag about anything!
Anyone sharing content on a relevant topic can add the hashtag label to their message. Others searching for that topic can search for that label to find other messages on that same social media platform.
Hashtags are ideal for businesses as they can group your industry and your audiences together. They’re great for keeping up with competitors and any current industry news as it breaks. Alternatively you can see what your audience is talking about, find other people to interact with, and what they might be saying about your brand.
Research also proves that content featuring hashtags have improved clickthrough rates and receive twice as much engagement as those that don’t.
Hashtags are recognised across most social media platforms these days, but originally they rocketed to mass popularity on Twitter. A digi-archaeologist has dug up this fossil tweet by Chris Messina in 2007 and it is believed to be the earliest use of a hashtag used for its current purpose:
Twitter rejected the idea originally, but with more users categorising content this way they finally made it an official aspect of the platform in 2009 with other social media channels following suit over time.
Facebook introduced hashtags in 2013 but it hasn’t picked up much usage. Clicking on a hashtag on Facebook will take you to a list of posts containing the same hashtag. Just like Twitter, these results are not limited to people you know.
Instagram is great for hashtags and they’re often used to complement the images shared. Searching and using hashtags on Instagram, like Twitter, can help you to discover new accounts and scoop up followers easily.
Instagram have their own specifically created hashtags which have spilt over onto other platforms e.g. #ThrowbackThursday – encouraging users to publish old content.
Now for some housekeeping
When hashtagging, always remember the following:
No spaces. Ever.
Even if your hashtag contains multiple words, you must group them all together. If you want to differentiate between words, it is advised to use capitals instead.
For example, we would use #BalticTriangle to join in that particular discussion and this will not alter search results, so searching for #BalticTriangle will yield the same results as #baltictriangle but not #baltic #triangle.
As a grammar geek, this one is a bit of a killer! You cannot feature any commas, full stops, exclamation marks, question marks or apostrophes in your hashtags. Want to join in the conversation about Beyonce’s fabulous pregnancy news? That’ll be #BeyoncesTwins and not #Beyonce’sTwins, as the hashtag will stop after #Beyonce.
No special characters
Numbers are supported in hashtags, so #TheQueenAt90 and #Grammys2017 are both acceptable.
Emojis are accepted in hashtags on Instagram, but not Facebook or Twitter.
Many social media beginners get confused between a hashtag and a mention. It is important to keep in mind that the @ symbol does something completely different. Using @ before a person’s Twitter handle will tweet at them directly, letting him know you have written to them via the notifications tab. A hashtag will not.
For example, @cyberfrogdesign will give us a notification, but #CyberfrogDesign will not.
Don’t hashtag everything
Essentially, the purpose of hashtags is to make your content discoverable to a wider audience and sometimes not everything you publish is going to fit into that category. If your latest post isn’t adding any substance to the wider conversation then you should leave the hashtag off.
This is where it gets a little bit complicated…
You want your content to be seen by as many online users as possible, over-hashtagging is not going to achieve that. Statistics show that one to two hashtags per post have 21% more engagement than those that don’t feature a hashtag at all. However, tweets that contain more than two hashtags actually see a 17% drop in engagement. However, over on Instagram they suggest three hashtags maximum but three to seven hashtags is probably a good number to stick with.
#Dont #Hashtag #Every #Word or #MakeaLongPhraseTooHardToRead … If you’re struggling reading your post, then so will everybody else.
Always keep it simple, fun and relevant!