How to hashtag properly – Updated
We’re avid users of hashtags in the office, but when you’re not familiar with their uses and benefits it can be a little daunting. We often get asked to elaborate on them when we deliver our social media training for the Hampshire Chamber, so I thought I’d compile a quick guide to set things straight.
WHERE DID HASHTAGS COME FROM?
In the beginning, hashtags were generally used for numerical purposes and website coding… Roll on summer 2009 and social media giant, Twitter, start to hyperlink hashtags used in tweets.
In 2010, Twitter launched “Trending Topics” on the Twitter front page, displaying hashtags that were quickly becoming popular due to increased use.
Skip forward to 2017 and they’re now one of the most popular ways for Twitter users to search for an individual topic. It’s easier than ever to find a news article, read reviews of films or see what people are saying about the latest episode of #GBBO.
WHAT ARE THEY FOR?
The purpose of a hashtag is to connect people with conversations that are happening socially. This then makes it easier for people to find content they are interested in and engage in a variety of ways.
Using relevant hashtags can propel your content to audiences far and wide, giving you much more brand reach on your posts. You can also use them to connect with likeminded users, start up conversations or monitor trends and news.
HOW SHOULD I USE THEM?
As mentioned earlier, there are a number of places to use hashtags, but that’s not to say you should get hashtag crazy all over the place. As a rule of thumb I’ve popped the platforms and etiquette below:
- Twitter – Most popular platform for hashtags, use 1-3 per post. Make sure they’re relevant to your content and aren’t offensive.
- Facebook – Although they work on Facebook, feedback from users is that hashtags can be annoying when used on this platform. We would suggest only using them if relevant to a large trending topic (#GBBO)
- Google+ – When posting content on Google+ it picks up relevant keywords and hashtags them for you, easy peasy
- Instagram/Pinterest – Hashtags are perfect for these image-sharing platforms, so tag away to get your content found!
- LinkedIn – Hashtags are no longer supported in this platform, so using them can look messy and could put people off reading your content
WHAT ARE THE HASHTAG RULES?
- Remove punctuation and spaces – Hashtags only work when the word is continual. Using punctuation or spaces will break the hashtag and only hyperlink part of what you’re trying to communicate
- Try capitalising to make your message clear – Long hashtags, made of multiple words, can sometimes be difficult to read. Try capitalising each word to make it easier for people to scan. Also be wary of how words read when they’re put together! (Susan Boyle’s album launch hashtag caused quite a stir #susanalbumparty!)
- Research the right hashtags – Anyone can hashtag any word, and anyone can jump on a trending hashtag. Before you use one, check to make sure it’s relevant and is not being used in a dodgy way!
- Use targeted keywords – There’s not much point in hashtagging words that will get lost in the millions of posts that are sent every day. Target your hashtags cleverly to get the best reach. Use Topsy or Hashtagify to do your research
- But don’t go too niche – We’re all for an ironic long hashtag – #welovetohashtagcuzsocialmediaislyf. – but they won’t get your content found. Hashtags are there to make topics easier to find, so keep in mind that most people wont have the patience to type in your 30-character masterpiece.
- Along with this, if your hashtag is too targeted, you’re less likely to be found. Always have a quick search to check your hashtag is being used already, this will give you a good estimation of how popular the topic is and whether you’re likely to be discovered by your target audience.
- Find your audience – Target your posts by using the hashtags your audience would be likely to use, like a lifestyle blog using #healthylifestyle.
If you’re not sure what hashtags will work for your business, have a quick look to see what people in your industry use to get some inspiration.
- Think of relevant, unbranded hashtags – Your audience are more likely to engage with an unbranded hashtag. Just make sure you’re actively using it and interacting with people who post using it. Check out McCain’s #WeAreFamily campaign for ideas.
Hopefully this post has cleared things up a bit. We’re often posting hints and tips on our own Twitter account so head over and join the conversation.