How to Speak Hashtag: A Beginner’s Guide
If you’ve ever scoured through posts on social media, you’ve probably seen the hashtag once, twice, or maybe several dozen times. Hashtags have been around for a number of years and although most of us are familiar with the symbol, they can seem very confusing, unnecessary, and pervasive to the social media novice.
Hashtags, however, have taken a huge precedence on the web and continue to grow as a fundamental way of communicating online (if used properly). Facebook followed Twitter’s footsteps and incorporated the hashtag this year. And Social News Daily reported this morning that tweets with hashtags are 55% more likely to be retweeted, according to a study done by Dan Zarrella.
Despite the recent humorous mocking of its ubiquitous overuse, hashtags can a be fun, useful way to socialize online and increase visibility and reach for your brand. We’ll explain!
What is a Hashtag?
Hashtags are shortlinks prefixed by the pound symbol (#) and include an important word or phrase that’s included in a post or tweet. Hashtags “tag” the phrase and tie in certain conversations or topics together in one single stream for the user. This allows the user to organize content and keep track of certain discussion topics.
For example, our team loves The Walking Dead. By incorporating the #TheWalkingDead hashtag into our tweets on Sunday nights while watching the TV show, we can see what others are saying that have included the hashtag, all aggregated and sorted for us in one single stream to view all at once.
A Brief History
Hashtags began its widespread use and popularity on Twitter when developer, Chris Messina, proposed that Twitter use the hash symbol to help group topics together on the social media site. Twitter initially rejected the idea, but in October 2007, the hashtag popularity spread when local journalists begin incorporating #SanDiegoFire into tweets to update the public on a series of forest fires in San Diego.
How Do You Use Hashtags?
Basic Do’s and Don’t’s
To create a hashtag, remember that absolutely no spaces are allowed. If there’s more than one word, group them all together. You can use capital letters to differentiate words and make the hashtag easier to read. Including capital letters won’t alter any search results for your hashtag. For example, #FavoriteCookies is the same as #favoritecookies. Numbers are okay to use, but never any punctuation marks such as commas, periods, exclamation points, apostrophes or special characters like ampersands (&) and asterisks (*).
Create Your Own
There isn’t a preset book of hashtags anywhere so feel free to create your own. Marketers can use relevant hashtags others are using in their own industry or create a special hashtag to mark an event or campaign to remind attendees or followers to incorporate them into their tweets to build reach.
Hashtags are great for a contest, raffle, promotions as well and can encourage more conversation and buzz about your brand. If there are giveaways or prizes, users will, most often than not, retweet or repost a hashtag.
Add Some Voice
Hashtags can definitely be humorous depending on the tone, voice, and context of your post. Feel free to use multiple hashtags in one post but be careful not to add too many. Too many hashtags can forfeit any relevancy or attention to your post. Keep it limited to one to three hashtags at one time.
Posts can include a dose of sarcasm:
Sometimes, hashtags can be super long and zany and just for entertainment. For example:
“That #Gravity movie was awesome, but terrifying! #nevergoingtospace #myastronautdreamsarecrushed”
It’s hardly likely that anyone would ever search for that hashtag, but it definitely adds humor for your followers.
Facebook began adding hashtag support in June 2013. It hasn’t streamlined with users yet, but if you click on hashtags on Facebook, you’ll get a list of posts containing these same hashtag and the results aren’t limited to just friends’ posts… #awesome.
Since it’s the birthplace of hashtags, this is where you can get away with some of those sarcastic hashtag posts. You can find a sidebar with the most popular tweets trending in your area or relevant to you based on the tweets you post.
Hashtags can be included in descriptions of pictures for sorting and finding specific types of photos. For example, Instagram users typically will include #sundayfunday into photos of Sunday happenings and activities or #throwbackthursday for photos posted from the past. Vine works the same way. You can usually get away with more hashtags on Instagram and Vine then you can on Twitter and Facebook.
Hashtags included in posts on Google+ aggregate all posts with that specific hashtag and related tags and keywords. The usual Google search results will display on the left and any hashtag results display within Google+ on the right. Google also gives you the option of searching for that hashtag on Facebook and Twitter.
Users can incorporate hashtags in posts to find specific content. Just click on the hashtag in the description section of the “pin” and find related posts with the same exact hashtag. By tagging pins with hashtags, you can help others find your posts.
Tumblr has a specific section for inputing tags, which work exactly like hashtags. Tumblr hashtags work just like those on Twitter, sorting topics, but the hashtag is automatically inserted for you.
In addition to keeping hashtags to minimum when posting, don’t let hashtags be the only thing you include in a post. Posting something such as, #HappyFriday, can be confusing and boring. Remember to include context in your posts and add to the conversation. If you’re contributing, make sure the hashtag you’re adding is specific and relevant. If you’re talking about Monday Night Football, add in the hashtag #MNF, instead of #football.
Follow trends to discover what hashtags are popular or trending at the moment. You can use relevant ones to posts tweets as a marketer or non-marketer. However, don’t use an ultra-popular hashtag that has nothing to do with your brand. Including #justinbieber in a post about lead generating won’t get you anywhere! And you might come off as spam.
Finally, remember to have fun and be natural. Hashtags serve its purpose of sorting out globs of online content, but that doesn’t mean you have to be extra serious. Some of the most creative hashtags and engaging posts stem from a bit of quirkiness, which could be stifled if you get too technical. Just like a language, you become more fluent and fluid as you go.
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