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What are hashtags and how to use them on social media?

The hashtag symbol (#) was first used on Twitter in 2007 and was created to help users filter and search for content, specific keywords, terms or phrases.

To do this, users would add a hashtag to words or phrases to search for and find content related to the search term on the Twitter platform. Since its inception, hashtags have become increasingly popular and are now used across a number of social media platforms to help individuals and businesses:

– Gain exposure
– Connect with like-minded individuals and potential consumers
– Produce specific marketing campaigns

However, although hashtags are a great way to navigate through the vast reems of content created on a daily basis, there are rules to using hashtags and these can differ across each social media platform.

What are the rules to using hashtags and why?

First and foremost, when using hashtags, it’s best to remember that ‘less is more,’ unless you’re using hashtags on Instagram then fire away.

Your intent when it comes to connecting with your audience matters.  If your content is littered with multiple random hashtags, your online audience will see that you are more concerned with getting exposure than their actual needs. You will be known as a spammer and in the long-run, spammers don’t grow their business or build meaningful relationships online.

Twitter recommends user use no more than 2 hashtags per Tweet as best practice.

Instagram is the only platform where using multiple hashtags work. This is because Instagram allows users to add 30 hashtags per post.

This doesn’t mean you have to use 30 hashtags every time you post, but you do have a bit more leeway and the types of hashtags you can use.

It’s all about balance.

How to use hashtags to connect with your audience

If you’re going to use a hashtag or a number of hashtags, do so with an audience in mind.

If you’re looking to connect with online users interested in fashion you should be creating content around that industry and peppering your content with the hashtag #fashion, along with other fashion industry related hashtags e.g. #style #menswear etc.

Format

Don’t put a space between words in your hashtag, otherwise the hashtag will be broken and only the first word will be relevant. For example, your hashtag should look like this #SocialMedia and not #Social Media.

For clarity, you could choose to capitalise letters within your hashtag so they can be read with ease.

For example, your hashtag could look like this #SocialMedia and not #socialmedia.

Making it easier for your online audience to decipher information will always help you in the long-run.

 

Variety

Try and use different hashtags every time you post.

Duplication will give your audience the impression that you will be saying the same thing over and over again, which could result in a lack of interest in your posts; thus reducing engagement for your brand.

Trending hashtags

Refrain from adding hashtags from trending topics into your content, unless it is relevant to the content you are sharing.

If you are going to use trending hashtags, you better be a good storyteller who has the ability to make your content relevant to that specific hashtag, without coming across as conceited.

If you choose to ignore this advice, be prepared to be seen as inauthentic, inconsiderate (especially if the trending hashtag is related to tragic events) and desperate to obtain exposure.

This type of behaviour isn’t good for your reputation, so it’s best to avoid doing this in the first place.

How to use hashtags to connect with your audience

If you’re going to use a hashtag or a number of hashtags, do so with an audience in mind.

If you’re looking to connect with online users interested in fashion you should be creating content around this industry and peppering your content with the hashtag #fashion, along with other fashion industry related hashtags e.g. #style #menswear etc.

 

Creating a conversation around your brand

Creating and adding hashtags to your content with no plan in mind is like throwing mud and seeing what sticks.

The more you have thought about the hashtag and the ability it has to increase exposure for your brand, the more you will realise the importance of hashtags and their relevance.

A few things to think about when using hashtags for a potential campaign are:

  1. Do your research. Has it been used before and if not consider why that may be the case?
  2. Make is easy to remember and easy to spell – there’s nothing quite like putting people off taking action by making things difficult.
  3. Think about the hashtag you’ve chosen and how it looks and is spelt. The infamous #Susanalbumparty hashtags springs to mind in this case   (Google it if needs be,)
  4. When creating hashtag campaigns, think about how they could backfire and have a PR contingency plan in place to limit the damage.(#WaitroseReasons handled this particularly well on Twitter (http://bit.ly/2YNGYji)

 

Finding the relevant hashtags

Believe or not, there are tools that can help you find out which hashtags are good to go when it comes to using popular hashtags to increase engagement on your social media content.

These tools can give you an idea of additional hashtags to use on social media platforms to increase your exposure. Remember the ‘less is more’ rule though, except when it comes to Instagram.

Hashtagify

All Hashtag

Ritetag

There you have it. A brief overview of hashtags and how to use them. Bet you didn’t think there was much to think about did you?

Don’t worry, now that you’ve got some tips you can get planning, safe in the knowledge that you’ve thought the hashtag aspect of your social media strategy and campaigns through.

#GoodLuck

If you want more help with social media training, don’t be afraid to get in touch.