If you’re new to social media, you may have asked yourself the question:
“What’s the deal with all the pound signs?”
The ‘#’ symbol, referred to in social media platforms as a hashtag, is a powerful tool for navigating posts and other content. When a hashtag is placed before a word, it indexes the post with that phrase associated. So if I’m looking for Tweets or Instagram posts about Fall fashion, for example, I could search for the hashtag #fallfashion and I’d be likely to find what pictures or conversations relating to clothes made for the Fall.
Hasthags are essential to use as a business on social media. In practice they can act like a portal to a chat room. If your customers are ski enthusiasts, for example, posting content with hashtags relating to skiing places your content in that ‘area’ or group of posts where they are more likely to see them. Hashtags make it possible to engage with the people you want to talk to, turning social media into a targeted experience. Rather than speak to everyone like a TV commercial, you can focus your efforts (and your budget) on those customers who are most likely to be interested in what you have to offer.
Here are some great tips to help you how to use Hashtags effectively.
1. Be specific. The more the better. #Grammys2016 will pull up the recent event, while #Grammys or #awardshow will pull wider, less relevant results.
2. Always use hashtags at the end of posts. It looks neater and it’s the conventional shorthand. Users expect them to be there.
3. Only use 1 to 3 hashtags per post. More than that is overkill, and will scream, “I’m an amateur!” to readers. The exception is Instagram, where more hashtags are common. Just be prudent. When in doubt, copy the pros.
4. Clear, concise and simple language is critical. Write for viewers and not for a search engine. Five-worded hashtags are nearly impossible to decipher. #noonewillreaditifitisntclear
5. Use hashtags that identify with your brand. If you are a toy company, jumping in on conversations about new movies (#StarWars) makes sense. Not so much for a bank or restaurant, unless you have a specific promotion related to it. You don’t need to be in every conversation at once.
6. Show followers you are listening to them. When monitoring social media sites (something to be done daily), your followers will often be engaged in conversations using hashtags. If you pick up on it, you can customize content or even just chime in to make your company relevant. Customers will appreciate that you’re active and will pay attention back.
An example of a well-executed hashtag campaign was Charmin’s #TweetFromTheSeat idea. It gave followers something to do, identified with the brand, and created a lot of playful and funny snippets from customers. Win, win, win!
Some important dos and don’ts:
DON’T make new words you didn’t intend.
When Susan Boyle, an opera singer, announced her new album, she used the hashtag #Susanalbumparty.
See any problems there?
Simply using #SusanBoyle would have sufficed. At least capitalize the first letter in each word to make it easier to read and prevent extra words from appearing. #SusanAlbumParty
DON’T make it long.
This is not:
No one will type the first one. It will die in the nether of cyberspace alone.
DON’T butt into controversial conversations.
The following hashtag was trending during the Casey Anthony case:
Some brands used it to stick ads into the conversation. That was insensitive to say the least, and they paid for it with public backlash.
DON’T get fancy.
For our YouTube show, #smrtsocialTV is too much. The moniker #SmrtTV is plenty. People are smart enough to pick up on what you are saying.
DON’T create hashtag phrases.
#I #love #star #wars will get you nowhere. The words are split up and each one is a separate index. Star Wars is lost in the mix. Just use #StarWars.
DON’T make obnoxious hashtags
“Hashtag hijacking” is when trolls on the Internet take your hashtag and twist the meaning. The more outrageous your tag is, the more likely it will be co-opted by less-than-well-meaning denizens of the web.
Finally, DO live tweet. Tweeting while an event is going on is the best way to find and use relevant hashtags. This can get you onto trending topics, and it shows you want to be involved in your followers’ lives.
As long as you check in on your hashtags periodically, are wise about what words you use and exercise discretion in participating in conversations, you will steer clear of any PR nightmares.
Good luck, and happy hashtagging!