July 30, 2014

No Fail (Almost) Guide to Hashtag Basics

Hashtags provide a great way to categorize content.

Hashtags provide a great way to categorize content.

Nowadays, most content marketers and brand ambassadors use Twitter – and the majority of them use hashtags. In social media circles, the term hashtag refers to keywords or word phrases (no spaces) that follow the number or pound symbol in a Tweet. People use hashtags on a variety of other social media platforms, but, for now, we’ll keep things simple by only talking about Twitter.

How and Why Use a Hashtag?

Use hashtags to categorize content, allowing for easy retrieval by yourself and others. By using a hashtag to categorize content, they’ll show up more easily in relevant Twitter searches. For example, a tweet about this article might include the hashtag #SoMe (for social media) or #contentmktg (for content marketing).

If you tag a Tweet with #inauguration, you will associate that content with President Obama’s second inauguration. Users can locate information about the event using a social basis, rather than using traditional search engine.

presidential inauguration

#Dontmakeyourhashtagstoolongandconfusing

Create hashtags that people can easily remember and use. Think economy of statement when coming up with hashtags. Your followers might confuse or misspell the words in an overdone hashtag, nullifying its value in the conversation. Long hashtags also use up precious 140-character limit allowance in Twitter. Short and concise is one of the keys to creating hashtags that work.

If you’re a parenting expert and want to promote your parenting tips and content, don’t name a hashtag after your arduous and long website name. For example: use #PremiumParenting or #Tips4BusyMoms instead of #ParentingLessonsfromTinaFey or #AbbysParentingTipsforDivorcedDads

Please note: I sometimes use hashtags that I know are too long just to make a point when talking to someone I know well. I don’t expect it to start some sort of topic trend, or anything like that. When I do this, I know it’s useless in the big scheme of things. As you get to know more about hashtagging and the fun you can have with them in this way, you’ll probably do it too, at times (unless you’re just a hopeless #stickinthemud)

#If #You #Hashtag #Every #Single #Word #It #Is #Meaningless

Each hashtag you use categorizes and indexes your content. It’s doubtful people will conduct a Twitter search using hashtag, #if or #It. Your tweets will also look cluttered and followers will see this as a negative. Maybe you’re sending a tweet with a link to a story about the use of social media during the presidential inauguration. Pick the most relevant one or two hashtags that go with the content – #SoMe #inauguration. But do not hasthag it thusly: #SoMe #inauguration #Obama #President #WashingtonDC. Please. Just don’t.

Sometimes, when you retweet something you find interesting, the originator of the tweet will have used an over-abundance of hashtags. Proper (unwritten) Twitter etiquette suggests that you should leave the person’s original text in place as much as possible. But if the hashtag orgy in the original tweet makes it too long to pass to your friends, skip it, or take out a couple of irrelevant hashtags. Personally, if the content is really good, I just leave all the hashtags in out of respect and retweet.

Pick It and Stick It

When you choose a hashtag, whether it’s an already established one or an original from you, stick with it. Don’t suddenly add another one during the chat or conversation. Or worse, don’t abandon the old one and start using an entirely different one when engaging with others about the same topic. This will leave those followers who “didn’t get the memo” high and dry.

Practice in Safe Zones

Still confused? Practice using hashtags in situations and on platforms where they don’t matter at all. For example, to teach the Dragonslayer (my hubs) about hashtags, we started using them when texting and during spoken conversation. Weird? Maybe. Helpful? Yes. And it’s so much fun. We’ve laughed so hard at the hashtags we’ve come up with during conversations or text message sessions…little snarky flirts and other fun adventures. Now, he can hashtag #likeaboss.

Please share your own helpful tips about hashtagging and how you use them. I’m especially interested to know if you find yourself using them in places where they truly aren’t relevant – like conversation or text messaging. #justsayin

Image credit: yoursocialmove [dot] com

About Samantha Gluck

Not only am I the chief editor of this multi-author online magazine, I'm a content creator and social media marketing strategist with a background in journalism, finance, & healthcare. I began my content marketing agency, All Media Freelance, LLC, in 2010 and lead a well-rounded, talented team of multi-channel content strategists and niche writers. I've developed and managed print and digital content projects for health care, fitness, financial services, mental health, non-profit, and automotive publishers, as well as for biotechnology brands.

Comments

  1. Hi Samantha, I don’t use hashtags as often as I should but I have met few cool people on Instagram from using them. I’m a trucker and I like Spiderman, yeah, I know, lol Anyway, I used those two #hashtags and friended a few other people that found my photos by searching those keywords.

    I do often send those same pics to Facebook, where hashtags mean nothing, but the hashtags go with them. I recently had a comment from someone that didn’t realize the images were sent via Instagram and told me I wasn’t on Twitter.

    Is there a list or website with common hashtags? I would have never guessed that #SoMe was social media.
    Brian Hawkins recently posted..AdSense Blogging Is Alive And WellMy Profile

    • Hi Brian,

      I try to use them as much as possible (which doesn’t mean I actually achieve that goal) on Twitter and Google+ and for sure on Instagram. Using them on Instagram is essential for just the reasons you mention. It’s one of the primary ways to connect with new people there. I’ve found lots of new InstaFriends by using hashtags. The “rules” are a little different for that platform. I typically use many more for each post on Instagram.

      Regarding the person who “reminded” you that Facebook wasn’t Twitter. Yes, Instagram hashtags get carried over to FB. Followers should deal with it. I’m sure it was said as a ‘tongue in cheek’ sort of teasing. If the person truly thought you might have forgotten that you weren’t on Twitter, perhaps you should rethink your association. #justsayin

      You can search common hashtags for various topics in a variety of places. One of my favorite is hashtags.org. But there are many “off shoot” places as well. I typically find them by watching authoritative tweeps that follow me and whom I follow in return. For example, one of the most popular/trending tags in health care has to do with the use of social media by health care pros and it’s #hcsm.

      Hope that helps some. xo

  2. Samantha, you are the #Queenofhashtags ! I LOVE how CREATIVE you get with them. I really need to add more of them on Instagram, Google+, and Facebook. I once read you should not have more than 3 on a post, would you agree?
    I bet the Dragonslayer is becoming the #KingofHashtags with your coaching. Nice that you practiced it so it becomes second nature.
    Lisa recently posted..Triberr Quick Tips to Get Your Blog Traffic GoingMy Profile

    • Hi Lisa,

      Awww…thank you for the “royal” designation. If I’m #Queenofhashtags, you’re #Queenofseo and #QueenofSoMePlatforms. You’ve taught me so much about all the new platforms out there and which ones work for which purposes. I would be lost without your counsel on these and new SEO guidelines.

      I agree, Lisa, that on Twitter posts you shouldn’t have more than two (three is pushing it). I use two or three on G+ (sometimes more if I’m just in a mood – you know what I mean). I use many more on Instagram because I think it’s ok there. I don’t add 20 hashtags like I see some folks do over there, but I have been known to add 5 or so relevant tags.

      Yes, Dragonslayer and I still have fun using hashtags in conversation and in text messages. They get the point across and add laughter to our days. He’s getting quite good at it. His favorite platform is G+ and he uses hashtags often there.

  3. Hi Samantha,

    Thanks for sharing. I use hashtags sparingly because they can clutter a tweet or a bio. It drives me nuts when I see a bio filled with hashtags. I’m often confused by what the person does for a living and why they’re on Twitter. I can understand using one or two, but to fill your bio with hashtags seems like overkill.
    Amandah recently posted..One Simple Lesson Will Boost Your Non-Profit Organization’s Donations and SupportMy Profile

  4. Very good points Samantha. I recently started a list of good hashtags for freelance writers and self-employed people and am using them sparingly in my tweets.
    John Soares recently posted..Are Your Sleep Habits Hurting Your Writing Career?My Profile

    • Thanks, John, and thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts. Is your list comprised of hashtags you’ve come up with yourself, or did you research popular tags for freelance writers and self-employed peeps? I use #freelancing quite a bit, #writers, #freelancewriting, and #contentmktg as well.

  5. I just (as in a few weeks ago) started a general “what’s on my mind” blog for a few reasons, and while I realize I’ll probably never get the views of a niche blog, I am taking my social media seriously. I set up a Twitter account (oh, and, I finally “get” Twitter—what a great source of info and engagement), and when I post to my blog, I’m publicizing those posts on my FB blog page, Twitter, and Google+. Also, I tweet random thoughts and interesting links, and then I have a feed of that on my blog, so that anyone who visits my blog and likes what they see enough to click around (and I do have decent stickiness) can also be entertained/informed by my recent tweets.

    So, that was all just background. (Brevity is not my strong suit. Twitter is actually great practice for me.) My question/comment is this: I am wondering if when I tweet my current post, should I include a hashtag of my blog name? Example tweet from today: My mother tongue has some gaps. Today’s #cheekyginger post: “Words Missing from the English Language” http://buff.ly/XwuE3l

    I’ve dug around the internet a bit but can’t seem to find a good discussion of this. I’d just like an opinion from someone sensible who’s been doing it a while, and you seem like a good fit. Thanks for your thoughts.
    Evelyn Stice recently posted..Words Missing from the English LanguageMy Profile

    • Hi Evelyn,

      It’s entirely up to you whether or not to include a hashtag bearing your site name. It really all depends on what you want to do with your hashtagging program (strategy). I don’t hashtag my site name. I hashtag pertinent info about the post or article. If I’m tweeting an article about health care and social media, I hashtag it #hcsm. If I tweet a post about financial services, I tag it #FinSvcs. So, whatever the tweet topic covers, that’s how I hashtag it. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use your site name, just that I’m not sure what purpose it would carry out.

      Thanks for stopping by. Samantha

      • That makes complete sense, actually, especially since my topics are varied. I hadn’t thought my approach through clearly … I guess it’s just another example of “If you can’t explain it simply, then you don’t really understand it.” Thanks! I appreciate your feedback and look forward to your next post.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Hashtags are a very useful as a way to let other people know what your tweet is about. Of greatest importance, people interested in the topic of a particular hashtag can use it in a Twitter search and then see all the tweets that use it, or phrases like it. This can get you both new followers and potential readers of the link in your tweet (especially important if you’re referencing a post on your own website). […]

  2. […] Hashtags are a very useful as a way to let other people know what your tweet is about.  This can get you both new followers and potential readers of the link in your tweet (especially important if you’re referencing a post on your own website). […]

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