Hashtags, represented by a keyword following a # sign, are a notation used in various social networks to categorize content and link it together. They were popularized by Twitter, although Instagram, Facebook and various other social networks have started supporting them as well. Used correctly, hashtags enable you to reach out to a wider audience by taking advance of current trends in the marketplace.
While most hashtags are single keywords, some consist of two or more words placed together, since spaces are not allowed. In other cases, acronyms have become extremely popular to use in hashtags, provided that they are well known enough. You’ll notice hashtags a great deal on Twitter in particular – both businesses and individuals use them for a variety of reasons. Hashtags are highlighted as links on both Facebook and Twitter, so you can click on them to find other content which uses the same hashtags. On Twitter, for example, clicking on a hashtag will show you all of the latest Tweets on the entire social network which have made a reference to it.
Why Use Hashtags?
The beauty of social media marketing is that it offers you the potential to reach an extremely wide audience without having to spend much, if any, money. However, with over 200 million active accounts on Twitter and more than 1.2 billion along with many millions of businesses using both networks for marketing their brands, the competition can sometimes seem overwhelming to say the least.
Hashtags help you to identify your content and draw in new followers on social networks from sources which you often don’t expect. Used correctly, hashtags can become extremely successful to the point that they become the driving force behind current trends in the world of social media. For this reason, they are often used in posts referring to sports and current events. For example, if an organization is holding a major event, they may designate a particular hashtag which all of their employees, affiliates and even their customers will use in their social media posts to link everything together under a single category.
Initially, the best way to find out which hashtags are best for your business at any given time is to search for them on Twitter or Facebook. The larger the list of results, the more the hashtag is currently trending. You can also use a service like hashtags.org to find out which hashtags are currently trending by topic.
How to Create a Hashtag
Creating your own hashtag is simply a matter of including a keyword following a hash sign (without any spaces) in your post, whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook or any other social network which supports hashtags. Some businesses use it as a way to promote their brand, products, services or events. However, if you are starting from scratch with your own hashtag, you’ll likely need to do a lot of work to raise awareness to such an extent that people on the network start to pick it up. If the hashtag refers to a subject or event which is already trending, then posts which contain it have a higher chance of going viral.
If you choose to create your own hashtags in the hope that they will get noticed by the community, you will need to take some extra steps to promote it. You can start by referencing it on your own website and any other promotional materials that you have, including offline ones. You’ll also need to maintain a consistent posting schedule in order to engage your audience and encourage them to share your posts along with your hashtags.
Essential Tips for Using Hashtags
Unfortunately, hashtags are commonly misused, and some businesses have found themselves in the midst of a public relations disaster after the irresponsible use of hashtags. One infamous example in recent times was when the American fashion designer, Kenneth Cole Productions, made a joke about an extremely serious current event by using the #Cairo hashtag when promoting their new spring collection. We can learn two things from blunders such as this – keep an eye on humour to avoid offending and alienating a large section of your audience, and always use hashtags which are relevant to the content of your posts. Other than these fundamental rules, you should also consider the following tips for the best practices with hashtag promotion:
- Keep your hashtags as short as possible, provided that they still retain their meaning. Short hashtags are particularly important on Twitter where every post (known as a Tweet) has a 140-character limit. Shorter hashtags are also easier for people to recognize and remember.
- Avoid overly general terms, since these tend to be extremely competitive and do not provide enough focus on drawing in the right sort of followers.
- Stick to using no more than two hashtags in a single post. Ideally, you should only use one hashtag, since having your posts littered with notations is likely to irritate your viewers by being hard to read and digest.
In conclusion, ensure that your hashtags provide genuine value to their intended audience. You should also adopt a hashtag strategy for your entire social media marketing campaign rather than just focussing on a single network such as Twitter.