The hashtag has changed the way we use social media. It makes specific topics searchable and lets you determine what’s trending and viral. For brands, it allows for greater visibility and improved engagement.
Responsible and proper hashtagging is key to social media success. There are 6 unspoken rules in using hashtags in Twitter and Instagram. But first, let’s start with defining what a hashtag is and find out how it works:
How Hashtags Work
In 2007, social technology expert Chris Messina tried to provide a solution to a cluttered and crowded online environment. He made the hashtag on twitter so users can easily search, follow, and contribute in a thread. With a hashtag, conversations regarding a topic is put in one place or thread. He was named the father of the hashtag for such a simple and straightforward concept.
The basic purpose of a hashtag is to grid a thread and keep a conversation or topic in one place, make it discoverable, and enable users to engage on a certain topic. But it has a lot of benefits for business. Brands can use it to spark a thread in the hopes of making it viral, engage more consumers, and increase brand visibility and recall.
Since hashtags put your topic and thread in one place, you can use it to gather actionable insights about how impactful, engaging, and far reaching your tweets are. Aside from checking your likes, comments, and retweets, you can also measure your social media engagement by tracking your hashtag with an analytics tool.
Hashtags are currently used by individuals and organizations to:
Promote a cause: #standuptocancer #PrayforParis
Talk about an event: #Rio2016
Celebrate a holiday or special day: #PeanutButterDay
Promote a brand campaign: #justdoit, #MyJobasaMovieScreenshot
To use a hashtag for your organization, make sure you follow these 6 simple rules:
6 Simple Rules in Using a Hashtag
1. Don’t be Afraid
Don’t be afraid to use hashtags in your tweets and Instagram posts. About 75% of users use them and it’s proven that posts with relevant hashtags earn double the engagement and 55% more retweets. Hashtags also help make your posts stand out (the text is blue-colored in tweets and is bold on Instagram).
2. Don’t Overuse
Hashtags are great but know when to limit its use. This applies for both tweets and Instagram posts. A rule of thumb is to use no more than 3 hashtags, so make sure they count!
3. Don’t Put Too Many Words Together
Remember that you can’t put character spaces in hashtags. A hashtag that’s too wordy can be hard to read or misleading (e.g. #susanalbumparty used for Susan Boyle’s album party). Its main purpose is to make it easy for users to discover and connect with a topic. Choose the right words and try to make it simple and memorable.
4. Be Specific When Using Hashtags
Keep your audience in mind and be specific when using hashtags. Specific hashtags will help you target niche markets through your tweets and Instagram posts. To connect with particular consumers, utilize the hashtags they use.
For example: You’re a film camera distributor in Manila. Instead of using a generic hashtag like #filmcamera, use #35mmcamera, #russiancamera, #TLR, or #mediumformat.
5. Hashtag Research
Like keyword research for content marketing, hashtag research is also important for brands on social media. This is especially important when you want to leverage non-branded hashtags like the examples given in rule #4. Hashtag research tools enable you to identify growing hashtags relevant to your content, top influencers in a niche, and important data like viewership and engagement.
6. Be Smart in Using Branded Hashtags
When using or coming up with a branded hashtag, try not to hard sell by including your brand name. The best branded hashtag should not read like a marketing campaign. Avoid sounding like an ad; let users have fun with the hashtag like what RedBull did in their 2015 #PutACanOnIt campaign.
If you find this article helpful, you might also want to read our guide to creating your Social Media Style Guide.
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