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Hashtags On Everyday Social Media

It’s probably not a stretch to assume that most people are familiar with the basic idea of hashtags. But knowing of a concept is certainly not the same as understanding it. As such, it’s important to set the record straight regarding how to use hashtags properly, respective of the platform in which they’re used.

From a user standpoint, hashtags are used to categorize content, making the discovery of new or related articles and insights easy to do. Therefore, when hashtags are used incorrectly, people looking for new content have to dig through irrelevant, miscategorized content in order to get to what they’re actually looking for. You don’t want this bad user experience associated with your brand!

Categorization aside, when used inappropriately, hashtags can have a negative impact on your engagement.
Whenever a user adds a hashtag to their post, it’s able to be indexed by the social network and becomes searchable/discoverable by other users. Once someone clicks on that hashtag, they’ll be brought to a page that aggregates all of the posts with the same hashtags, in real-time.

Once a keyword picks up enough momentum, it becomes “trending.” But trending isn’t always a matter of becoming the most popular hashtag on the networks. Each user’s trending topics are unique, based on their location, social connections and interests.

Though each network has its own way of displaying posts under a certain hashtag, and their own algorithms for specifying trending content, these rules tend to hold true in general across each social channel.

The first use of a hashtag in social media can be traced back to one man. Chris Messina is a former Google employee who worked in developer relations and as a designer on Google+. He’s been officially credited as the first person who tweeted using a hashtag. This famous tweet happened back in 2007, so it took awhile for the practice to catch on.

Using a hashtag on a social post is really as simple as adding the # sign before a single word or phrase, without spaces or punctuation. You can also include numbers in your hashtags as well. Typing out a hashtag is simple enough, but there are some subtle nuances you should learn to get the most out of them.

Hashtag Basics

Here are a few quick rules for how to use hashtags:

  • If you’re using hashtags for their intended purpose (categorization and discovery), don’t string too many words together with a single hashtag.
  • On most networks, if you use a hashtag on a public account, anyone who does a search for that hashtag can find your post.
  • Don’t #spam #with #hashtags. Avoid over-tagging a single post or adding them to every word.
  • Tweets with hashtags had 2 times more engagement than those without, and 55% more Retweets.
  • Use hashtags only on Tweets relevant to the topic. Trying to get attention by using a mismatch between the content of your Tweet and hashtag use won’t do you any favors if people are annoyed.

Don’t underestimate the power of understanding how to use hashtags to join in on conversations, such as:

  • Events and conferences (#WorldCup)
  • Holidays or celebrations #WorldPizzaDay)
  • Popular culture topics (#GameofThrones)
  • Popular hashtags for days of the week (#TBT)
  • General interest topics (#blogging)

While jumping in on trending conversations is recommended, be careful to tread lightly—especially when using a brand account to respond to a disaster. People have mixed feelings in terms of how a company should show their support for disaster victims. As a general rule, whatever you do, don’t use these types of conversations as a blatant sales opportunity.

How to Use Facebook Hashtags

Unlike Twitter or Instagram where most users’ profiles are public, Facebook users have private profiles. Thus, the hashtags most people use on their posts are not discoverable to the public and are therefore limited to the people they know. Because of this, most public hashtags belong to influencers or brands.

Here’s how to discover hashtags and related content on Facebook:

  • Click on a hashtag to see related posts
  • Search using the search bar. Hashtags on Facebook previously were not recognized, but now they are.

If you use hashtags on Facebook, keep it to 1-2 hashtags per post per the study we mentioned earlier. It’s also worth noting that hashtags with 10+ characters receive good engagement.

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