If you’ve spent much time on social media, be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., you’ve probably seen this symbol thrown around: #. Sometimes with #words or #evenwholephrases. These are hashtags. And whatever you do, don’t call them “pound signs.”
Hashtags originated in the chat client IRC, which was a popular chat room and forum program in the early days of social media. They made their way over to Twitter, and spread from there. At their most basic, hashtags are tools for organizing and searching topics and discussions. Now, they are used for everything from major ad campaigns, to social and political movements, to finding all the pictures from Mark and Laura’s wedding. Hashtags also can – and should – be a crucial part of your approach to social media marketing.
Here are some tips and strategies on how to use hashtags effectively, as well as some pitfalls to avoid:
Keep It Simple
Let’s start with some basics. Remember how on Twitter you have a limit of 140 characters? Well, your hashtags count as part of that character limit. Besides that, you want your tags to be easy to read, and easy to remember. So, keep them short and sweet.
Point of etiquette: Hashtags don’t contain any spaces or punctuation. Capitalization doesn’t make a difference. However, capitalizing words can be helpful in making a tag readable if it might otherwise be confusing, so don’t shy away if you think it’s necessary. But don’t go around hashtagging with your caps lock on either.
Brands and Campaigns
The hashtags you come up with yourself are going to be linked either to your brand, or to a specific campaign you are running. Your brand hashtag can be your company name, but doesn’t have to be. It should, however, be closely related and relevant, and once you establish a hashtag you should keep it consistent across all branding and social media.
Each new campaign should have its own unique hashtag – “unique” being the operative word. If you come up with a hashtag you love, but somebody else has already used it for something else… well, it’s not going to be very useful to you, is it? When choosing a hashtag for a campaign, you need something that is going to be simple and memorable that people will associate ONLY with your campaign.
Brand and campaign tags are also a great way to engage with your community on social media. Make sure you are tracking the tags you generate, responding to questions that get asked, and re-posting and liking content posted by your followers.
On Twitter, they are on the left-hand side of the screen. On Facebook they are on the right. “Trends” can come and go quickly (as in, a matter of minutes), but if you spot one that relates to your business, you need to jump on it. If a topic or hashtag is trending, that means thousands or hundreds of thousands of eyeballs are going to be searching it. If your business has relevant content for one of these trending topics, it can be a great way to expose your business to a new audience.
Point of etiquette: Don’t post on every trending hashtag. Your content isn’t going to be relevant to all the trends. Spamming trends is both annoying, and dangerous, as it can lead to a ban from Twitter.
Another way to use hashtags is to find popular tags that aren’t necessarily trending, but are specific to what your company makes or does. Does your company make widgets? Make sure you tag your posts with #widgets. These kinds of tags can also be great for specific events and locations like #lakemichigan or #Lollapalooza. Product, event and location hashtags are a great way to boost SEO and allow people to find your posts.
Point of etiquette: Don’t go overboard with hashtags on a single post. One or two is probably enough. When people start throwing five or six hashtags onto a two-word tweet, that gets pretty annoying and will turn people off.
Need help managing your social media? Hit us up to strategize around your specific business needs.