(Welcome To) The Fabulous World of Hashtags

#It #Is #Not #That #Hard #To #Use #Them #Properly!

by Cristina Juesas.

Hashtags have become a norm when classifying any social media content. No matter the network, hashtags work everywhere, and are very useful when it comes, for instance, to broadcasting a live event — regardless of type — or when managing social campaigns. It’s a way for users to organize content, and a good way to look for information on any given topic. However, uses people give to hashtags are not the same among the different social media; every network has its own language.

Pic by David Michael Chandler.

Do you remember when you were younger, you used to classify your movies and music by genre; rom-com, action, drama, pop, rock, whatever.

With hashtags it’s the same thing. Some things might have a couple of hashtags (like rock-pop, or indie-rock, or rom-com), but not more (there’s only one exception to this, and we will see it later.)

Regardless of the network, there are a couple of universal rules that we need to follow if we want to succeed with our hashtags. Success, in this case, implies being relevant to the content we are posting, to get users involved with our things.

So apart from the number of hashtags per post, here are some nice rules to follow:

  • Remain short: #hyperlonghashtagsjustdontwork. They are good for a joke. Period.
  • In case you need it long, capitalize words to make it more readable: #ItsMuchBetterThisWay
  • Check spelling. We’ve all seen hashtags with big typos becoming trending topics — #PistoriusTrial is not the same as #PistoriusTrail.
  • Try to avoid generic hashtags. If they are too generic, they’ll get lost in a huge amount of information. So instead of #marketing, try #digitalmarketing or #inboundmarketing, or #contentmarketing.

Again, keep in mind that uses for hashtags are not the same in every network. It’s not complicated, you just have to take a look around and see what you like according to what others are doing. There’s also a lot of literature on hashtag best practices and on tricks to stand out. Read everything, but don’t trust all you read, don’t be scared to test what works best for you.

Here are my recommendations:

Facebook: Don’t waste your time.

Although Facebook allows hashtags, nobody really uses them, at least considering their original purpose. Use them to emphasize what you’re saying, or to make a joke, but if you’re looking to improve the engagement of your posts, using hashtags won’t make it happen. And never use more than a couple of them in a post.

Pinterest: Go ahead!

As with any other visual social network — and remember Pinterest is mainly about pictures or infographics — hashtags not only allow you classify your content, but they serve to help others find you. Begin from generic and scale to specific; e.g. #lighthouse #ogunquit #maine #shore #mist #sunset #orange #clouds… whatever.

Google +: automated hashtags.

Even when you don’t add a hashtag, Google+ adds it for you, so you better pay attention, change it if you need to, and adapt it to your interests. These hashtags will help your posts get found when someone Googles the topic, as they are indexed in Google.

Twitter: Use with caution!

The platform where it all began is a good place to use hashtags. Tweets with a hashtag receive double the engagement than those without. But, you need to remember a tweet is limited to 140 characters and hashtags make the reading difficult, so apart from the rules above, you should keep it to two or fewer per tweet. Use them in your campaigns, use them in events, and enjoy diving into daily trending topics. However, be cautious because the caveat here is to carefully read what a trending topic is about before forcing a tweet on it; doing so can lead to a communications crisis.

Instagram: Open bar!

The more, the merrier! Tag your pics as if there were no tomorrow. Instagram users have less concern for using multiple hashtags in a post, so take advantage of it whenever you can. A sunset? Great! #sunset #sunsets #sunsetporn #sunset_sky #sunset_hub #sunsetlovers #sunsetting #sunsetpics #sunsethunter #sunset_stream #sunset_madness #sunsets_oftheworld #sunsets_captures #sunsetpics… Some hashtags belong to community hubs and are required to qualify for being regrammed to their hubs.

Another important thing to highlight is that hashtags have the same uses globally, so don’t be scared when addressing an international audience. Sometimes you’ll find some strange acronyms around (e.g. #yolo, #tbt, etc); they have their particular uses. If you have any doubts, don’t hesitate to look for their meanings somewhere before you do something you might regret.

And… er, please, although the trend is not that popular anymore, try to avoid using hashtags in your headings and titles. It’s very annoying. Thank you.