hashtag. noun. A word or phrase preceded by a hash sign (#), used on social media websites and applications, to identify messages on a specific topic.
The humble hashtag; it’s not a new concept by any means, however it’s fair to assume that many individuals and brands are still unfamiliar with how they work (or at least, how to use them effectively). Since 2010, the term ‘hashtag’ has been included in the Oxford dictionary, and it was even added to the Scrabble dictionary in 2014 (so if you needed any confirmation that it’s here to stay, that should do it. Scrabble is gospel, after all).
What is a hashtag?
In essence, hashtags are words preceded with the hash sign (#) that you’ve likely seen littered on your favourite social networks. These are used in posts so that the word, and indeed the entire post, then becomes discoverable by other users actively searching that hashtag.
Twitter is a great website to see what’s currently ‘trending’, which is what happens when a hashtagged word is posted many times, in a short space of time. Often, these will be linked with live news, events, national days, or simply a day-of-the-week hashtag - #MondayMotivation – but more on that later.
When should I use a hashtag?
Hashtags can be a great tool to get your post out to a specific audience, and shows your content to this group of users who may not even be following you. For example, if you have shared some news or a blog on your website that you want others to read, you can hashtag #blog or #news, which will then show to users searching for these terms.
There are also day-of-the-week hashtags that you can jump on, for example you might want to post that blog on a Sunday to make use of #SundayBlogShare.
Most of the time, if you’re posting about it – they’ll be a hashtag for it, especially from a networking perspective as most business events, shows, or conferences will have their own curated hashtag.
Building a brand
Whether you’re well established or just starting out, using your own branded hashtag can engage your users, and encourages your customers to reference your brand in their own social content. This can be your company name, or a snappy slogan, or your latest product. But choose wisely – it’s something you’re going to need to use consistently for it to catch on, and it needs to be recognisable to your brand.
And use something that’s lowercase appropriate – nobody needs a rerun of the #susanalbumparty debacle of 2012…
Now for The Don’ts
· Don’t over hashtag. This can look spammy, and put your audience off.
· Don’t hashtag irrelevant terms. This too can look like you are just trying to get your content shown by any means possible, and it can lose its meaning. 1-2 hashtags per post is more than enough on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn (however on Instagram, you do have more freedom – as this is a very hashtag driven platform – so feel free to add in some more on this platform).
· Don’t include punctuation. As much as your inner grammar police voice may protest, these can break your hashtag, so always omit commas and apostrophes when using a hashtag.