Digital Marketing Explained – What Are Hashtags and When Should I Use Them?

It all started with Twitter and now hashtags are widely used across social media. But what are they and how do you use them improve your visibility online? In this blog, we give you the #lowdown and some tips on how to use Hashtags to amplify your social media impact.

What is a Hashtag?

A hashtag is a keyword or phrase written without spaces or punctuation and preceded with the #sign.

Hashtags are now used across social network platforms to group content together and sometimes as a funny comment or summary after a tweet or post. Used primarily on Twitter but also on Instagram, Flickr, Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook, hashtags are a bit like little search engines. When you type in a hashtag on Twitter, you can search for all the content related to that topic (using that hashtag). If you click on a hashtagged word in Twitter you can see other messages that include that hashtag. On Instagram, you can actually follow a hashtag that interests you in a similar way to following a friend.

Who invented them?

Chris Messina, an American technology evangelist chose the # symbol (because it was easy to use on his Nokia phone) back 2007, as a way for people to search for content and find specific relevant updates. The practice then took off during the 2007 San Diego Forest Fires with the hashtag #sandiegofire. This grouped the news and updates and made it easier for news organisations and people to find and distribute new information. Two years later Twitter began to hyperlink hashtags so that users could search for topics. And now hashtags are added almost everywhere.

Hashtag examples

  • #metoo – The #metoo hashtag became a way for me and women to share stories of harassment and abuse. Between October and December 2017, the hashtag was used on Twitter and Facebook more than six million times.
  • #Covfefe – It started with a typo in a tweet by President Trump but within 24 hours the hashtag #covfefe had been used 1.4 million times
  • #gameofthrones – for fans of the show, this hashtag brings together everything from fancy dress, images of actors or news on the show.
  • Hashtags can relate to almost anything such as #eatinggreen, #melbournecup #doglife or a celebrity figure.

And speaking of celebrity… Here is Jimmy Fallon talking ‘hashtags' with Justin Timberlake!

Using Hashtags on Social Media

Joking aside, Hashtags can actually broaden your reach online and help increase the chance of people finding you. Bear in mind the more popular the hashtag, the harder it will be to gain visibility though. Let’s look at how some ideas for how to make the most of Hashtags for your social media activity:

Research – Look at what your audience is interested in, trending topics and what hashtags your competitors or key influencers in your industry are using in their posts. On Twitter, you can see what is trending under Trends for you on the left of your Twitter feed. You can also use tools like Hashtagify.me to find and analyse the popularity of hashtags on Twitter and Instagram, plus related terms.

Create your own – Hashtags are created by users. You can create a hashtag for your brand or for the advisory niche you specialise in. When you use this regularly, it can help people find other content written by you e.g. #bomamarketingtips

Add to your profile

Instagram user-generated content campaigns – Hashtags are a great way for attendees at an event to share images and commentary e.g. #xerocon

Follow some basic rules:

Don’t overdo it – Results in a study by Agorapulse showed that Instagram posts with hashtags receive 70% more likes. But you don’t need to add hundreds to each post. Start with a couple and follow the tips below.

Do some research – It's worthwhile spending a minute or two to find out the popularity of your hashtag and check that the existing use relates to your topic and not something totally different.

Keep it readable – Short and easy to read will have more impact and be more memorable. For longer hashtags, you can make the first letter of each word a capital letter in order to #MakeItMoreReadable

Make sure they are relevant to the topic – Loading your tweet or post up with random irrelevant hashtags looks like spam. Keep to the topic to add value.

Strike a balance between broad and specific  – Go for hashtags that are specific to your industry and you will have a higher chance of being seen by a more relevant audience.

 

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