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#Hashtag Do’s and Don’ts

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You’ve seen it. You know of it. You’ve most likely used it. But how much do you really know about it?

A hashtag is most commonly seen and used in social media. It’s when you use a hash character or pound sign (#) in front of a word or unspaced phrase – #LikeSo. It’s a type of label or metadata tag used to make it easier for users to find content with a specific theme or topic. It’s regularly used within the main text or at the end of a post. On many social media sites – like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+ – hashtags are clickable or searchable.

The pound sign, hashtag’s older brother, was first used in the late 1990s on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) to categorize items into groups. It wasn’t until August 2007 that the first official hashtag was used on Twitter by Chris Messina. He tweeted:

Tweet_Chris Messina

Since then, hashtags spread like wildfire. And we do mean literally, wildfire. In October 2007, Nate Ritter used the hashtag to spread the word about the San Diego wildfire. He tweeted:

Twitter social media popular hashtags

This popularized the use of hashtags. Because of its widespread use, ‘hashtag’ became an official word in June 2014 when it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Why is it such a big deal? Well, it’s important to your brand because using hashtags make you relevant. Nowadays, many advertising campaigns use hashtags as a call to action to integrate offline with online ad campaigns. Hashtags let you start, track, or join a conversation about your brand or campaign. This increases your brand awareness and encourages a sense of community. And, let’s admit, it’s what all the cool kids are doing these days ;-).

So how do you use them? Considering hashtags have been around for about a decade, which in digital years equates to a lifetime, people have developed common practices for it. We’ve come up with our own list of do’s and don’ts to help you maximize that hashtag effect for your brand.

Hashtag Do’s:

1. Research. Because knowing is half the battle. It’s important to do some research about the hashtags you’re planning to use before you actually use them. Look at the current content and conversations about that hashtag. Decide whether it’s relevant to your brand or campaign. Learn how those hashtags are being used. Luckily for you, there are some tools available online that can help you with your research: What The Trend, Twitonomy, Rite Tag, Hashtagify.me, RebelMouse, Tagboard, and Hashtracking to name a few.

2. Use keywords. A little more research never hurt anyone. Find key industry terms that are related to your brand. Your target market may already be using those terms as hashtags. Making your brand a part of those conversations is smart thinking.

3. Create your own hashtag. Having a unique hashtag for your brand name, specific campaign, or event can help you stand out. Just make sure it’s simple enough to remember and unique enough to be distinct so that people actually use it in their posts.

4. Keep it short. The best hashtags are short and simple. Anything more than 2-3 words long is too complicated and forgettable. Case in point: #TryRememberingThisAtTheEndOfYourWorkDay. Longer hashtags are not only harder to read, they’re also harder to share. Besides, you don’t want to give up a large chunk of your prime 140-character Twitter real estate for just one hashtag.

5. Capitalize. It can get confusing #whenyoureadabunchofuncapitalizedwordsinarow. Capitalizing each word can also help get your message across clearer. You don’t want someone reading #therapistwanted as #TheRapistWanted instead of #TherapistWanted now would you? #BetterCapitalize.

6. Camouflage. Use hashtags within your post or message. This allows you to maximize character space.

7. Be mindful. Each social media site has its own hashtag etiquette, so familiarize yourself with each site’s protocol to participate in the conversations accordingly. Twitter hashtags tend to be on current events and conversations. Instagram hashtags are more situational and descriptive.

Hashtag Don’ts:

1. Use spaces and punctuation marks. When you type #Like This instead of #LikeThis, social media networks will only recognize the first word. You can’t use punctuation marks but you can use numbers as long as they are accompanied by text. This means no to #4 ever but yes to #4ever.

2. Use @. Hashtags aren’t designed to enable user tagging. When you combine a hashtag with the ‘at’ symbol and user name, you are simply tagging the user.

3. Hashtag every word or use too many hashtags. #When #you #hashtag #every #word #or #use #too #many #hashtags #it #is #not #just #overwhelming #to #read #it #can #also #dilute #your #message #and #turn #off #your #readers. Just because Instagram allows you to use 30 hashtags doesn’t mean you should use all 30. One to three hashtags per post is optimal.

4. Spam. Don’t join the bandwagon of individuals, brands, and websites that use popular hashtags just for the sake of it without any context. You may think that the more hashtags you use, the easier it will be for people to find you. But this plan can also backfire. Instagram once did a clean sweep of all accounts that seemed to be linked with spam. Those same individuals, brands, and websites lost hundreds of thousands of followers.

When properly used, hashtags can truly increase your brand engagement and improve your social media marketing. Here’s some food for thought:

  • Tweets containing hashtags get twice more engagement than tweets without hashtags.
  • Tweets with 1-2 hashtags get 21% more engagement. Using more than two hashtags decreases engagement by 17%.
  • 25% of tweets get retweeted. 40% of tweets that include hashtags get retweeted.
  • Users are 55% more likely to retweet something with at least one hashtag.

Need help developing your social media marketing campaign? Eden’s digital marketing team can help you plan a successful social media strategy. Contact us today!

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