If you’re new to the whole hashtag concept it can be sort of intimidating, not to mention, confusing. You might feel like you’re not cool enough, or you might use the wrong hashtag. Well I’m here to guide you in the right direction of hashtag usage.
First, lets loosely define what a hashtag is. Hashtags are used to gain more exposure and categorize a topic or conversation. Think of it as strategically placing your tweet, post or picture in the digital world’s filing cabinet. Initially, you want to build your brand around a particular topic. Whether it’s industry related or purely brand, you want to create a place where all of the conversation comes together.
Don’t be afraid to join the conversation. That’s why hashtags are being used. Follow conversations, join Twitter parties and live Q&A’s. (Once you’ve got the hang of it, start your own party!) Using industry specific hashtags (like, #emailmarketing) will help you become more relevant to the right users, while creating unique brand hashtags (like, #leapSEO) will give your followers a way to start and follow the conversation.
Now that we know the purpose of hashtags, how in the world should they be used? Below are some universal best practices:
- No #s p a c e s or #punc-tuation…EVER!
- Hashtags are one word or a short phrase
- Make them obvious
- Make them meaningful
- Use them on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Instagram and Vine
Some advice from a Twitter developer, “Including more than two in a Tweet is probably overkill, and you only need to tag the most important word that represents the theme of your Tweet.”
Using hashtags is fun and exciting but it’s important to know that they are being used differently on each social network. For example, on Twitter (the initiator and leader in hashtags) they are very conversational and categorizing. Tweets with hashtags are twice as likely to be retweeted, which then reaches more people, who may decide to join the conversation and follow you. There are endless ways to engage your audience on Twitter using hashtags.
Facebook introduced hashtags in June, but it seems like the primary audience is having a hard time grasping hashtags. Which is not necessarily their fault. Most brands haven’t guided them in the right direction to use hashtags in correlation to their posts. There is a problem with not being able to use hashtags in comments. You don’t want a user to be able to hijack someone’s post by adding a hashtag but then you miss out on the rest of the conversation by not adding those comments in with the hashtag. Private users will need to make their posts public in order for their hashtags to be seen universally, which brings concerns about privacy. On top of user concerns, there are a few other flops in the concept for Facebook. Posts that have hashtags are not chronologically ordered which makes the topic/conversation hard to follow. There are no trending topics for users to know what to talk about. (Twitter informs users of hot topics in their Trends section). Lastly, Hashtags are not clickable from mobile devices, which is a huge problem.
For all of you who don’t know, or just don’t use yours, Google Plus has implemented hashtags. This is a good thing, considering having a Google+ account is crucial to SEO and social search. Google picks a relevant topic and adds related hashtags to your posts. How nice of them! Don’t worry, you can remove these manually if you don’t like them (but honestly, they aren’t doing any harm). The bold hashtags in posts have been typed in by the user. The hastags in the upper right hand corner of a post are the related hashtags Google adds for you.
There’s one more social network I want to point out. Instagram. Instagram users use hashtags to generally gain followers. Most do not care how many hashtags they use or how simple they are (example: #photo #pink #hashtag). Hashtags on Instagram tend to be more fun and not as criticized as they are on Twitter. With that being said, use Instagram to experiment with hashtags and get used to them.
Have fun and don’t forget hashtags should be strategic and have meaning.
If you have any questions for LEAP, tweet us @LEAPagency
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