It’s hard to believe that anyone alive in 2015 hasn’t seen a hashtag (#) or does not know what they are and how they work. But, in case you’ve had your head in the sand for the past five years, a hashtag first became a practice for Twitter posts in 2009-2010 when Twitter began to hyperlink hashtags in tweets to Twitter search results.
Over the past few years, hashtag use has expanded beyond Twitter to bloggers and to other social media sites, as well, including Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Vine.
What’s a hashtag?
A simple definition of a hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic…and linked to a dynamic feed within the social network where it is posted.
According to an article in Adweek SocialTimes, many new users have a love-hate relationship with hashtags. “When you start out on Twitter, you hate them—they’re confusing, overused, and they look funny. But as you become more comfortable with tweeting, you begin to realize that they are actually quite useful—they connect you to vast and varied communities you would otherwise never have discovered.”
If you’re interested at all in hashtags, you’ll especially appreciate this wonderful infographic, The Ultimate Guide to Hashtags.
How to use hashtags to share posts
Facebook tells us that, “Hashtags turn topics and phrases into clickable links in your posts on your personal Timeline or Page. This helps people find posts about topics they’re interested in. To make a hashtag, write # (the number sign) along with a topic or phrase and add it to your post.”
When you click a hashtag on Facebook, you’ll see a feed of posts that include that hashtag. You may also see some related hashtags at the top of the page. This social media site tells you to keep in mind that:
- A hashtag must be written as a single word, without any spaces
- You can include numbers in a hashtag, but punctuation and special characters (like $ and %) won’t work
- Capital letters don’t matter in searches (but they improve readability)
- Plurals do matter
- Don’t bother with “-” in hashtags
- Misspelling changes everything (for example, “startup” = about startup companies; “startip” = a star tip on something random)
- Variations on grammar produce different results (an example: “cook” vs. “cooking” vs. “cooked” vs. “cooker”)
- You can search for a hashtag using the search bar at the top of any page
- You’ll only see posts that were shared with you
Hashtags help get (and keep) people talking
With billions of posts and tweets, hashtags separate your message from all the noise and chatter and connect you to your prospects, clients or customers many, many ways, including helping you to:
- Engage people with your brand
- Create a discussion
- Encourage event participants to live tweet
- Host aTwitter chat
- Conduct an online Q&A
- Promote a product launch
- Show support for a charity or cause
- Track performance across social media
It’s easy to create a hashtag
- You want your hashtag to represent your brand and the way you will be using it—but you also want it to be short and sweet. Come up with a list of several potential hashtags that could be used, based on your business, event, etc. The hashtag(s) you select should be unique and fit with your objectives.
- Next, check to see that your ideal hashtag isn’t already in use. Since you’re looking to create a community (and buzz!) around your hashtag, you want to start fresh—you don’t want to invade on another community’s space. (Twitter’s search helps you see if and when your hashtag has ever been used.)
- Your hashtag is going to be pretty quiet if no one knows about it! Tell your ideal community—your followers, customers, your business connections— that the hashtag exists, and let them know how you will be using it. (Use whatever promotional tools are available to you, such as an email blast, a blog post, and signage in your store.)
- As soon as people know about your hashtag, it’s time to use it, use it, use it. Make sure you monitor the chatter, and chime in whenever it makes sense. And be sure to use a tracking tool to check effectiveness.
Hashtags and brand engagement
Few companies use hashtags for brand engagement (or don’t know how to do it right). If you learn the ins-and-outs of hashtags, you can help your own brand soar.
According to Fortune, it’s critical to keep in mind that, “Hashtags should be used less as a message and more as a call to action if you want to lead to greater brand engagement.” A terrific example is Coke’s #MakeItHappy hashtag in its Super Bowl commercial and online earlier this year.
Like others who use hashtags to successfully promote brands, Coke’s hashtag led to brand exposure and engagement, and showed how hashtags can:
- Prompt virality
- Cultivate a following
- Help marketers ride the wave of a movement
Did you know that tweets with hashtags create twice as much engagement (including clicks, retweets, favorites and replies) as tweets without them? Or that there are different rules for hashtags on Facebook and Twitter than on Instagram? We do! And the pros at Solamar can help you use hashtags effectively on a wide variety of social media. Talk to us…we’ve got the hashtag know-how to create the buzz and conversations you want time after time.