There’s something scary about words that come after this symbol ‘#’ especially since a lot of us grew up calling that symbol a “pound” or “number” sign. When I talk to clients about social media marketing, one of the most frequently asked questions I get is “what is a hashtag and why do I need to use it?”
Hashtags can be a very powerful social media strategy tool for businesses and this article outlines how you can use them correctly.
So if you’ve ever been puzzled about hashtags and want to know how to leverage them, then this article is for you.
What is a hashtag and what does it do?
The definition of a hashtag is: A word or phrase preceded by a hash mark (#), used in social media to identify a keyword or topic of interest that can later be searched.
Simply put, a hashtag is a way for people to search on social media sites for specific tweets, or posts, that have a common topic.
For instance, if you wanted to search Twitter for all the posts or tweets about Houston, then you could search #houston. If you are a small business in Houston, then you could search for #smallbiz #houston.
These #words help users find people, topics, conversations or businesses they are interested in.
But before you start creating your own hashtags, let’s look at how to use them correctly.
How should you use a hashtag?
It’s important to know that there are certain “social norms” to consider when using a hashtag.
- Use only a max of three hashtags or your post could come across as spammy (like a “used car salesman”). Twitter even warns users that adding hashtags to unrelated tweets without adding value to a conversation, could cause an account to be suspended.
- Your hashtag needs to be relevant so take time to research a hashtag before you create it. Download this free ebook for help on researching a hashtag.
- Make sure your post or tweet that contains your hashtag will encourage conversation and engagement. Your post should feel natural to the other posts that are also using that hashtag.
- Remember english grammar rules are gone. Don’t add spaces or punctuation in a hashtag or it will break and not work.
- Add a hashtag anywhere in a sentence, it doesn’t have to come at the end. For example: What a beautiful #bluesky I’m looking at today. #mothernature #houston
Creative ways to use hashtags
Use hashtags to enhance your online personality without adding a lot of words to a post or tweet. Here are some ideas that you can use to get the creative juices flowing:
- Add context. Use a hashtag to informally express context around a post. Example: “Guys…I think I have a skittles hangover. #Sugar #Headache”
- Emotion. Express personal feelings and emotions using hashtags. For example: “If the quotes don’t fit your ideology, change the quotes – George Orwell #sarcasm #fakequote” in which the hashtags are adjectives directly indicating the emotions of the writer.
- Disclaimers. It can also be used as a disclaimer of the information that the hashtag accompanies, as in, “BREAKING: Houston highway construction finally done! #kidding”. In this case, the hashtag provides an essential piece of information that alters the meaning of the post.
- Become relatable. Laugh at yourself and become relatable, see this example: “Why I love #PureBarre: every time I think I kill a set, the next set kills me. #LessonInHumility”
Examples of Hashtags
Chloe Sladden, who was Twitter’s director of media partnerships, identified two types of ways that TV shows use hashtags and inspire trends:
- Hashtags about a TV series (i.e. ##GameOfThrones)
- “Temporary” hashtags that are created by live TV shows or celebrities that get audiences to respond and engage during a show.
Jimmy Fallon has a great example of a trending “temporary” hashtag that he leverages during The Tonight Show. Every Wednesday, Fallon hosts a segment on his show called “Tonight Show Hashtags,” which invites his audience to tweet humorous stories on Twitter. He has created temporary hashtags like:
All which encourage people to share and reflect on funny life experiences.
I hope this article eliminated the confusion around hashtags and now you feel comfortable enough to use it in your next social media post.
Remember that research is key when you use a hashtag. Download my free guide and learn about the four free tools I found that help you find great hashtags to use on your next post or tweet.
Let me know if you feel a little more confident about using hashtags in your next post or tweet by leaving me a comment below.