Photography / Tips and Solutions

17 Hashtag Tips for Pounding the Social Media Pavement

0Share

As we grow increasingly dependent on mobile devices in daily life, social media becomes more inextricably linked to mobile culture. Anyone steeped in such things undoubtedly knows that the primary device for tracking data through social media is the symbol commonly known as a pound sign (or octothorpe in the UK), placed directly in front of a keyword (or words). Entering such text on a social network will turn it into a metadata tag—or a unit of data that now goes by the ubiquitous moniker hashtag.

A Brief History of the Hashtag

According to the dictionary, the word "hash" is a variant of "hatch," which means "to inscribe with parallel lines," as in "hatchure" and "cross-hatch;" it derives from the Old French hacher, meaning to chop. Fast-forward to the early 1960s, when the # symbol was adopted by those in computing and telecommunications circles, and referred to as an octothorpe or a hash.

The invention of the hashtag is widely credited to former Google developer and Open Source advocate Chris Messina, through a message he sent via Twitter in August 2007. Reaching back to his use of Internet Relay Chat (IRC) in the late 1980s, Messina borrowed the format of a communication device, then called a channel, to combine the pound sign with descriptive text, enabling users to better search for content that would be relevant to their interests.

In October 2007, Messina encouraged Web developer Nate Ritter to include the tag #SanDiegoFire when tweeting updates on a series of forest fires plaguing that area, and the practice spread from there, particularly among citizen journalists. By July of 2009, Twitter had formally adopted the hashtag, and any word or phrase proceeded with a # became hyperlinked.

For social audiences, hashtags serve a major role in categorizing information based on a given topic or theme, helping users follow and track everything—from serious political events to the most banal topics of daily living. As a creator, hashtags are the building blocks that drive engagement with content, helping an individual to communicate with followers, and attract new audiences by making posts discoverable to other users through search.

One other point about the the # mark: This is not to be confused with the @ symbol, which has a completely different function. Using @ before a person’s social media handle will send a message to that person directly, letting them know you have written. A hashtag does not do this.

Hashtagging Dos and Don’ts

While hash-tagging social media posts is now widely accepted and practically routine, common occurrence does not go hand-in-hand with effective use. Considering this distinction, here are some tips on how to use hashtags properly, with a nod to the various platforms where they can be used.

1. Privacy Settings

For a hash-tagged post to appear in everyone's search, the post must be public. If your account is set to private, only your friends and/or followers who regularly see your posts will have access to your hashtags. Therefore, if you are using hashtags to increase your exposure, make sure your posts are set to Public.

2. No Punctuation

A hashtag must be written as a single word or short phrase, without punctuation or special characters. Numbers are acceptable in some cases, but periods, commas, exclamation points, and other forms of punctuation will not work. Similarly, special characters—such as $, %, *, +, etc—placed before, in-between, or directly following a hashtag will derail the tag, as well.

3. Making a Case for Numbers

Starting with or using only numbers in a hashtag will lead to failure, but including numbers can be helpful when referring to a recurring event. Add the year to whatever term will most likely be used on the search bar, such as #ABCconference2017.

4. Spaces Between Words

Do not put spaces between the words, since your hashtag will end at that juncture, as if being thrown off a cliff. To suggest visual separation between words, capitalize the first letter of each word instead.

5. Choose Your Words Wisely

A good hashtag is specific, direct, and relevant. Tailor your hashtags to the audience you’re trying to attract. The more targeted your audience, the more engaged they will be, and the better your content will be received. The hashtag should be interesting and important enough for people to join in right away.

6. Keep Your Hashtags Short and Sweet

Using hashtags that are too long or hard to read can confuse potential followers. Ideally, you should choose two to three short words that adequately define the topic. You can’t assume that people will automatically know the exact hashtag you’ve created, so using basic words will increase your visibility.

7. Avoid Generalities

You may think going broad with the use of hashtags will allow you to cast a wider net, but chances are that general terms will either not be searched, or your tweet will be lost in the shuffle.

8. Be Respectful

Using hashtags allow you to make an impression across a wide social media audience, far beyond your inner circle. Make sure you’re sharing the best content, and making the right impression.

9. Hashtags Can Be Used for Humor

The hashtag is the social media equivalent of the aside or rim shot. While this may not help you get found in social media, it can certainly show your personality and help engage (or repel) your audience.

10. Choose Multiple Hashtags with Care

You can use multiple hashtags in a single post, but using too many risks diluting your message or coming off as desperate. The recommended number differs by platform—Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post, but that is really overdoing it. Most resources suggest one to three hashtags as an acceptable range.

11. Consider Added Value

Following the advice above, be prudent about hash-tagging, and only use them when they add value to a post. Used too often, hashtags can be confusing, frustrating, and just plain annoying. Most important, avoid using the same hashtag twice in a post. It’s #redundant.

12. Don’t Be a Spammer

Avoid the temptation to use trending hashtags unrelated to the subject of your post. This is the worst form of spamming and could result in your account being blocked. Any type of off-message hashtag can be mistaken for spam, and will not help you gain followers.

13. Timing Your Hashtags

Be strategic in choosing the best times for sharing your content by determining when your target audience is likely on social media, and then add hashtags to your posts during these key periods. You can also use a hashtag analytics tool to gauge the response you get.

14. Repeating Hashtags

Let others know about non-trending hashtags by strategic repetition. More people will be interested to join if they are reminded about the topic.

15. Do Your Own Research

Visit the accounts of established users who address similar themes or influencers in your industry, and study their hashtag use by clicking through to monitor activity and observe any noticeable trends. This simple low-tech strategy may unearth hidden gems that don’t show up in searches using more standard tools.

16. Query Your Audience

Social media is meant to be interactive, therefore posting questions that allow you to engage with users can be a powerful tool. Responses to your question will also appear when users search for a given hashtag, which can extend your visibility even further.

17. Be Attentive to Your Followers

In addition to regularly providing good content, follow the lead of social media experts, who maintain a distinct personality that makes them easily approachable in the network. Respond to any questions or comments in a timely manner and communicate with your audience on a personal level.

Platform-Specific Hash-tagging Tips

While hashtags serve the same fundamental purpose of content tagging and discovery on all social networks, the recommended way to use hashtags does vary a bit by platform. To ensure maximum efficiency, it can be beneficial to research this before posting to a particular network.

Twitter

Twitter is the birthplace of modern hashtag usage. As such, its hashtags are more versatile than on other sites. On Twitter, hashtags are used to categorize content—tying the conversations of different users into one stream, thereby allowing you to find conversations to get involved in, or to start a conversation of your own.

Since Twitter is all about immediacy, current trending topics are a great way to engage and get exposure. Yet, with around 500 million tweets being sent out worldwide in a day, it is easier to get lost in the shuffle than to build a niche.

You can place a hashtag anywhere in a tweet, providing it fits within the established character limit. According to statistics, tweets with hashtags show twice the engagement as those without, with maximum engagement occurring if hashtags are limited to one or two.

Instagram

As a visually driven platform, Instagram hashtags are often more focused on a description of the content. And because there’s no easy method to share someone else’s post, hashtags are all about community-building, discovering content and finding users to follow, exposing you to a larger audience.

As noted earlier, Instagram allows users to add up to 30 hashtags per post. Contrary to Twitter, the more hashtags you use, the more engagement you see, a factor that maxes out at about 10. Since Instagram doesn’t provide a special field for hashtags, most users add them to the image caption before posting. However, since captions always remain displayed below your post, too many ​hashtags can disrupt the viewer's focus. Therefore, some users recommend posting photo or video content first and adding hashtags as a secondary comment. This allows you to refresh (or delete) the hashtags later. To add hashtags to a published post, tap the three dots in the top right corner of your screen and select Edit. You can also add hashtags by tapping the speech bubble under the photo and typing them in as a comment.

Facebook

A relative newcomer to hash-tagging, Facebook only added support for hashtags in June 2013. Nevertheless, users can include hashtags in posts and, as on Twitter, a Facebook hashtag ties the conversations of different users into one stream.

Unlike most other social networks, where people have public accounts, most people's Facebook posts and accounts are private. In such cases, the visibility of hashtags is limited to a user’s friends; they are not discoverable to the public. Because of this, most searchable hashtags belong to influencers or brands. If you want people other than your Facebook friends to be able to find your post, make sure it is public. To do this, click on the button to the right of "Post" and choose "Public" from the drop-down menu.

Tumblr

Unlike Instagram, Twitter,​ and even Facebook, which all allow users to add hashtags directly into posts, Tumblr has a specific “Tag” section for entering hashtags. They function like Twitter hashtags, organizing posts by topic, but the hash symbol is inserted automatically. Hashtags included in the main body of a post are not transformed into clickable links, so make sure to use the section dedicated for this purpose. If you post from Instagram to Tumblr, those hashtags become Tumblr tags, but they still keep the #Tag in the context of the post.

Pinterest

On Pinterest, hashtags are only clickable in pin descriptions, and are therefore most beneficial when targeted or related to branding. Also, hashtags are only clickable on the Web version of Pinterest; the mobile versions are unclickable.

Google+

When you start typing a hashtag on Google+, a dropdown menu suggests possible options using the letters you’ve typed so far. Click on the desired option to insert it as a hashtag. Up to three hashtags will show up in the upper right corner of the platform’s desktop version. If you don’t include hashtags but your post has sufficient text, Google+ automatically converts primary keywords into hashtags. Google+ also has an Explore tab, where a search for a given hashtag can extend to a list of up to 20 related tags, which can be searched for new connections and content ideas.

YouTube

YouTube began supporting hashtags in video searches in May 2016. The two places to add them are the title and description. If it seems overwhelming to add hashtags to all your existing videos, give your most important or most popular content a boost first, and then continue from there.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is one of the last major social networks to experiment with hashtags. Currently, you can add hashtags to the commentary about an article you post before publishing it, but these hashtags are only searchable on the LinkedIn mobile app. Also, once published, hashtags cannot be added to or edited.

Kickstarter

The world's largest funding platform for creative projects supports hash-tagging, making it easier for users to find projects that pique their interest or plans for investment.

Using Hashtags in the Real World

Although hashtags were created largely for online use, they can be just as effective as a marketing tool in real life. Contemporary marketing is about eliciting an emotional response through compelling storytelling. Hashtags are often used as a driver for this, even in platforms that do not typically support them. Placing hashtags in relevant and well-trafficked public locations, such as on posters, banners, stickers, and so on—or even in a photograph—can encourage people to search for this hashtag online, thus increasing the potential for a viral spread.

Speaking of hashtags, check out B&H Photo Video Pro Audio on our various social media platforms:

https://www.facebook.com/bhphoto/
https://twitter.com/BHPhotoVideo
https://www.instagram.com/bhphoto/
http://bandh.tumblr.com/
https://www.youtube.com/bandh

 Do you have any hashtag dos and don’ts to share? If so, please chime in with a comment, below.

Close

Close

Close