If you’ve ever used social media, or even the internet for that matter, you’ve likely seen hashtags. Whether you knew what they were or you just passed them by, it’s important to understand them so that you can maximize your social media presence. Though sharing your content on social media is great, including hashtags can exponentially increase your post’s reach. Even better is knowing the ideal number of hashtags to use to optimize your social shares. Here’s a bit about the hashtag, and all the basics you need to know to use it.
What is a Hashtag?
A hashtag is a word used to describe or categorize a post, and is written after the pound sign (#), which is usually considered the hashtag symbol (in millennial speak). Hashtags are used on social networking sites like Twitter and Instagram, and are clickable and searchable so that you can view all of the posts that are associated with that hashtag. The practice of hashtagging began in 2007 on Twitter and has taken off since then across many different platforms.
How do you Hashtag?
When you write a post and are sharing it, think about what the post is related to. If a person searches for a certain hashtag related to your post, you want them to find it. Most of my tweets are hashtagged with things like #blog #wordpress #write #blogger #business, and things like that. You also want to look at what hashtags get you the most traffic and shares. I’ve noticed that when I hashtag something with WordPress, numerous WordPress geared accounts retweet my content, which is good! Tagboard is a great way to see what other people are hashtagging in your niche across a number of different platforms.
People use hashtags to discuss popular issues online, brands use hashtags to gather their readers and clients into one online area, and people use hashtags to categorize their posts. Some people even use hashtags ironically these days, by hashtagging full sentences or phrases to comment on their posts. For the most part, you want to keep your hashtags short and sweet, and make them something that others would also want to use. You can use multiple words in a single hashtag by capitalizing every word like #BestDayEver rather than adding spaces (which will break the hashtag).
Twitter is where hashtags are born, so it’s what most people associate them with. Since Twitter messages are limited to 140 characters, the hashtags you use have to be limited and strategic. It’s common practice to add hashtags at the end of a tweet, but also to add them within the tweet, for example: “On the #blog today we’re talking all about #hashtags and how to use them.” Twitter also shows a list of trending hashtags on your homepage which is a great way to see what is going on in the Twittersphere, so that you can tweet relevant content.
Research shows 1-2 hashtags is optimal.
Facebook added the ability to hashtag in 2013, but it still really hasn’t taken off. Since Facebook is more of a personal social network that doesn’t extend beyond people you know (unless your a business or brand) hashtags are really unnecessary. Even so, you can click on a hashtag on Facebook to see the same kind of list of all the tagged posts.
Research shows 0-2 hashtags is optimal.
Instagram is another platform where hashtags are really popular. But since Instagram photo captions are not limited in length, people often use more hashtags, and place them after the caption rather than within it. A lot of people write their caption and then a line break before a long list of hashtags. 30 is the maximum, though more annoying Instagram users add even more hashtags in the comments. The real purpose of hashtags on Instagram is for search purposes, since people can only search by hashtag or user, so if you don’t use hashtags your photo will never show up in search results. For best results use a combination of hashtags that are popular, and ones that are less common.
Research shows 11 or more hashtags is optimal.
Google Plus automatically hashtags your posts for you, but you can also add your own. When you click on a hashtag you see a list of hashtagged posts, like on Facebook or Twitter, but you also see related hashtags, and related content from Google search results.
Research shows 2-3 hashtags is optimal.
Whether hashtags are useful on Pinterest or not is kind of up in the air. If you search for something on Pinterest you are presented with results containing those words, but not just in hashtag form, in regular captain form. So captioning your image with “#SocialMediaTips” and just saying “Here are some social media tips” is essentially the same. When you click on a hashtag you are brought to an attractive page showing that hashtag and relevant posts, but not all posts using that hashtag are included which is a little troublesome. For the most part, hashtags on Pinterest are only useful if you’re going to be consistently using your own hashtag like #WhiteCornerCreative.
Research shows 0-3 hashtags is optimal.
Though some will tell you that there are many rules of hashtag etiquette that very platform to platform, I believe there are a few that you can stick to.
1. Don’t over-hashtag. Depending on what platform you are using, there is an appropriate number of hashtags. Don’t be the annoying person who uses way too many.
2. Don’t hashtag every word. On twitter it’s okay to stick hashtags in the middle of sentences, but only if they are sparse and intentionally placed. Other than that, putting hashtags in the middle of sentences will only annoy your reader, and probably drive them away.
3. Don’t faux-hashtag. Only tag your posts with things that are actually relevant to your post. If I see that #soccer is trending today and I hashtag it on a picture of my dog, it’s irrelevant and it will annoy users.
For the most part, hash tagging is easy, and it can be a great way to bring new users and discussions to your digital doorstep. Hashtags.org is a great way to see what is trending across social media so that you can stay up to date on all the latest traffic and popular discussions, and use those hashtags when relevant. If you know what you’re doing and follow these basic rules, hashtagging can be a great tool for your business or blog.