What on Earth is a #Hashtag?

One of the questions we repeatedly get asked by other business owners is ‘How do hashtags work?’. Depending on the company we’re in, it’s not uncommon for this to have been preceded by the question ‘What IS a hashtag, anyway’. In our latest blog, we decided to put you all out of your misery and address the questions head on.
What is a hashtag?
From telephone key pad to social media phenomenon, the hashtag is an indispensable part of your social media armour. The hashtag symbol itself – # – hasn’t changed from the days of the fixed line telephone, but the meaning has completely evolved. When people talk about using a hashtag, they mean using a word or phrase prefixed with the hashtag symbol to create a ‘searchable term’ and to link posts on a particular social network with other posts. We often use #webdesign or #digitalmarketing as hashtags in our social media posts.
Tweets with hashtags can increase engagement almost…50% for brands
Where do I find hashtags?
Hashtag use started on Twitter – which makes sense really. Anyone confronted with the stream of posts that is Twitter might have wondered how on earth they were going to find anything relevant. The hashtag gives context and links posts together. People can join in a debate or conversation, or link to something happening, by using the appropriate hashtag. Similarly, users can then search for a #hashtag, and all the related posts will be listed.
Hashtags are commonly used on Instagram, the photo sharing platform. Google+ automatically assigns hashtags depending on the text you use for your posts, and you can add in your own hashtags too. Interestingly, Google + allows hashtags in comments too.
Facebook started using hashtags in 2013 with mixed results. You’ll also find hashtags on Pinterest and platforms such as Tumblr. Hashtags were a ‘no no’ on LinkedIn, but since summer 2016, they are now searchable on the platform, making it worth incorporating in your posts.
Tweets with one or more hashtag are 55 percent more likely to be retweeted.

How to Hashtag on Twitter

The Top 5 topics on Twitter are dominated by hashtags

Why should I use hashtags?
Depending on the social network you are posting on, hashtags will almost always be of benefit when used correctly. We’ve included a couple of stats in this post to prove the point, but social networks such as Twitter and Instagram live and breathe hashtags, and if you don’t use them you’ll be missing out.
Not only do hashtags connect your content with that of others, it can also ensure your content is seen by other users interested in that hashtag, regardless of whether they are following you or not. This opens the way to increasing your following exponentially as you reach others through use of hashtags. There are caveats – on Facebook, the privacy settings of individual users will determine who sees the hashtag; and back to LinkedIn where there is no hashtag culture.
How do I know which hashtag to use?
As with getting started on social media, when you’re starting to use hashtags, our first piece of advice would be to watch and learn. See what hashtags others are using and join in. You might be posting about a specific event or topic, in which case there may already be an ‘established’ hashtag to use.
There are also tools which can suggest similar hashtags to use – if you’re contemplating using #digitalmarketing you might extend your reach by using #onlinemarketing or #growthhacking – for example.

Hashtags on LinkedIn

How Not to use hashtags…

How many hashtags should I use?
How many hashtags to use depends on the social network you’re using – remember, it’s always as well to differentiate between networks when you are posting anyway. Statistics suggest that 1-2 hashtags is optimal for Twitter – and using too many can actually reduce engagement. Instagram can handle far more hashtags – up to 11 per post. Facebook – the jury is still out so don’t overdo it. And remember – LinkedIn – no hashtags.
Can I create my own hashtag?
Of course! There’s no ‘ownership’ on hashtag creation, but before you start using a hashtag, it’s worth doing a search on the social networks to see whether it’s already being used. If it is already in use, and is consistent with your brand, you could just join in. If there’s an inconsistency, there are tools you can use to see similar hashtags that might be better. If you’re keen to create something new, try again! Once you’ve decided on the hashtag you want to use, keep using it and encourage your followers to use it when posting.
If you’ve got any more questions or queries about hashtags or about using social media generally, why not give us a call?

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