Everything You Need To Know About Hashtags

hashtag graphic

Hashtags have come a long way since being called the pound sign on a telephone. Now in a world of google searches and categorization the pound symbol has changed into something with a lot more power, the hashtag. However, the use of hashtags is still tricky business, like all things you must learn to find the middle ground between too much and too little. Today we're gonna go over some common tips, hints, do's, and don'ts of hashtagging.

I think most people are pretty aware of the power of hashtagging by now. It allows you to connect your social media posts to a certain group of users or topic in real time. Today, Hashtags have become driving forces behind a company's brand awareness and social media campaigns.

One common misconception is; 'the more hashtags the better'. This isn't true. You should only ever use 1 - 5 hashtags at the most. While adding more tags may spread your image or post to more channels, it also cheapens the post among viewers. Too many tags will make your post look like spam or even worse, seem desperate. You want to stick to a couple unique hashtags where you can usually find a more captive audience.

Be obvious. While you must try to stay unique, you also don't want to get too abstract and alienate new viewers who can't interpret the hashtag. #ThisProbablyIsntAVeryGoodHashtag. Try to stay away from complicated tags, long sentences, and acronyms because they can often be lost on your audience and not work as intended. #StaySimple.

Don't abuse a hashtag. As somebody who scrolls through social media pretty regularly there's not much that makes me more annoyed than seeing a popular hashtag used completely out of content. Trying to bring viewers to your monster truck page by tagging; #art, #beauty, or #fitness will absolutely not bring in a crossover audience and more than likely will make you seem desperate and put off real fans. Stay true and use hashtags to compliment your brand.

Explore a hashtag first. Do some reconnaissance and plan your attack, don't just jump into it. Let's say you start tagging your new kimchi restaurant business photos with #kimmyk before you check out who's using that hashtag. Even if the name of your franchise is Kimmy K's Kimchi and #kimmyk is proper and makes sense, you may find that tags already been appropriated by a different audience base.

The fans create the hashtag. You can put out any tags you want, but the only useful ones are what your audience uses. The American TV show X-Factor created the hashtag #XFUSA to differentiate between its British counterpart. However, despite being the official hashtag of the show, fans used the much more obvious #Xfactor five times more often. It's like the difference between a sidewalk and a natural path. A sidewalk is a pre-plotted developed route for the user to follow to a destination, while a natural path is created when a user finds a more logical or faster un-plotted way to the destination. Everybody likes a quick shortcut, so don't try to make them walk all the way around. 

Hashtags may have been born online but nobody can keep them there. Don't think that hashtags only apply to the world wide web, they can be a powerful ally 'in the streets'. Use them on posters and print advertisements so viewers can quickly find you or your business online. Watch out though, print media can be even stricter about tags, try to only use one very unique tag. No money for print campaigns? Get creative, go guerrilla and use chalk to write on the sidewalk in front of your store or other high traffic areas. You want people to see it offline but maybe not scrawled on a dumpster in a back alley, that might not be the brand image you're trying to go for.

As a person who's 'on the ground' in the hashtagging business, both using them and witnessing them, let me tell you; there are proven techniques. But there's also room for innovation and maneuverability among your brand. These tips or hints aren't all meant to be black and white, experiment with your own tags and dissemination tactics. We've all seen the hashtag rise to power and now it's your turn to use it.

Harlen Malkowich
Dec 08, 2016
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