What’s a Hashtag Got to Do With It?

Guest post by our PR Assistant Ashley Weaver

We’ve all seen them. We all use them, or at least we should. The basic idea of a hashtag is to use the # symbol in front of keywords or phrases that will then be grouped with other messages using the same hashtag. Hashtags are a great way to join in on conversations happening about certain topics, events, debates and whatever else comes to mind that might be worth discussing or “sharing.”

Are there right ways to hashtag? Absolutely.

  1. #Please #dont #hashtag #every #single #word. Mostly because it’s annoying, but it also means that you’re missing the point. You’ve only got 140 characters to say what you need to say, and you just used six superfluously. (Unless you’re on Instagram or Vine, see #5.) Several studies have found that using only one or two hashtags in a single message is the most effective way to engage your audience.
  2. Pay attention and do your homework. Know what hashtags are currently active. Make sure the hashtag you want to use isn’t already out there. This can easily be done by going to http://twitter.com/search-home and searching the desired hashtag term. Also find “official” hashtags for the topics you wish to discuss with others (since almost everything has its own hashtag these days). The results will be completely different when searching #SuperBowl versus #SBXLVI, so know which one you want to be part of.
  3. Seriously, do your homework. Always find out why something is trending, before hitting send. The worst thing any brand can do is to piggyback on a hashtag simply because it fits their message, then find out that the hashtag is being used for something completely different, e.g. the #Aurora fail from Celeb Boutique last year.
  4. makesureitslegiblebecauseifnotitsconfusing. Use capitalization and numbers to provide clarity to your audience. If your hashtag contains multiple words, make sure people can still understand what your phrase says and means. Remember #susanalbumparty? Poor Susan Boyle …  Also, avoid long hashtags. While you might think you’re being witty, a run-on hashtag is not going to get much response unless you already have a million followers who think you’re hilarious.
  5. Stop putting hashtags on Facebook. They serve no purpose. If a hashtag is showing up on Facebook, it often tells your audience that you’re just a robot. Can’t come up with an original posting for each of your social networking sites? That’s creatively disappointing, and as marketers, not nearly as effective. (Same goes for Facebook posts that show up on Twitter feeds, BTW).

Twitter, Instagram and Vine are all hashtag friendly. While Twitter’s got that pesky character limit, Instagram and Vine do not. These sites let people go hashtag crazy. While the point is probably to attract more likes and comments, 50 hashtags can get a bit overwhelming. Stick to a handful of appropriate and relatable ones to get the best results. And if hashtags do ever end up on Facebook … Some people in this office might riot. #JustSaying