Hashtalk3Hashtags, what are they? Why do people big in social media put so much weight behind that pound sign? These are questions that are common for anybody who was born before 1995. Yet you can find this bit of reach extending functionality on all social networks. Be it Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram, Pinterest, or even Tsu or Ello they all have hashtags. So what is the philosophy behind Hashtags

To fully grasp what hashtags are all about, we need to go back a few years to the world of twitter. Way back before Twitter was an information network. It was a microblogging site where people would share what’s going on. As a way to keep track of the conversations, a person would use the pound sign next to a keyword for example #DallasTrip and people could search that hashtag and see what is being said. Hashtags at that time completely organic. It was something that the users started doing before Twitter even thought of highlighting the hashtag or making the hashtag a clickable link. Yet now you see the pound sign everywhere.

So hashtags are just a means to track a conversation?

Well yes and no. People still use them as a mean to follow conversations and events. There Hashtalk2are hashtags for political movements, current events, and as advertising. Hashtags have been used for completely wrong reasons. These tags themselves are for more than just tracking a twitter chat or what was overheard at NMX. The majority of marketers use hashtags as a means to extend the reach beyond their core followers. Hashtags are able to achieve this by other people looking for that hashtag. So someone may not know of your business but they do see that you are listed in the #NYLuv hashtags that were just shown in a search. Sometimes you can actually leverage trending hashtags to your benefit. Do a little research before jumping in to a trending tag. That way you can fully understand what that tag is representing. Many spectacular failures have happened because someone didn’t look before they leaped into a trending hashtag. The company often then has to do some major damage control. Just ask Digiorno Pizza and why they stayed.

Hashtalk1Hashtags are also often used for leading new customers to your profile so that they can glean useful information off from your social media profile. This allows for again new people who have never heard of your brand or your service to find you and find out that you are just the very person they have been looking for. If a person is needing a Filter for a hoover Max extract in Albuquerque they may find you with #Albq or #Vacuums. The possibilities of getting your message reshared, favorited, or even the glorious click increase 50% – 100% just from the proper use of a hashtag. So in my never to be humble opinion hashtags are great!

Another use of hashtags is to add a comment to a tweet or other post you are making. Often this comment is meant as a joke but again it ties into the rest of the running comments so be careful as to what you are using. Yet you can also place emotional references like happy sad elated so on and so forth.

What to know about hashtags

There are a few key points a new hashtag user might want to take under consideration. There are some points that can help you out when trying to understand how to tag a tweet or an Instagram photo.

You do not own your Hashtag

Nope you can make up all the hashtags you want but you do not own a single one. So, that means if you come across a great hashtag and you start using it someone else can use it too. Sure you can complain you can moan and groan. Remember this is social media if you have a meltdown on a site it will be noticed. So best if you take everything in stride.

They can be hijacked

Yep, As it was mentioned earlier you don’t own hashtags so anybody can use them even the opposition. Or people can run with the hashtag in a direction entirely not intended for your campaign. Like #McDStories People who were meant to give great feel good stories about what happened in McDonalds are turned to ridicule and bad jokes and a headache for Micky D’s. There are several stories like this and some that have become legendary Hashtag high jacking. Also Political hashtags are often targets for Hashtag high jacking. So just be prepared and think your hashtag strategy through. Come up with as many possible bad scenarios and don’t dismiss them.

They can be used incorrectly

  • Too many tags in a post. Good rule of thumb is to not put more than three hashtags more than that and you not only annoy people but they might start reporting you as a spammer
  • Not understanding the significance of a tag that is trending. You could again embarrass yourself so much that the PR firm will just shake their head.
  • #DontMakeALongDrawnOutSentenceToTryToMakeAPoint This annoys more people than auto playing a video.
  • Use ONLY the relevant tags to do the opposite. Dog sitters shouldn’t use #Cats in their posts unless they are also a Cat sitter.

Use CamelCase

Use Camel Case with your multiword tags this makes it a lot easier to read. This is now Susan Boyle had Susan Album Party turn into a dirty joke. Because #Susanalbumparty looks like Sus Anal Bum Party. So make it easier to delineate the words.

So now that I have scared the wits out of you in all of the epic disasters that happens when you use a hashtag incorrectly. Just apply a little thought as to what your customers and follows will see. Will prevent many of these headaches. So go out beyond your current base of followers and share with your tribe. Use those hashtags just do it with a little thought.

What are some ways you use hashtags? Or do you have a great hashtag disaster story you would like to tale?

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Bryan Goodwin

Social Media Manager at Goodwin Social Media
Bryan has been in the social media field in one form or another. whether it is blogging, podcasting, or trying out the latest social network . There is a good chance that you will find him talking somewhere.
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Hashtag Philosophy