Hashtags are words or phrases that are preceded with the pound sign (#) to allow you to link to other Tweets marked with that keyword. When you use a hashtag for a topic that has more than one word in it, you should fuse the words together and capitalize each word like this: #JustinTimberlake Doing this will create a link in your post that people can click on to see other posts that include that same hashtag.
The Evolution of the Hashtag
The hashtag was created by Twitter as a way to categorize or filter content by keywords. They were made popular during the San Diego Fire in 2007, as a way to track updates on the disaster. Users then began developing shorthand versions such as #FF which is short for #FollowFriday. Now, people are placing hashtags all over the place. Technically you can put a hashtag in front of any word, phrase or combination of letters – there is no approval or coding process.
Hashtaging Can Be on Different Platforms
You can search a keyword on Twitter and it will show you all the tweets that have word or phrase in it. If you click a tagged link, it will bring up only other tweets that are linked by that hashtag.
Hashtags work very similarly on Facebook. The search function is the difference. If I search Facebook for a keyword, it will bring up people or pages that have that keyword in it. If I add a hashtag in front of it, Facebook then returns posts that include that topic.
G+ takes you literally. If you search for “#TGIF”, your results include any posts that have that have been tagged. If you search for “TGIF”, Google+ shows you any post that has, “TGIF” in it – not “#TGIF”.
It is acceptable to break the rules and use many hashtags within these two social media networks. In fact, you'll want to use a lot of (relevant!) hashtags so people searching for certain types of images or videos can find yours. Just be careful when sharing your post to other networks, as they may be perceived as being annoying with all those hashtags.
How Hashtags Can Be Useful:
1. Brands use them to create social components to increase exposure. For instance, I recently visited the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. As you’re walking in, there is a giant sign that tells you to tag your content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vine using #911Memorial. Now anybody who visits the memorial can view others’ photos and videos by searching that keyword. Remember though, if you’re going to create a hashtag campaign, you have to be prepared to promote it otherwise nobody will know about it.
2. Find stuff: You can identify what’s trending. You can also search for people, topics of interest or events via hashtags. Also, use different techniques when searching to get different results. For instance you can search “Fall Recipes”, “#Fall Recipes”, “#Fall #Recipes”, “#Fallrecipes”… you get the point.
3. Marketing: Use humor or run a contest. Lots of companies are getting really creative with campaigns. One of my favorite funny campaigns is Kmart’s #shipmypants campaign.
What Not to Do:
Hashtags are meant to be used for relevant keywords or phrases. The problem is that people are starting to use them for everything and now they’ve become noise.
1. Don’t overuse hashtags – It is recommended that you don’t use more than two hashtags per post. You’ll create distractions in your message. Those distractions can:
a. Cause people to #not #read your entire #post.
b. Steer people away from what you want them to do. In other words, if you have a link you want people to click and your status is your call to action, you may not want to use hashtags in your status because that creates two links in one post. Increasing the number of actions that can take place will reduce the likelihood that the action you want to take place will happen. If you have two links and only one goal, the likelihood of achieving your goal theoretically becomes reduced by 50%.
2. #Don’tUseReallyLongHashtags. You only have 140 characters to work with!
3. #DUHPWU – Don’t use hashtags people won’t understand.
Not sure if you should launch a hashtag campaign? Click here for a helpful checklist. Or click here for a great infographic on hashtag usage.
If you want to see how a hashtag trending across multiple platforms, you can use http://tagboard.com
By Tonya Cardinali