Added to the Oxford Dictionary in 2010, you are most likely familiar with hashtags throughout social media, but do you know where the term originated from and what the best practices are for how to use them?
Before social media took over the symbol, the lonely # [number or pound] sign was resigned to mailing addresses and pencil types. With limited use in everyday conversation, the pound sign was ideal for helping users of fast paced Twitter to group discussions in an easy to search platform. Since then, other social sites have adopted hashtag usage but few users understand how hashtags can be more than an aside at the end of your most recent post.
Weve put together some tips and tricks for how to properly use hashtags on a variety of social sites and how Momtrepreneurs can capitalize on this social tool for growing your businesses.
As the original home of the hashtag, Twitter users are fast to utilize hashtags throughout posts, typically placing them at the end of the tweet to indicate that their post is part of a larger conversation.
Once a hashtag is in use by many users at one time it will appear as a trending topic, increasing the visibility of the discussion and generating additional dialogue. Functioning as a search tool, Twitter users can create ad hoc groups that allow all posters using the same hashtag to see each others posts.
When you search for a hashtag on Twitter you have the ability to flip through several types of search filters.
- Top posts
- Most relevant and popular posts, including people you do not follow.
- Posts in chronological order.
- Individuals with the hashtag as part of their username.
- Self explanatory.
You can also use the drop down to dial the search in, allowing you to only see users you follow or people near a specific zip code. This is helpful for those looking to join in on a discussion in a specific area, honing in only on those closest to you.
Twitter hashtags are extremely helpful for joining in on a discussion at a live event, like a conference or virtual party, and can help users connect directly with one another. Next time you are at an event with a publicized hashtag, search on Twitter and see who you can connect with online.
Hashtag usage on Facebook is similar to that on Twitter, except Facebook privacy limits what you can and can not see. Facebook users with private posts will not appear in a general search of all hashtags.
Using the search function at the top of your Facebook profile you can browse through hashtags you want to see more detail about, but typically it is less of a conversation stream than what you might find on Twitter.
As Facebook does not limit the number of characters in a post, hashtags can sometimes feel like an add-on that does not contribute to the overall discussion. This results in most hashtags on Facebook appearing as a more tongue in cheek reference rather than sharing an intentional purpose.
When using hashtags on Facebook, consider what your intention is. If you want to be part of a larger discussion, confirm that your post settings are public allowing what you share to be searched by all users. If you are not intending to participate in a larger dialogue, hashtags might not be necessary on a Facebook post unless the intention is to use them as a joke [#FirstWorldProblems].
Instagram hashtags function best as a way to group similar images together and are a great way to gain additional followers on your Instagram account. Hashtags can be searched by clicking on the highlighted word within your post and will allow you to see other users using the same search term.
Without limits on the length of the post, hashtags can be included as both a main portion of the post text or as a comment under the initial introduction. No matter where the hashtag appears, it will still be searchable. This is one of the key elements that differentiate Instagram hashtags from other social platforms.
Hashtags only work when words are grouped together immediately following the # sign. This means if you want to post about Mom Problems you would use the Hashtag #MomProblems [without spaces]. Capital letters and numbers are allowed but punctuation is not.
There are no set rules for hashtags, but you might find it helpful to search for a particular hashtag before using it. It would be uncomfortable to use a hashtag thinking it means one thing and seeing a full conversation of a different kind altogether.
Tips for Success
- Avoid using more than one or two hashtags per Twitter or Facebook post. There is no reason to make every word in a post a hashtag. Example: #This #Would #Be # Silly
- Dont make your hashtags too long. Example: #NoOneTypesLikeThis
- Use multiple hashtags on Instagram if it is relevant. If you are posting a #recipe and it is #GlutenFree, both hashtags can help users interested in that type of content find your post. Draw a line at the number of hashtags you use per post.
Understanding how to use hashtags can help you join in on virtual conversations or find other like minded individuals. For business owners, hashtags can help engage new customers or provide a platform for finding folks already talking about your products.
Leave us a note in the comments with what your favorite hashtags are, and if you have any other questions about how to use hashtags or other social media tools.