Hashtags have been around for a while now, but one glance at a Twitter feed will prove that they’re constantly being misused, overused, or irrelevant to the content – and often, these kinds of mistakes are made by users who should know better!
What gives? Maybe you still see a pound sign when you look at a hashtag or maybe you just skipped class on #Hashtag lesson day. Whatever your excuse, don’t let that teeny, tiny tic-tac-toe board get you down.
Check out our top 5 #Hashtag lessons to live by and you’ll be posting like a pro in no time!
1. Remember: Hashtags are function first, fun later
Back before Twitter was a thing, computer techs first started using hashtags to separate searches into metadata, or organized categories based on related subject matter. Later, when social media platforms hit the scene and mobile technologies killed the desktop game, this practice became one of the best ways to categorize and aggregate social media content.
That’s right, the hashtag’s function is to make your posts more searchable. Using relevant ones will increase your chances of engagement.
2. #NeverHashtagJustToHashtag #ASoloHashtagMeansNothing
A lot of people wind up misusing hashtags when they try to create new ones. For example, this little gem popped up on my Twitter feed recently: #ARatJustStoleMyPizza
(what?) I don’t know about you, but a rat has never stolen any of my pizzas and I haven’t heard enough about rat thievery for this kind of experience to be what I’d call "commonplace."
Hashtags like these can be cute (sometimes) and personable (if you’re clever), but they won’t mean anything or help optimize your content if other users don’t jump on your hashtag bandwagon. Before you create a brand new hashtag, make sure you ask yourself about the likelihood of it being something to which other users can relate.
3. Don’t go overboard
Yes, hashtags can help uplift content, but don’t let yourself get carried away. Using too many hashtags can be overwhelming.
Unless absolutely necessary, try to craft your posts with between 1 and 3 hashtags. Four or more is probably a little excessive.
4. Use camel case for the sake of your followers (and your credibility)
“Camel case” refers to the intentional use of capitalization in compound words. In the land of hashtags, using camel case means that every new word is capitalized for easier readability.
This practice comes in particularly handy for more complex, longer hashtags and many people have picked up on this practice after a few well-read blunders like these:
If Susan’s social media team had used camel case, #susanalbumparty would have become a much more palatable #SusanAlbumParty. See the difference?
Here’s another example just in case that one isn’t clear enough:
When former Prime Minister of the UK Margaret Thatcher died back in 2013, a website known for being critical of her created a hashtag that was supposed to read, “Now Thatcher’s Dead.” Unfortunately, when the hashtag was posted without camel case, it looked more like, “Now that Cher’s Dead.”
#nowthatchersdead sent Cher fans into a fury of panic…which, as you can imagine, did not go over well.
5. Use popular hashtags to join a conversation
It’s important to use popular hashtags for visibility, but it’s also important to use hashtags related to the conversation. If you don’t know what those might be, do a little research via the Twitter search bar or visit a website like Hashtagify.me to find relevant hashtags by topic.
Let’s say you’re attending the Kentucky Bourbon Festival and someone hands you a thirst-quenching, delectable, ice-cold bourbon slushie. Naturally, you want to let everyone else know how amazing it is, so you take a picture and pull up Twitter.
One quick search for “popular bourbon hashtags” would teach you that because September is Bourbon Heritage Month, #BourbonHeritageMonth is very popular. You might also find your way to the official event hashtag (#KBF2016) or to the official hashtag of the specific brand of bourbon in your drink.
Skipping the search, however, might lead you to use more generic hashtags like #slushie, #yum, #icecold, or #ilovethissomuch.
While the ever-evolving world of social media has seen plenty of trends that don’t last, you can rest assured that hashtags are here to stay. So, jump into the hashtag pool feet first and start maximizing your social media results today – Happy Hashtagging!
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