Social media use showed no signs of relenting in 2012 and with that growth came the wider use of hashtags by businesses and consumers.
In fact, the American Dialect Society crowned “hashtag” the word of the year and one couple even went as far as naming their child Hashtag. I don’t recommend that but here are some tips to help businesses use hashtags to best effect:
1. Figure out what you want to use a hashtag for
By using a hashtag in a tweet or in the description of a photo, users can associate their content with a theme denominated by the hashtag itself. For example, by using the hashtag #Downton Abbey, you’ve naturally associated your content with the TV series and indexed with it. This automatic indexing makes search, the second use of hashtags, possible, meaning users can find out information linked to their interest on a social rather than search-optimised basis.
2. #Don’t #overdo #the #hashtagging
Instagram users briefly enjoyed Firegram, an app which changed the hashtags on photos continually so they’d appear in more searches, gain greater exposure and consequently more likes. Needless to say it was essentially spamming and the app was taken down. The more hashtags you’re using, the more conversations you’re entering. Instead of jumping on three hashtags to make sure your content is seen, just pick the most relevant possible hashtag and use that. Numerous hashtags can make things look messy and hard to read.
There are a couple of good reasons that short and concise hashtags work. The longer a hashtag is, the harder it is to read and the easier it is to confuse. Secondly, typing out something long will often result in the hashtag being misspelt, meaning the content won’t be associated with its intended conversation, especially if done via mobile. Finally, a hashtag that takes up half your space just isn’t viable if you really want to say something.
4. Don’t change the hashtag halfway through a campaign
You’ve selected your hashtag, now stick to it. Users hate a split conversation or having to use two hashtags and you’ll just make your own life more difficult when you’re trying to track what’s going on.
5. Promote your hashtag
What’s the point of a hashtag if nobody sees it or uses it? Stick your hashtag on all your social media websites, on your print marketing materials, at the bottom of your emails, and so on. The more places it’s seen, the more people will use it. That said, there does need to be a reason behind the use, and inviting people to “join the discussion” or “voice their views” by including a hashtag is a good way of boosting engagement.
6. Jump on other hashtags
Popularising hashtags is difficult, so rather than coming up with your own, search social media to find out what is being used in conversations similar to the one you’re trying to start. As long as what you’re saying is relevant it’s not a crime to add to the conversations. There are even opportunities to change the use of a hashtag altogether, a great example being the charity Water Is Life turning #firstworldproblems on its head.
7. Integrate your hashtags into sentences
By integrating your hashtag into a sentence the hashtag is contextualised and the content looks better. It also means you save space and can therefore write more. Simple.
8. Remember your hashtags are accessible to everyone
You may have come up with it but that doesn’t mean you own it. As with everything on the internet, hashtags are open to manipulation, often in a bad way. First off, make sure your hashtag is foolproof. Long hashtags made up of many words can often make for some difficult reading. Additionally, individual words used as a hashtag can easily be manipulated in any sentence. Best practice would be to come up with an acronym and end it with a number (if relevant) to ensure it isn’t internet trolled. There are already enough hashtag disasters out there and you don’t want to be the root of the next one.
9. Look beyond the obvious
Using hashtags in their conventional ways should now be second nature but their capabilities don’t end there. One such way businesses can innovate is by using hashtags for advertising. By identifying consumers through the hashtags they use, businesses can connect in real time with people who are receptive based on their engagement with a particular subject, hence getting relevant adverts to the right audience.
These tips should point you in the right direction when using hashtags but as with everything social media, using a little bit of common sense and instinct never goes amiss.
Rupert Staines is the European MD of RadiumOne.