Hashtags are an important part of social media marketing, but while many companies know this, not as many know how to use them correctly to get the full advantage of what they have to offer. If you are feeling confused even at the mention of hashtags, these symbols are words or phrases without spaces that follow a pound or hash (#) sign. When this sign is added in front of a word, the word becomes a keyword or topic that users can search for or find easily.
That’s not to say that any old word will do the trick however. A huge aspect of using these correctly on social media lies in choosing your hashtag carefully. If your company sells pink poodles, for example, you would use tags such as #pinkpoodle or even #poodles. This will allow people to group similar topics together to find them more easily in social media feeds. Just using a tag such as #pink or #dog may not work as well, because those would be too broad to apply to your particular pink hued poodles.
Likewise, using tags that have no relevance whatsoever to your key product or service will not help you one bit either. If you want people to look for pink poodles, it won’t help much to promote #greenpoodles, for example, or #pinkcats.
Using Hashtags on Social Media
Now that you have a basic idea of what they are, how do you use hashtags on social media?
For starters, consider these pointers…
How To Add.
All you need to do is add a # sign before a word, phrase without spaces or punctuation or even numbers. There are a few rules to keep in mind however. Try not to add too many words with one hashtag (or spam a tweet or Facebook post with too many #hashtags #in #every #sentence). Remember that using a hashtag on any social media account means that anyone can find your message. It’s also important to keep your tags relevant to the message and topic – random tags do not offer any promotional value whatsoever.
One of the fastest ways to become an internet disaster or at the very least annoy your readers is to over-use hashtags or use them incorrectly. We briefly mentioned spam in the above point, but this is important enough to mention it again. Creating one of these tags is easy. Being cautious, observing social media etiquette and tagging smartly is somewhat less so. Adding an endless number of tags, making up nonsensical tags that serve no purpose, hijacking trending topics to try and fit your post into a topic that does not fit and sending duplicate hash-tagged messages to hundreds of people are all no-nos.
Make Your Own.
Creating your own is a great way to get topics trending among your followers… but only if it is done properly. Think very carefully about the wording, how certain words will look clumped together without punctuation or spaces, whether or not the words relate to your brand or message and whether the tag can easily be written and/or read. Do not steal other brands’ ideas or hijack their tags for your own purposes. Think about the conversation you want to start and create your tags wisely.
How to Trend.
An alternative to creating your own is to use topics that are trending. This works especially well in Twitter, which displays trending topics on a local and global scale, as well as within your network. You will need to ensure that your message is relevant to the topic to get any chance of promotion here. Tricking your readers into reading a message or opening a link when it does not apply to the topic is a sure way to lose followers (and lose the chance at gaining new followers). This does not bode well for promotion, needless to say.
Where to Use.
Twitter is where this practice began, so needless to say, this is where hashtags rule supreme. Facebook also uses them to show posts visible to you that fall under the topic – trending topics are also shown in your news feed. Instagram also uses them to show similar photos to the ones using the respective tags. Google+ uses them like most other networks, and can even add them automatically to content it deems relevant (this can be changed in your settings if you’d prefer to opt-out). Tumblr has a similar feature with ‘tags’ that can be added to posts before publishing. YouTube also has them in the comments section – users can leave hashtags in their comments, which click through to a page showing all videos that include the tag.
Ultimately, how you create and use these nifty little tools comes down to careful thought to using the right tag at the right time, and in the right context.
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