How to Use Hashtags on Twitter and Other Social Networks
Any business navigating the world of social media marketing needs to know how to use hashtags.
What is a hashtag? On Twitter, a hashtag (denoted by the # symbol) turns any word or group of words that directly follow it into a searchable link. This allows users to organize content and track discussion topics based on those keywords. Clicking on the hashtag will bring up posts that mention a subject, along with constantly updated posts in real time.
Most major social media platforms now support hashtags, including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, and Tumblr.
According to the digital marketing experts at Fusion360, Twitter hashtags are mainly used to denote specific topics of conversation.
"The Trends sidebar on Twitter creates a list of hashtags you might be interested in based on your tweets," explains Fusion360’s resident social media guru Kylie Moore. "Facebook added hashtag support in June 2013. Clicking on a Facebook hashtag will take you to a list of posts containing the same hashtag."
On Instagram, hashtags can be used to complement photos, discover new accounts, and pick up followers. Tumblr and Pinterest hashtags can be used in this way as well. Clicking a hashtag on Google+ will get you search results with the original hashtag as well as posts with similar tags and keywords.
Hashtags "can be used for events, to organize material by subject, as memes, or even as punch lines," says Moore. "If your business wants to use hashtags as part of your social media marketing for an event happening in your company, you can create a hashtag that hasn’t been used before and remind everyone to use it in related posts. If you have a sale, you can use relevant hashtags by finding out what other businesses in your field are using."
Whether you're looking to invent a completely original hashtag or piggyback on the popularity of a familiar one, social media marketers can also refer to online resources like Tagboard to see if a hashtag has been used yet. But beware, cautions Moore, of using random hashtags just to attract eyeballs -- it's a strategy doomed to fail.
"See which hashtags are trending and make use of them — but only if they are relevant to your business," Moore advises. "Using #MileyCyrus in a post about your tech store just makes you look like a spammer and hurts your credibility."
When using hashtags as part of a social media campaign, there are also certain things a business should avoid.
"Don’t just hashtag words on a whim," Moore says. "When choosing a hashtag, think about why you are hashtagging it. The point is to help people discover you when they click on a relevant hashtag. So using #MLB when writing about baseball would be appropriate, but using #JustinBeiber when writing about a sale at your company is irrelevant."
Other advice? Moore recommends that businesses use hashtags sparingly.
"Do not hashtag every word in your tweet," Moore says. "Typically one or two in any given update is fine. You don’t need to include a hashtag in every single update, either. Too many hashtags make people’s eyes glaze over and it just looks like spam. Hashtags in social media marketing should be purposeful — make sure they are relevant."
Michael Essany is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.