How to Create and Use Killer Hashtags
We're pretty sure more than one social media user has quietly whispered the following words to themselves tucked under the covers at night: "Hashtags are horrible. I don't know how to use them, when to use them, or what's the point of using them at all. I want to die."
First of all, STOP!
No need to do anything drastic. We're here to take the mystical mumbo-jumbo that is the world of hashtags and make it crystal clear like a Rocky Mountain stream.
Seriously. Once you understand hashtags, you'll probably want us to be best friends. Keep reading, and you'll soon know how to create hashtags people will use.
What is a Hashtag and Why Do They Exist?
They say you must build a tower of understanding on a solid foundation. We don't know anyone who has ever said that, but it does sound good, right? And it leads us neatly into the topic at hand - hashtags.
Hashtags were first developed on Twitter as an easy way for people to quickly find content related to a particular topic. They look something like this: #ManOnTheMoon. If you think that is just a pound sign in front of words with no spaces between them, you're right. It's also a hashtag. You've probably been seeing these things all over the internet for years.
Maybe you closed your eyes and looked past them in fright because you didn’t want to have to learn a single other thing related to social media. Maybe you’ve thrown a few random hashtags of your own into posts and watched them die a lingering non-shared death. After bursting onto the scene on Twitter, they are now commonplace on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+ as well.
Hashtags were initially used for people to follow major news events and subsequent related developments like #BostonBombing, #WorldTradeCenterAttacks or when #ThomasEdisonRisesFromTheGrave (we made up that last one - probably). But as time marched on people began to realise the darn things could be used in a variety of ways from online marketing to simply making a social media splash with your wit and charm.
Are you ready to make your hashtags stand out? Keep reading.
You Don't Have to Be a Trailblazer
You know what the easiest thing to get people to talk about is?
The stuff they're already talking about!
Trying to create viral hashtags from scratch on a completely new topic and have them make a global splash isn't the easiest thing in the world to do. More on that later. There is a much higher chance of success when you tap into where traffic is already flowing. Example, please?
We thought you'd never ask.
In 2014, Travelocity wanted to create a two-way conversation with their audience on the topic of where they wanted to travel in the world. Luckily, some brainiac at the company thought of the already popular character from their advertisements, the Roaming Gnome. They created the hashtag #IWannaGo and, voila, a movement was born where people talked to the Gnome himself and told them where on earth they most wanted to travel. Did it work?
Travelocity exceeded the number of social impressions from the previous year by 23 percent - in just three months. Yeah, you could say it worked.
Know the Platform Limits
We mentioned earlier about how the hashtag has been adopted by all the major social media platforms - except LinkedIn, who is being a little hoity-toity about the whole thing. What you might not be aware of is that there are unique use conventions related to each platform that you should know:
Twitter - Don’t use more than two hashtags per tweet for best engagement. The 140 character count limit makes this a necessity. More than this and you’re just talking in hashtags, and who wants to read that?
Facebook - Though there’s no character count restriction here, we suggest limiting yourself to two hashtags per post also. Use one that’s trending and another you create in support of your “brand,” whether it’s personal or promoting a product or service.
Google+ - Probably a good idea to stick to a single hashtag in a Google+ post. Sorry, that’s just the way it is. Not very exciting. People will click on the hashtag to engage in discussion on the topic.
Instagram - This crazy little website allows up to 30 hashtags to be included with a post. Experts recommend you use no more than 11 for maximum effect.
Pinterest - Treat this one like you would Facebook. No more than two hashtags per post. Make one of the trending variety and create something customised for the other.
Catch a Trending Hashtag by the Tail
We've mentioned the idea of trending hashtags a few times now. Let's rewind and talk about how you can make use of these to supercharge your own hashtagging. A trending hashtag is just a "trendy" way to refer to an online topic that has become hugely popular. Think something like #TaylorSwiftBabyBump. Don't go all crazy. We're just making that one up.
The trick is to identify a trending hashtag (they're constantly changing), then use it in one of your posts.
This instantly inserts your writing on the topic into the global conversation and, theoretically, provides a visibility boost at the same time.
Of course, having something unique, informative, or hilarious to say helps. But don't make the mistake of throwing a trending hashtag in at the end of an entirely unrelated post. This adds no value to the discussion, will be ignored/flamed, and doesn't help out your brand at all.
The easiest way to identify trending hashtags is to visit a third party aggregating website like Trendsmap or ferret them out with each particular social media platform.
How to Create an Effective Hashtag
We've pointed out that the easiest way to create a great hashtag is to use ones that are already trending. That's only half the fun. The rest involves coming up with your own to throw into the ring. It's easy. Here are the only guidelines to pay attention to:
1. Start it with the # symbol
2. No spaces allowed - no punctuation besides the # symbol
3. Keep them short and easy to remember
4. Use your imagination
With the above ground rules in effect, you're free to let your imagination run wild. Keep in mind that what you think might be unique isn't always so. Before throwing a hashtag out there into the world, do a quick search on the social media platform where you intend to use it to make sure it hasn't already been done.
A word of warning. Don't try to hijack a hashtag that has already been created and twist it to your topic. At best this is bad form and will generate lots of ill will towards you, something we DON'T recommend. At worst you could receive a cease-and-desist letter from a nice attorney for copyright infringement. As long as you stay on topic or do your due diligence when creating your own hashtags, you should be good to go.
How to Use a Hashtag
We should have called this section How to Breathe; it's so easy.
To use a hashtag, simply type it out at the end of your post before you hit ‘enter.' It's that simple. Your preceding brilliant comment will automatically be included in the conversation on the topic that's already swirling around the internet.
The Bottom Line
Whether you seek greater exposure for your business or only want to promote the brand of "You," hashtags are an excellent way to go about it. What began as a simple way to keep discussions orderly has snowballed into a behemoth of a marketing strategy. It's a way to catapult yourself into a global topic discussion and put more eyeballs on your written opinion than you ever would have imagined.
There's just one more thing. Do you feel lucky, punk?
Wait, not that.
What we meant to ask was if you are presently using hashtags in your social media interaction? Do you like them?