Twitter has changed the way we view this popular symbol #. To the social media savvy, it’s no longer looked at as a pound sign but instead, a hashtag. According to Ad Week, online use of the hashtag began in the late 90s on Internet Relay Chat; it was used to categorize items into groups. The man responsible for getting the hashtag off the ground running is UX designer Chris Messina. Also as noted by Ad Week, he was the first person to use the hashtag on Twitter when he asked his followers how they felt about using it for groups.
Hashtag Best Practices
- They must be written without any spaces (if you add spaces, they won’t work).
- They can not contain any punctuation (this will make them also not work).
- Numbers and letters (uppercase and lowercase) are fair game.
- There are two ways to traditionally write them:
- 1. With multiple words combined together.
- 2. With the first letter of each new word being in caps. I prefer this way as I find them easier to read and think they just look neater.
- Going hashtag crazy is never a good thing. Cap your hashtag use at three or four. Anything more leads to irrelevance and is just unfriendly for users who themselves don’t go crazy with hashtags. Twitter’s guidelines in particular recommend using no more than two hashtags per post.
- Use one or two words, not sentences. I think anything more than 20 characters is pushing it. #ThisIsNotVeryUserFriendly, this is #better.
How to Determine Which Hashtags to Use
When using hashtags for business, relevance is important. Which words describe what your post is about? Create your own and do some hashtag research to determine which hashtags are currently being used. Consider your hashtags the summary of your post content. You wouldn’t use #SalesTeam on a photo of your office building. There are also times when it’s appropriate to use hashtags as an accent – doing so can add additional character to your posts.
Another good hashtag usage from Sunset. Timely and relevant.
Garden Communities, a company that offers apartment rentals throughout the United States does these Featured Property posts on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and sometimes Linkedin to highlight rentals. This post below combines hashtags that are already in use on Facebook with a hashtag of the company’s own. Props to Garden Comm.
Using Hashtags Across Specific Social Media Channels
Hashtags were first used on Facebook in 2013. From what I have been observing, they are not catching on like they did on Twitter and Instagram. Facebook Search is powerful in and of itself. You don’t need to use a hashtag to find topics – I actually find using hashtags on Facebook limiting sometimes. Facebook gives users access to hashtags from pages that are shared with them only, along with pages that are public. When using hashtags on Facebook, consider what your desired effect is: do you want find posts from people in your network or do you want to connect with a new audience?
- Exhibit 1: A post from my Facebook page.
- What happened when I clicked on a hashtags I used:
- Exhibit 2: A public page’s post.
- Exhibit 3: A Facebook connection’s post.
- Exhibit 4: The result of me typing in the same hashtag in Facebook Search.
Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin
With Twitter and Instagram, clicking on a hashtag gives you access to a plethora of Twitter conversations. There’s no point in using hashtags on posts on Linkedin anymore. They worked for a brief minute in 2013 but caught on even less than they have on Facebook. I’ve continued to try them out briefly earlier this year to see if just maybe something would come of them … nothing measurable did.
Hashtags on Google Plus are a whole other story. While the future of Google Plus is still in question, as of now, Google Plus and hashtag use on the channel is still alive and well. If you don’t designate a hashtag in Google Plus, Google Plus automatically does it for you based on what it thinks your post is about. Hashtag search is also powerful. When you search for a hashtag not only will Google Plus give you posts with that hashtag or words, but it will also give you relevant hashtags around what you typed in. Here’s what happened when I searched for #DinnerIdeas.
What has your experience with hashtags been like? Head over to my Twitter page to share yours.