What the #$%#@# is a Hashtag?

In ancient times, ok maybe not so ancient, the hashtag was also known as a pound sign. The hashtag has integrated itself into pop culture all over the world, and we don’t mean tic-tac-toe. Spearheaded by Twitter, the Hashtag quickly became supported by many of the most popular social media platforms. But what is a hashtag? For those out there who are not familiar with this seemingly teeny-bopper trend, here is a basic run-down AND some tips on how it can benefit your business.

Basically, the hashtag (#) was created to organize messages and make them searchable. When you put a statement after a hashtag it tags your post and uses that statement as a search filter. Users of the platform (like Twitter or Instagram) can then find relevant posts just by clicking. This process only works if your message meets the following criteria though: no spaces, no punctuation and no specialty characters. However, numbers and capital letters are fine.

Now integrated so deeply into pop-culture, you can find other common uses for hashtags. A hashtag can even add tone to your message. Hashtags can be included for purely entertaining purposes in order to create humour, sarcasm or personality. They can also create context for a message. By linking your message to an easily recognizable conversation such as a special event or political campaign, you develop a framework for your message.

Platforms which support the hashtag include Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Vine, Tumblr and Pinterest. Each platform has subtle cultural changes in how hashtags are used, but there are some universal truths to play by when using hashtags.

  1. Limit yourself to three hashtags per message. Content is king and a message full of hashtags feel like spam. Many have the opinion that hashtags have become too popularized and that they are spilling into our offline world.
  2. Make your hashtags purposeful. Have a reason to be using it: create humour, add to the conversation, and/or be searchable. Useless hashtags are unwanted and annoying.
  3. Make your hashtags specific and targeted.
  4. Research your hashtag to make sure your post is relevant to the conversation. There are several stories of companies using a misused hashtag, causing serious embarrassment. Click here for some examples.
  5. Only hashtag the same word once so you avoid being redundant.

Now that you have the basics down, let’s transform hashtags into a valuable business tool for your business! Here are some simple ways hashtags can support your business:

  1. Reinforce branding by linking your company to terms that solidify your company’s brand messages and digital personality.
  2. Connect with potential customers on industry-specific conversations that are relevant to your business.
  3. Create promotion or campaign specific hashtag as an incentive for people to build a relationship with your company and stay up to date on your social media.
  4. Add personality to your company by including entertaining hashtags that build rapport with your followers.
  5. Increase your credibility by adding expert information or opinions to conversations in your industry.

If you still have questions, or think that your social media might need some extra love, feel free to contact us.