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Even if you are relatively new to social media, you’ve likely heard of hashtags. Created by Twitter way back in 2007, the hashtag (#) has become so successful that many teenagers actually think Twitter invented the pound symbol.
In the following, we’ll take you on a journey through the adventures of the Hashtag.
Sprout Social notes that the origin of the hashtag came from former Google+ developer Chris Messina, who suggested using the pound symbol for categorizing groups.
His idea was initially rejected by Twitter but was later adopted as Messina encouraged journalists to use the hashtag #SanDiegoFire in their updates regarding San Diego forest fires back in 2007. It shortly became what it is today: one of social media’s most widely-used tools.
A hashtag turns a word or a group of words into a searchable link that can then be accessed simply by searching for it. This makes it easy for people to see what others are saying about a specific topic using keywords. Each time someone uses that same hashtag, it is cataloged by the website and becomes searchable by other users.
For Twitter, once a hashtag is tweeted, the user can click on it and see what other people are saying about that same topic. Twitter gives users the option of searching “top” or “all” tweets with a specific hashtag to help showcase the most popular tweets using a keyword.
Once a hashtag gains enough momentum, it becomes a “trending” hashtag. According to Twitter’s FAQ page, trends are determined through an algorithm based on where you’re located as well as who you follow. Trending topics show what is popular at that exact moment, not what has been popular recently.
Keep in mind that not all trending topics include hashtags. Trending topics may be specific keywords or phrases people have used in their tweets without tagging them, and, as you could probably guess, trending hashtags will have a pound symbol (#) before them.
Why should you even use hashtags? According to QuickSprout, tweets that have hashtags generate twice as much engagement as tweets without them. And even though the hashtag originated on Twitter, most social media platforms employ them in some way, mainly for collaboration and discovery.
Thanks to QuickSprout, here’s what you need to know to use them effectively on each channel:
Being the original platform for hashtags, Twitter uses tags most commonly and effectively. Hashtags on Twitter are used to have a conversation about a specific piece of news, an event, an opinion or a trend. Often, a business or event will utilize a unique hashtag to increase traffic and engagement.
Instagram uses hashtags in the post description. Instagram has streamlined a myriad of hashtags, and other than Twitter, is the most hashtag-friendly platform. Check your feeds or search for some of the most popular hashtags on Instagram to get started.
Using hashtags on Facebook took a little while to catch on, and in many ways, the company is still trying to eliminate them.
Clicking on a hashtag on this social media site will take you to a separate page where you can see other posts that also use that hashtag, much like Twitter. Facebook’s trending topics will be located on the right-hand side of the page. Because Facebook is leaving hashtags behind, use them sparingly and focus on your content instead.
According to Mashable, you can use hashtags on Pinterest as well, though the platform generally opposes using them often. You cannot search for a hashtag effectively on Pinterest; you must search for the topic itself without the hashtag.
You may, however, click on a hashtag used in a pin description and it will take you to another page. The pins in that page won’t necessarily use that same hashtag in their descriptions, but they will be related.
YouTube’s hashtag use takes place mostly in the comment section. Clicking on a hashtag takes you to a search result page for videos with that word or words in the title. So be warned: if you hashtag a music video with #BestSongEver and click on the hashtag, it will give you a list of videos for One Direction’s song titled “Best Song Ever.”
As you can see, most social media networks have integrated the hashtag in varying degrees. Twitter and Instagram are the most hashtag-friendly, but it’s important to use them effectively regardless. To do that, here are a few dos and don’ts of hashtag usage.
Pay attention to what other users are doing. Those trending topics are trending for a reason, and your posts are more likely to be seen if you use hashtags that people are actually searching for. Learn what hashtags are popular in the field by looking at what hashtags other accounts similar to your own are using.
When creating your own hashtag, be sure to make it free of ambiguity. Check your tags to ensure it’s showcasing your brand clearly without any added confusion. For instance, the hashtag #tesla brings up results from both Tesla Motors and Nikola Tesla.
To promote your hashtag, put it on all marketing materials and remind your followers to use it when they tweet about your goods or services. Besides giving your brand more attention online, this also makes it easier for you to see what people are saying about your business even if they don’t tag you directly.
In addition, be sure to follow the trends. It’s okay to ride on the coattails of others in your field while using trending topics to promote your business. However, that’s only as long as you’re doing it right. It’s a good idea to conduct some research before riding the train of popular hashtags so you’ll know what’s appropriate to profit off of.
If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by social media, learning how to use hashtags is a great place to start. Technology moves fast, but hashtags will stick around. If you want a little extra boost to your social media profiles, check out our services and partners. We’ll match you with a perfect agency to take your business to the next level.