How to use hashtags right & maximise your tweet’s potential.
A symbol once found in our phones (but which many have no idea what it’s used for), the ‘#’ has taken on a much more significant meaning in the world of social media. Made popular by Twitter as a function for tagging and aggregating tweets based on keywords/topics, this humble sign is an influential instrument for change and discovery today.
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Case in point – Some of the most powerful social movements in recent years, such as #BlackLivesMatter, #PrayforParis and #BringBackOurGirls, all started with a simple hashtag within a tweet. For brands, hashtags are great for channelling consumer conversations or user contributions, raising brand visibility on Twitter.
Adding to its many nicknames, such as ‘octothorpe’, ‘hex’ or ‘pound’, the ‘hashtag’ is one term marketers need in their vocabulary. However, there’s a fine line between #using and #abusing it; Here’s a quick overview on how they work and some guidelines to using them in your tweets.
How Do Hashtags Work?
Using the hash sign (#) before any word or phrase allows Twitter to highlight it as a searchable keyword or topic of interest. When people click or search for the keyword (e.g. #tbt), all related tweets with the hashtag would appear and be updated in real time.
In addition, when many are tweeting about a particular hashtag at the same time, the topic would be seen as ‘trending’. Other users would be able to observe these popular topics in their panel, depending on their preferences and history.
For the unacquainted, here are some basic to-knows about hashtagging on Twitter (and in general):
Do not leave a space after the ‘#’. If you want to tag a phrase, there has to be no spacing in between the words as well. (e.g #BlackFriday).
Note that hashtags are not case-sensitive. So, whether its #blackfriday or #BlackFriday, the same results will show.
Numbers can be used, but commas, punctuation marks, question marks, exclamation marks, apostrophes and other special characters (e.g. &, £, *) are not accepted.
Likewise, there are 4 ways a hashtag can add meaning to a tweet:
Adding a dose of humour, personality or personal opinion to an issue. Less about search terms, more about expanding on your feelings. (e.g. Ate my brother’s ice cream last night. He’s gonna scream. #SorryNotSorry )
Inviting other users to join in a specific event or conversation, a hashtag enables them to access and review related tweets easily in real time. (Twitter Chat Events, Meetups)
Hashtags can also be used to promote exclusive branded content, or collect all brand-related tweets in one place. (e.g. #scriptsays Twitter is the best platform for obtaining the quickest news)
Similarly, marketers can add in related or trending tags to improve their tweet’s search results.
How To Use Hashtags Correctly
Hashtags may be the key for people to discover you on Twitter, but don’t go trigger happy just yet; Like any other social media platform, etiquette, rules and plain old common sense still apply. Here are 3 tips about hashtags that will improve your tweet’s performance and prevent your account from becoming famous for the wrong reasons.
1. Keep Hashtags Short & Simple (KISS)
Hashtags make it easier to search for a topic; So, don’t let them be a burden to your users. Longwinded, complicated chains of text like #SingaporePrivateTutorsCoalition are not only harder to remember, they’re also difficult to read and type. Use short, easy to understand phrases of 2 – 3 words instead. Or if you’re a creative, pun-ny type, unique one-liners with relevant meanings rank high in the memorability factor too. (e.g. #Beliber )
2. Don’t Use TOO Many Hashtags
If your tweet is relevant to everything, it just doesn’t stand for anything at all. #Using #Hashtags #On #Every #Single #Word isn’t going to drive your engagement up in droves. So is tagging a ton of seemingly related terms; It only dilutes your tweet’s message and annoys readers. Users are unable to pinpoint your tweet’s topic, and determine how they should process your information. So, is this point about ‘hashtags’, ‘words’ or being ‘single’?
In addition, though it looks like you’re casting a wider net for bigger reach, the attention you receive in return may not be who you’re aiming for; Spammers or irrelevant accounts that want a follow back are more likely to interact with these types of content. Limit the number of hashtags to2 for the most engagement, and keep in mind if your tags are clearly related to your tweet. (Which brings us to point 3).
3. Think Specific
Broad, commonly used words don’t work well as hashtags, because people don’t search for them. Users know that if they search for a single, common word (e.g. #Food), it’s going to be too vague, and many irrelevant results would surface. However, if they tweaked and specified more details in their search (e.g. #DietFood ), results would be streamlined to their interests.
Thus, be specific when it comes to creating your hashtag or including relevant subject tags. If you’re creating a new hashtag, be sure that its distinguishable from others and relevant to your content. Likewise, if you’re including related subject tags in your tweet, it pays to focus on details. (e.g. #ContentMarketing over #Marketing)
Lastly, adopt a careful attitude when using trending hashtags in your tweets as well. Before riding on a popular tag or topic, do some research on its context. Check that your brand message and content aligns well with the meaning of the hashtag; If it doesn’t, you might run the risk of alienating users who see your tweet, or even offending them.