What are hashtags all about?
The first place you may have seen a hashtag was likely to be Twitter, with all the other major social media platforms now following suit, including Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and many others.
Simply put, a hashtag is a way for people to search tweets or posts that have a common topic and to begin a conversation …
“Has anyone been watching #xfactor this week?” – If you were to click on the word “#xfactor” in that tweet, you will get a list of tweets or posts that have been posted by other users that would be related to The X-Factor.
However, if you were to tweet:
“Has anyone been watching xfactor this week?” without the hashtag, the word “xfactor” won’t be searchable.
So, to be sure we all understand; a hashtag turns a word into a search term, and clicking on a word with a hash symbol next to it will show everyone else’s tweets that also include the same word if it includes a hash symbol.
No spaces allowed
First of all, a hashtag should be a single word, an abbreviation, an invented combination of numbers and letters or a phrase. If using a hashtag with a phrase, it should be joined together like this #looknospaces rather than #look no spaces – otherwise the only word picked up on the hashtag would be #look.
There also cannot be ANY punctuation in a hashtag – an example of a good hashtag is #thisisagoodhashtag but #this-is-a-good-hashtag isn’t.
It’s also worth pointing out that a hashtag cannot consist of just numbers only; so #123456789 won’t work, but #vaccoda123456789 would. You need to have at LEAST one letter with the numbers, so even #v123456789 would be fine too.
Start with a # symbol
A hashtag always starts with a # followed by the word, phrase or number and letter combo. In some parts of the world, a hashtag is called a number sign (in the United States and Canada) or even a pound sign.
In the United Kingdom we refer to the # symbol as a hash sign, and are referred to as a hashtag in the world of social media, as you are “tagging” a word or phrase.
Make up your own hashtag
Anyone can create a hashtag – it doesn’t need to be registered and hashtags aren’t policed in any way – so simply make up your hashtag word or phrase and start using it in your messages. For example we might hashtag vaccoda – #vaccoda.
Make your #hashtag unique
If you think you have come up with a hashtag that is completely new / unique, do a search first on the social platform you intend to use the hashtag on. We have found that about 30% of the time the hashtag is being used for another purpose.
Whilst there is nothing stopping you from using a hashtag that is also in existence elsewhere, there could be some confusion or at worst be seen as an attempt to high-jack a discussion relating to that hashtag in order to gain attention, so really its best to go back to the drawing board if you discover your first choice for a hashtag is already in use elsewhere.
Make your hashtag one that is easy to remember and understand
A golden rule here is to keep hashtags as short and snappy as possible. No one will remember #areallyreallyreallyreallyreallylongandcomplicatedhashtag – in as much as no one will remember a shorter hashtag that is made up of random letters and numbers or a hashtag that is hard to pronounce. It is especially important with twitter that you create a short and to the point hashtag as you have a limited/set amount characters that you can use.
On Google+ there is an advantage in the hashtag world where Google’s technology will automatically assign hashtags to your posts without you needing to do anything, but if you prefer to add your hashtags manually, you can tell Google to not add hashtags to your content.
Using a hashtag that already exists
If you don’t want to create your own hashtag you can always enter a discussion where a hashtag already exists. All you need to do is add the hashtag to the end of your Twitter tweet or social media update. By doing this you are sharing your content related to the topic of the hashtag and including yourself / post / tweet in the discussion. Others that are interested in the topic related to your hashtag will see your content, so make sure you keep the post or content relevant to the hashtag you are using.
How #not #to #use a hashtag
Try not to overdo it when using a hashtag. A lot of people seem to get a bit hashtag happy and put a hash symbol before every other word in their tweet or content – this can be counter-productive because it makes your tweets or content difficult to read and people will get frustrated by this – 2 hashtags (3 maximum) is more than enough in any tweet or content.
For example, the following is how not to do it: #hello #and #welcome #to #our #website … too many hashtags!
It is also considered bad etiquette to add a hashtag to an unrelated message in an attempt to get attention. Always make sure your content is relevant to the hashtag(s) you use.
So, remember to be unique with your hashtag and also relevant! You can also go to Hashtags.org to see how other people are using hashtags and what they are discussing – it will definitely give you ideas. Now, go and #hashtag for yourself!