The How and Why of Hashtags

To say I have not enjoyed watching family and friends trying to understand the transition from “pound symbol” to “hashtag” would be a lie, however my good deed for today is spend a minute sharing how they can be used a little more effectively for marketing and building community. Simply stated, the hashtag is a straightforward way to categorize a message in a short word or phrase. Hashtagging can be an effective way to market a business, collect media or feedback surrounding an event, and sometimes it is just a fun way to add a little bit of humor to a regular post. 

Twitter is historically recognized for the original transition, and it has since been spread across social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. The hashtag has become the most effective way to start a conversation and share ideas with users who have similar interests by grouping posts together and signalling a topic, like a headline or subject line. Want to make a post about your favorite part of the superbowl, or excited to meet other people in your neighborhood who love running? Why not include the hashtag #Superbowl2020 or #HartfordRunning? Today, these social platforms make it easy to click on the hashtag and see who else has posted about these topics making it easy to find other people with similar interests. 

How to Use a Hashtag

  1. #Bio – If your job, hobby, or identity is a big part of who you are and the content you post, maybe adding a hashtag to your bio is an appropriate way to attract people who are interested in that, too. For example, I’m a personal trainer, so if I added #personaltrainer to my bio it would signal that I am probably a personal trainer. It could serve as a warning to my friends and family that I will inevitably post something about drinking water, eating healthy, and working out on a regular basis, all of which is immediately fair game for ridicule when I go to town on a bag of chips or complain about not wanting to work out. 
  2. #Posts – There are two primary ways to integrate hashtags into your post. The first and most common is the unload of hashtags at the end of a post–maybe it’s just one like #family after a holiday or #fitness when you post a shirtless locker room selfie, or perhaps it’s a chain of hashtags with small variations. In contrast, my favorite posts from others strategically choose a handful of words from their caption to tag within the sentence, making it easy to read, intentional, and not quite as aggressive. Next time you find the #motivation to post a shirtless gym #selfie, maybe you’ll consider how you hashtag.
  3. #Events – Events of all kinds are using hashtags to build engagement and awareness of all kinds. I proudly used #CautionWorldTour when I went to see Mariah Carey in concert last year, and it was great to be able to see videos and posts from other people at the event. Plenty of people even make use of a fun slogan for their wedding so they have an easy way to collect photos from everyone in attendance. 

How Not to Use a Hashtag

  1. #Bio – Keep it short and keep it simple. I feel comfortable saying that any hashtag over four words is difficult to understand and could definitely be shorter. #UncleToJamesMikeAndBethany is absolutely too many words, however it is a super effective way to let people know that you are not really sure how to use your social media. Perhaps James, Mike, and Bethany can give you some advice
  2. #PostComments – Unloading a huge comment after your caption (typically on instagram) with more hashtags than hours in a day is a great tool for some, but it is definitely something I tend to shy away from. On one hand, it is polite (I suppose?) to make your hashtagging more discreet, but if you’re going to do it all then I think you should just own it from the start. Many hashtag comments probably include quite a few tags and they tend to be copied and pasted from other posts before. If your goal is to effectively attract a deeply interested group of followers, be precise and be authentic. If you have no game plan, #Dog, #dogs, #dogsofIG, #dogdad, #dogblog, anything and everything else you can think will be just right. 
  3. #Punctuation – Friendly reminder that punctuation and spaces will not be included in your hashtag. That means no apostrophes, no commas, and no explanation marks. Don’t forget to review your hashtags after you post before you let the world know that you still use the “pound symbol” when talking about social media. 

If you’re still feeling like you aren’t in the know when it comes to hashtagging, don’t stress. The end goal whenever you log on should be to get creative and enjoy yourself, whether you’re a big time influencer or sharing a few memes with your friends. Happy #Hashtagging! 

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