Today I’m going to make some confessions, I’m part of Generation X and I have no idea about #hashtags. But when I speak openly to my friends of the same vintage, I have discovered that I’m not alone, and this has inspired me to get to the bottom of what a hashtag is and to learn how to use them…properly…
Note – Millennials and Generation Z’s, I can already hear you laughing! So if #hashtags are in your dialect this article is NOT for you. If on the other hand, #hashtags are new and you want to get amongst the crowd, please join me on the journey. We can work this out together…
Besides being a symbol for the pound, what even is a # in social media land?
If we go right back to 2007, a guy by the name of Chris Messina who as a product designer from Silicon Valley introduced the #hashtag to Twitter. When he pitched the idea to Twitter they told him it was ‘nerdy’, and that it wouldn’t catch on. Messina didn’t listen, and he encouraged his contacts to start #hashtagging in their tweets in an effort to group their conversations. By 2009 Twitter recognised that the concept was catching on, and so they added a feature that allowed users to search for #hashtags.
In 2011 Instagram allowed users to include hashtags in their posts. At the time, Instagram users were doing all sorts of things to work the platform to organise their pages around interests and communities. Instagram had to offer a solution, which was allowing users to group their posts by using the #hashtag.
And this, fellow hashtag newbies, is exactly what the function hashtag is; the ability to organise information and direct online traffic. In a way, it’s like hyperlinking your post to a commonly used tag, that others will click on and see your post.
Chris Messina originally went searching for a function online that could communicate only to specific people, like participants at events or conferences, and he quotes, “I would love to be able to send certain messages only to certain sets of people through some sort of grouping functionality. Like when I go to a conference, I want to be able to send certain messages only to other twitter friends who are also at that conference. A lot of my friends get really annoyed with me when I’m constantly twittering about an event they’re not lucky enough to attend.”
Messina discusses the investigations he conducted in search of a simple solution in this blog. Because of Twitters short and sweet nature, Messina wanted something that allowed for content to be grouped together, and through his research he concluded the use of the pound symbol followed by the text was the best way to do this.
#brilliant but how so #simple
Why use hashtags?
If we go back to basics, social media has captivated the world as it has enabled audiences to connect and created conversations between like-minded people on both a personal and business level. With the addition of Messina’s brilliant idea of the #hashtag, he has enabled specific content to be grouped together.
There’s an old saying, ‘Birds of a feather flock together.’ And this is how I perceive the use of a hashtag; like-minded people sharing in the same content on social media. The Instagram and LinkedIn platforms allow you to follow #hashtags. This allows content creators/marketers a greater opportunity for their content to reach the right people.
So basically, #hashtags need to be used to be found and to get amongst the conversation.
When to use hashtags?
Simply, #hashtags should be used in every post you put out across your social media platforms. Without them, you are missing the opportunity to engage with your far-reaching audiences and to be discovered. You can always use them as extensions of a caption #fml #yolo and if you’re like our boss and founder Chrissy who’s so immersed and in love with them, she can on occasion heard to say out loud “hashtag living ma best life” so LOL.
Your simple #guide to using #hashtags effectively
With the knowledge that hashtags are to simply organise your content and channel your audience, lets now take a close look at which platforms to include them on, how to select the #hashtags, how many #hashtags and where to place them in your post.
Which platforms do they work best on?
Hashtags can be used on many of the well-known social media platforms; Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Twitter and Instagram are believed to be the platforms where #’s perform best, however Linkedin also allows them and using them can be a great way for your content to be discovered.
They work well on Twitter because of the brief nature of Tweets, and the use of a # gives the post the opportunity to direct traffic to like-minded readers.
Hashtags work particularly well on Instagram, because of its visual nature. Hashtags provide Instagrammers with a quick reference of what the visual is trying to tell you. For example, if I was to post a photo of a cocktail, you might skim past and think, so what. But if I was to include a hashtag #halfpricecocktails, it may inspire you to engage with the post.
How to select which #’s to use?
When using hashtags in business promotion across any of the platforms, it’s important to do your #hashtag homework. The aim is to choose #’s that will generate the best engagement. The next important step is to review the analytics after the post to see how the #’s you selected performed.
When selecting #’s the goal is to rank high on the list to be seen, noticed and discovered. Therefore, don’t use #’s that are popular and widely used. For example, if you’re posting a Christmas in July event, #ChristmasinJuly is probably being overused, making it harder for you to compete for a top ranking position. This is where #hashtag research is so important. You need to strategically select #’s that a relevant, but not overused.
Here are some of our suggested places for you to go looking for the right #’s: https://hashtagify.me/hashtag/hair
So.. How many #’s need to be included in each post? And where to place them?
This depends on which platform you are posting on. Here is a general guide:
- Instagram – 5 to 10 Best placed after the caption. They can also be used effectively in your bio.
- Twitter – 1 to 2 They can be used anywhere in the Tweet.
- Facebook – 1 to 2 They can be included in any part of your post
- YouTube – 2 to 3 Include in either the video title or the video description
- Linked In – 1 to 2 Can be include anywhere in your update or article.
- Pinterest – 2 to 5 Include anywhere in the Pin description
Simple #hashtag tips
- There are no spaces in #hashtags
- You can indeed make up your own #hashtags, you aren’t limited to ones that have already been created
- Location #hashtags are effective when promoting local businesses and events
Pro Tip – Don’t always use the same # in the exact same order and don’t use # that are trending and that might be irrelevant to your posts (in case you were thinking of jumping on a trending hashtags bandwagon). Instagram in particularly hates it when you do this and you could run the risk of having a shadow ban imposed on you. Also look into grabbing an app or using a tool called a hashtag randomizer. This will ensure you can still use some favourite hashtags you have and specific for your industry or posts, but it will shuffle them for you, so you can copy, paste and go about your business.
I hope I was able to clarify a few things there, and that the whole # thing isn’t such a mystery to you now. Fortunately, for me and you, CLS has many #hashtag experts. Chrissy and her team can help you with all things #hashtags, including a strategic marketing plan to assist you with optimizing your social media posts. Are you ready to take the # symbol from your old landline phone and jump aboard the #hashtagsarecool boat?