We’ve all seen those people on social media who overuse hashtags. You may have even met someone who speaks hashtags in a face-to-face conversation. And you’ve probably grumbled about hashtag use at some point in time because, let’s face it, hashtagging overuse can be annoying.
If you’re one of those hashtag over-users, not to worry. There’s an intervention waiting in your near future.
Hashtags are meant to be used to add categories for your social media posts, adding your posts with the posts of others who have used the same hashtag, so you can all get together and see what everyone’s talking about at the same time. For instance, say you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, and you want to live Tweet your reactions as you watch the latest airing and gripe about any idiosyncrasies that don’t coincide with the original plot in the books. You might add the hashtag: #GameOfThrones. Then, you can perform a search on your social media platform of choice and see what everyone else is saying.
You can use hashtags to find others with similar interests, join in a conversation, or just snoop around on a subject (or person). Hashtags take all the social media posts with the same hashtags and throws them into the same conversational bin so you can wallow in the hashtag topic of your choice without the irritation of extraneous conversations. It’s great if you tend to obsess over something and want to garner as much info as you can in a short period of time.
Want to know what’s happening with a particular news story right now? There’s a hashtag for that.
Need to know who’s winning a sporting event? There’s a hashtag for that.
Looking to connect with people who have a similar interest as you? There’s a hashtag for that.
Want to know what a your favorite celebrity is up to this week? There’s a hashtag for that.
Wondering how prevalent cheating on your spouse is? There’s a hashtag for that, too.
Hashtagging is meant to categorize your social media posts, to index them, so they can be searched more efficiently. Consider them the phone book and card catalog of the Internet’s social media sites (for those of you who are old enough to have used a phone book and/or card catalog). Hashtags are great for those people who like to sort their M&Ms by color and prefer to work on a perfectly clean desk. They’re also great for those people who mix M&Ms and Skittles in the same bite and work in an utter landfill of chaos. Hashtags don’t judge.
Hashtagging done poorly can irritate those who take the time to read your social media feeds. Here are a few do’s an don’ts:
- DO use hashtags if your social media post contains something of interest to others, such as a popular TV show, pictures of cats, or industry-specific news.
- DON’T use never-ending hashtags, like this one: #addinganentiresentencetoahashtagisnotonlyannoyingbutitssuperconfusingtooandnoonewillreadthisallthewaytotheendanyways.
- DON’T create your own random hashtags that will never apply to anyone else: #mycatisblueandtheskyisred.
- DO write creative hashtags that others will love.
- DO put some thought into your hashtags.
- DO limit your hashtags to no more than five per post
- DON’T post personal information you don’t want the Internet the know and include hashtags.
- DON’T use hashtags in face-to-face conversation unless you’re with really good friends who find you funny, love you, and overlook your quirks.
- DO check your hashtags for typos.
- DO check your posts for potentially offensive info before hashtagging. Those hashtags can be indexed years later, even if you delete the post. Manage your reputation and your company’s reputation responsibly online.
- DON’T put hashtags where they don’t belong, like on billboards and written communication, unless you’re announcing a new hashtag as part of a promotional campaign
- DO keep a sense of humor when it comes to hashtagging- someone is always going to annoy you by breaking hashtag rules.
You can use hashtags to help find new social media connections in your industry or to keep abreast of the latest on a topic of interest. Hashtags can help you keep the pulse of a hot topic and find out what’s trending at any given moment online. But clogging up your social media posts with unruly hashtags is the equivalent of spamming those you’re connected with online. It’s just not polite.
When in doubt, don’t hashtag, especially if you’re posting for a client or company, or if you care about your online reputation.
Hashtags and social media posts have cost countless people their jobs and probably resulted in missed opportunities for numerous others. When people want to check out a new company, employee, or even someone they just met, they turn to the Internet. And those hashtags can come back and bite you. And search engines love to index hashtags and social media posts. Even if you think your posts are “private” or shared with just a few close people, adding a hashtag can make that post accessible to the public.
And if you want to make it easter for hashtag newbies to “get your tags” try “CapitalizingEveryWord. It helps clarify what your hashtag is saying.
Creative Ways to Use Hashtags
Hashtags are great for live social media coverage of an event. If you’re planning a launch, premier, or other crucial event, consider brainstorming potential hashtags far in advance of the event. Your creative team can them decide which hashtags to use, and these can be released to the public a few days before the event. This can help control the flow of hashtagging so social media posts are funneled into the same indices and give the public a place to start when searching for related posts about your event.
Try to use descriptive words when coming up with new hashtags to make them easier for people to remember. Promotional hashtags are essentially mini-taglines that need to say a lot in a few words. Using rhyming words or words with a similar cadence can help your hashtag catch on.
Don’t forget to register your tag so people know what the heck you’re talking about it they see it trending on social media. You can define your tag here.
How are you using hashtags? What’s worked for you?