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The Only Hashtag Guide You’ll Ever Need

by Team Caffeine · 13 comments

Hashtag Guide

[Tweet “"Social media is an ingredient, not an entree." – Jay Baer”]

Hashtags are a fantastic way to promote your brand, meet new customers, and engage in conversation around your niche. They entered mainstream conversation on Twitter (though they’ve been around for years), and recently Facebook picked them up.

Now that Facebook has hashtags too, it won’t be long before everyone’s using them.

In this guide, we’ll show you what it takes to join the hashtag party. (Don’t panic, it’s really simple. Scout’s honor. And we’ll do our best to make you smile.)

History of HashtagsInfographic courtesy of Kevin Basset.

What are Hashtags for?

Hashtags help people find stuff and share stuff. People use hashtags all the time to find stuff related to their hobby, or a recent news story, or a cause close to their heart.

Likewise, you can use hashtags to find and share all this kind of stuff, and lots, lots more.

How do you make a hashtag?

You create a hashtag by putting a pound sign (#) in front of a word.

Let’s imagine you’re a sports brand in the running niche. As part of your engagement strategy, you tweet about your own runs.

You could tweet:

Beat my personal best. 10k in under 37 minutes.

Which does the job. But why not add a hashtag?

Beat my personal best. 10k in under 37 minutes. #running

That way, people who are interested in running are more likely to come across your tweet and follow your brand.

From a marketing perspective, hashtags help you engage in conversation with customers and potential customers, and they’re an opportunity to boost your brand’s visibility.

How do hashtags help people discover your brand?

In a few ways.

Lots of people “monitor” hashtags. That means they’ll track everything that’s said on Twitter around a hashtag they’re interested in. So they might track a hashtag for #socialmedia or #business or #troutfishing. Whatever. If you’re including hashtags in your tweets, people who track those hashtags will see your tweets.

Next, people discover hashtags through search. Searching for a hashtag on Twitter is a quick way of finding out what’s being said right now about a particular topic.

Hashtags can also “trend”. This is when hashtags become so popular, they get into the trending side bar on Twitter. Trending is the dream of every viral marketer. When a trend is relevant to your brand, you can jump on that bandwagon, and ride it for all it’s worth. Because trending hashtags get a ton of attention.

What other crazy things do people do with hashtags?

If this is the first time you’ve been introduced to hashtags, your mind is probably whirring with the possibilities. Or maybe you’re drawing a blank. Either way, no worries. We’ve got this covered. Hashtags can be used for:

Creating memes. A meme is a hashtag when suddenly everyone wants to give their opinion or share their story. Great memes go viral. Examples include #ARelationshipIsOverWhen, #UnlikelySequels #iGrewUpWatching and #CrapNamesForPubs.

Being Funny. People with a weird sense of humor use hashtags all the time. And sometimes they’re pretty funny.

Just got fired. #BadDayAtTheOffice

Find People to Follow. If you’re a writer and you feel a bit lonely hammering away at your keys without a single literary friend, you can search the hashtag #amwriting to find other writers. Writers use it all the time when they’re not writing, so it’s a fun way of finding other procrastinators. If you’re not a writer, you can find another appropriate hashtag. More on that in a minute.

Eavesdrop. Yep, seeing what random people around the world have to say on an issue can be lots of fun.

Make a name for themselves. Successful hashtag creators are the wonder workers of the social media world. To most of us, their craft is shrouded in mystery, but read on to discover their secrets. Then you can (maybe) make a name for your brand with hashtags. No promises. We’ll show you how, but it’s up to you to do the work.

Find interesting stuff. Like what’s going on in your city. Or what artists are drawing over in Hong Kong. Or how to wrestle a bear. Do a random hashtag search, and you never know what you’ll pick up. (Always practice good hygiene)

Guide to Twitter Hashtags

Twitter is the spiritual and virtual home of hashtags. Without Twitter, hashtags would still belong to the realm of geeks and the secret societies called IRCs who probably run the Internets.

So, the advice you learn on Tweeting hashtags can be applied anywhere. That includes on Twitter’s arch enemy, Facebook.

Let’s start with the basics.

Hashtag Basics

Pay attention! If you ignore the rest of this article, and learn this, you’ll still pass the quiz at the end.

  • Creating a hashtag is super, super simple. You just put a pound sign in from of a word. Or group of words. #LikeThis. Got it? Anyone can do it, at any time, with any word. There are no rules. Except, be nice.
  • Searching for hashtags is equally simple. Just type the hashtag you’re looking for into the Twitter search bar. If you’re looking for the #monkey hashtag, enter #monkey into the search bar.
  • Spamming is not cool. Let’s say everyone’s tweeting about the #SuperBowl, which happens from time to time, so you think, “Aha! I can jump on this bandwagon!” It’s maybe a sensible thought. But if you sell cars, and use the #SuperBowl hashtag to send out spam about your cars, that’s not cool. Stay on topic.
  • Mix it up. Don’t always use the same hashtags. The more varied you make it, the more likely you are to be discovered by a wide range of people.
  • The 1 or 2 rule. One hashtag in a tweet is plenty. Two is an abundance of sufficiency. Three hashtags is not only a crowd. It’s an abomination, and will make your followers #RunAway.
  • Get the Hump. I mean, use CamelCase. If you’re writing a #HashTagWithMoreThanOneWord, start each word with a capital letter. #thatwayitmightpossiblybelegible.
  • You can click hashtags. If you see a hashtag you like in someone else’s tweet, click it. Then Twitter will automagically search for the best tweets which include that hashtag.

Now you know how to create hashtags and how to use them. But what if you want to find hashtags so you can intrude on conversations that are already happening?

Let’s look at that next.

Finding Twitter Hashtags (And Getting Yours Found)

Hashtags.org tracks hashtag trends in real time. It also has a searchable archive of hashtags, with definitions and a 24 hour trend graph.

To have hashtags.org track any hashtags you create, follow @hashtags on Twitter.

Tips on Going Viral

Everyone wants their hashtag to go viral. It’s just a thing we all dream of, like owning a ferrari or having a pool in our backyard.

(Okay, not everyone dreams of those. But if you do dream of making it big with hashtags, this stuff’s for you).

Here’s what you gotta do:

  • Back it up with content. Trying to become a top ten hashtag hit with a hashtag alone is like going for a round of golf with only a putter. You’re on a losing streak before you even got started. If you want a hashtag to go viral it’s got to be a campaign. That means linking your genius hashtag with stunning content on your blog, Facebook page and YouTube account. The bigger buzz you create around your hashtag, the more likely you’ll make it big.
  • Ask for Help. Sometimes you can’t make it on your own. Except, when it comes to creating a viral campaign, sometimes is never. Pull out the big guns. Ping everyone in your network to let everyone know what you’re doing. Ask them to pay back every favor you’ve ever handed out. The more people you can get on board to start with, the better your chance of success.
  • Ask for Help, Part II. You thought you were done with eating humble pie? Nope. Virality is a hungry beast, and you’re the one who’s volunteered to feed it. When you tweet out your hashtag (which you should do lots), ask for retweets. When you ask for retweets, you’re four times more likely to get retweets. That’s scientifically proven by Mr. Dan Zarella himself.
  • Be funny. Or at least have a good time. The more feel-good you inject into the virus (sorry, viral campaign), the easier it will be to spread your deadly disease. Funny is money.
  • Go to town. You’ve made the hashtag, so for Zuke’s sake, use it! Don’t be shy. Get it out there. And if at first you don’t succeed, try again. And again. And again.

How to Track Hashtags

You can track hashtags with Hashtags.org, if you sign up for a free account. However, we think that’s a bit of a hassle day to day.

Our everyday tool of choice for tracking hashtags is TweetDeck. You can create your own column for each hashtag you want to track, and follow the results in real time.

If you’re a Hootsuite fan, it does the same thing.

Twitter Hashtags

Guide to Facebook Hashtags

Recently, Facebook officially launched support for hashtags.

This is serious business, so let’s cut the smiles, get your professional face on, and find out what this is all about.

Click Those Hashtags! Hashtag Search and Hashtag Pages

As on Twitter, Facebook hashtags appear as clickable links. Clicking the hashtag pulls up a search, integrating nicely with Facebook’s new power search bar.

Searching for a hashtag brings up a timeline of public updates that include the hashtag. Additionally, if you update your status while on the hashtag timeline, your status includes the hashtag by default.

You can also go to a hashtag page using the URL facebook.com/hashtag/nameofhashtag. For example, the URL for the #socialmedia hashtag page is facebook.com/hashtag/socialmedia.

Hashtag pages are created automatically. When you invent a new hashtag, Facebook creates a page for that hashtag.

Aside from manual searches, or visiting the hashtag page, at the moment there’s no way to track a Facebook hashtag. This is likely to change as Facebook rolls out more features around hashtags.

Do Hashtags Boost Your Edgerank?

Every time you post to Facebook, Facebook gives your post an Edgerank. The higher the Edgerank, the more of your fans will see the post.

Typically, the more a post is liked or shared, the higher its Edgerank.

At the moment, and as far as we know, hashtags don’t influence the Edgerank of your posts. However, Edgerank does determine whether and where your posts show up on the hashtag page.

Hashtags Help Your Reach Out to New Fans

As on Twitter, the most important role Facebook hashtags play is helping to boost the visibility of your brand. If you include hashtags in your posts, you’re more likely to be discovered by people who’ve never before come across your brand.

What Facebook Hashtags Should I Use?

Choosing the right hashtags, like much of social media marketing, is more of an art than a science. If there was a simple answer, everyone would be doing it.

What’s important is creating a unique strategy for your brand. The hashtags you use will reflect your niche, your brand values, and the audience you want to reach out to.

Use a mix of popular hashtags with a broad appeal, and niche hashtags, which helps you be discovered by people who’s interests and values match those of your brand.

Always be on the look out for new and exciting hashtags. If they’re relevant to your brand, jump aboard those bandwagons!

Hashtags and Privacy

Just because a Facebook post includes a hashtag, that doesn’t make it public, and it doesn’t mean it will automatically show up in search.

If you’re using hashtags from your personal Facebook account, make sure your privacy settings are set to public. If you only share hashtagged updates with your friends, then what you share won’t become part of the bigger conversation around the hashtag.

Crossing Platforms With Hashtags

Is Facebook raining on Twitter’s parade by adopting hashtags? Well, yes, yes it is. We’ve got a sneaking suspicion Facebook wants to steal Twitter’s thunder. Hashtags were one of Twitter’s key USP’s, and with that gone, we may see even more migration of content and updates from Twitter to Facebook.

As a brand, the battle of the social networks needn’t concern you too much. You only need to keep an eye on the trends, and if Twitter starts to fall behind, then you can adjust your social media strategy.

In fact, you can use hashtags going cross-platform to your advantage. Now, if you’re planning a hashtag campaign, you can use it on Twitter and Facebook, giving you double the impact.

Hashtags and Google Search

(Other search providers are available)

Search for a hashtag on Google right now, and Twitter is usually the top result. As Facebook finds its feet in the world of hashtags, this could change.

Where Can I Find Hashtags?

Want to get a head start by putting some hashtags in your pocket, ready for later? Never fear! We thought you might want to do that, and we’ve put together a collection just for you.

We’ve got some wildcards in there, because keeping things random is always fun.

Now, get onto Twitter and Facebook and go use a hashtag! What are you waiting for? If you’re not sure which one to use, we recommend #SocialCaffeine as a fine starting point.

Your Turn!

Which hashtags have made the biggest difference for your brand?

[Tweet “"Tactics without a strategy is worse than doing nothing at all." – Li Evans”]

Lori R Taylor is the founder and executive editor of Social Caffeine. In 2009 she started her own direct response focused social media agency, REV Media Marketing LLC, coining the phrase given by her young son, “You bring the rain, we’ll make it pour.” Follow Lori on Twitter.

David Masters is our lead writer, idea spinner and super blogger. He’s British, and lives in Wales, but we don’t hold that against him. Follow David on Twitter.

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