What is a hashtag?

‘I don’t even know what a hashtag is.’

This is something I hear regularly and it’s usually part of a conversation about how somebody is trying to promote their business on social media but does not know where to start.  Hashtags seem like an alien concept when you are new to social media, so let’s demystify them.

So, what is a hashtag?

A hashtag is a word or phrase that is preceded by the # symbol.  It is used on social media channels to identify messages on a specific topic.  It allows you to almost join a conversation on whatever the subject is.  The hashtag will be clickable so you can see what others using the same one are saying.  For example, if you used #chocolate and then clicked on it you will see a stream of other pieces of content relating to that subject.

Best practice for using hashtags

Hashtags can be placed at the end of your message or indeed in the middle of your message. Now, you will have other questions such as; where to place them, how many to use, what ones are best, so, let’s look at how and where to use them:

Instagram:  Never post anything on Instagram without some hashtags.  This is how your account will be found by those interested in what you are saying.  Followers engage with hashtags, they are great for finding out what is trending in your industry and many users will follow particular hashtags.  Use a mix of popular and niche hashtags, consider your own brand for a hashtag.  You can use up to 30 hashtags but at present having less than 10 seem to be getting the best engagements.

Twitter:   Used so others can discover your tweet, hashtags are important on this channel.  Do your research and see what hashtags your audience are already using.  Short, easy to spell hashtags work well on twitter as you are limited in the amount of overall characters you can use. Don’t use all capitals for them and two hashtags are best.

LinkedIn:  Hashtags are pretty new to LinkedIn and using them will make your content more discoverable.  Use them in your updates and LinkedIn articles.  There are no limits as to how many you can use here but limit it to five at the most otherwise their algorithm might see your post as spam.  Location based hashtags are good and you can follow hashtags to get new ideas.

Facebook:  They have been around for the past few years, but many people are still not using hashtags on Facebook.  There is no definite answer on whether a Facebook post will get more or less engagement if you use a hashtag.  However, as more people are using Facebook like a search engine, your hashtags will be searchable.   Less is more, experiment and see what happens because Facebook put them there for a reason.

Now that you know what a hashtag is why not start to incorporate them into your social media.  As with all new efforts, play around with your hashtags and measure which ones work best for you.  #happyhashtagging