Launched on Twitter in 2007, #hashtags are now a very popular way of communicating on social media. You also see hashtags on commercials, billboards, and other ads as a way to get watchers to follow their brand's current story on Twitter. People have also been using hashtags for Facebook for a while. Did they mean anything? No, not at all. Now they do have meaning. Facebook is currently rolling out the use of hashtags to all users of Facebook. But is this a good or bad thing? It depends on if you know how to use them. When used correctly hashtags can bring you traffic, or even business. When used wrong, hashtags may just cause people to stop reading your posts. Hashtags are now active on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, and Google+.
What are Hashtags?
Hashtags are certainly nothing new. Although, now that they have hit Facebook they can be considered mainstream. One of the most popular posts that I wrote on this site was Twitter Parties & #hashtags written back in 2009. Looks super simple. Nothing special about that post, but at the time people wanted to know what hashtags were all about. How exactly do you use hashtags? The whole purpose of a hashtag is to allow others to track a conversation or easily find information. On Twitter, you see this for popular TV shows, popular smartphones, events, campaigns, or popular subjects, etc. For example, you can check out the following hashtags:
… and more.
People interested in those subjects, or looking for info can search Twitter.com (and now Facebook) for that hashtag, or save the search in their Twitter client to keep up with the subject for a long period of time.
When Should I Use Hashtags?
First tidbit: What some people do not seem to understand is this… MAKING UP HASHTAGS DOES NOT MEAN A THING!!! Yes, I had to put that in bold letters. Hashtagging random words just annoys those reading the message. Making up a phrase for your own tweets does not bring you more traffic, unless…
You are running a campaign, or you have alerted others to actually follow that hashtag. Take for example a blogger who decides that they want to have a chat about #pinkbicycles. If you search that on Twitter right now you will see that there is not one post with that hashtag so it will be yours and all yours. At this point, you can consider that a made-up hashtag. You decide that you want to have an hour-long discussion all about this subject. 20 minutes in, you realize that you are talking to yourself. Why? Because no one but you knows about this hashtag. In this manner the appropriate thing to do would be to advertise the Twitter talk on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, and everywhere else BEFORE your chat. Tell people to watch that hashtag between 5-6pm, or whatever time you designate. THEN hopefully you will have some folks to chat with.
What Hashtags Should I Use?
Well this, of course, depends on what attention you would like to draw. Say for example you are having a problem with your iPhone and wondering if anyone else is experiencing the same issue. You would tweet something like “My #iPhone is having problems connecting to WiFi. Anyone else? #iOS” You might be surprised at the number of responses that you receive from Twitter users that you do not even know. This is because other folks passionate about their iPhones watch that hashtag to chat about its greatness and answer questions if they know the answer.
If you are working on a campaign, you may have received specific instructions from the brand or PR rep to use a hashtag when tweeting out your post. This is for more than one reason. First, it gives them a very easy way to keep track of when their hired bloggers send a tweet about the brand. Also, it may gauge interest and tempt others into clicking on the hashtag and participating in the conversation, which may just lead others to read your post.
Also, there are web memes that we all know and love. #FollowFriday is still alive (despite what some think) and well and is sometimes shortened to #FF. #TBT (Throwback Thursday) is now popular on Facebook. There are many, many more!
What Hashtags Shouldn't I Use?
Well, this is easy. Here is an example of a Facebook post left on my wall today that someone reported once seeing on Twitter:
I once saw this Tweet: #Awesome #job #jobs at #NY #startup for a #web#developer #webdeveloper with great #salary #apply today!
Wow. Really?? Several things wrong here. LOL! The only hashtags in that string that may work are #jobs #startup and #webdeveloper. The rest are basically empty words. Some words are just way too general for people to be interesting in searching for them on Twitter or Facebook. Words like #the #that #this, etc. should not be hashtagged. And… I'm sure I will get some slack for this, things like #INeedToGetSomeCoffee, while cute and catchy, won't add any value to your post. Now honestly I CAN see a phrase like that catching on as a meme hashtag. I mean, we all do drink coffee and many of us share the need for it with our Facebook friends. So, who knows… at the very least you would see everyone else that needs coffee from day to day. But the point is that the long made up phrases with a hashtag in front are generally not going to be searched for. And if you make up one and click on it on Twitter or Facebook yours is likely to be the only post that you see. Hashtags like this are used just to make your post funny. And that is fine. But, if you are hoping that it makes your post more popular… it won't.
How Do I Find Hashtags to Follow?
This is easy. Check the Twitter homepage. You will see a Trends box on the left hand side with what is trending on Twitter right now. Many of these are hashtags. Depending on what is going on at the time you may see hashtags for popular TV shows or movies, or a holiday. Simply click on one to bring up all tweets containing that term. You can also use search.twitter.com, or your favorite Twitter client to find things to follow. Search for easy terms and you may get lucky. If you are a wedding planner, search for #weddingseason and see if there is a discussion. Jump in and interact and use it to share info from your blog or business. Twitter is one of the only places where strangers can routinely butt into the conversations of others, and no one minds. LOL. Also, keep in mind that a hashtags do not use spaces.
When using hashtags find out what works best for you. You can ask for advice from those that have been using Twitter for a while, or just sit back and watch for a bit until you are comfortable jumping in. They are a great way to find new friends and followers, find interesting articles or tweets, find other content in your niche, or promote your own tweet, blog, or business to a wider audience.