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Rules of The Hashtag

Wondering how to use hashtags?

Hashtags are everywhere! Love them or hate them, you can’t ignore them.

If you find hashtags a bit baffling, we’ll clue you in.

This complete guide will cover:

  • What are hashtags?

  • Why use hashtags?

  • How to use hashtags properly

  • How to find the best hashtags (plus case studies)

  • How to use hashtags on Twitter

  • How to use hashtags on Instagram

  • How to use hashtags on Facebook

  • NEW! How to use hashtags on TikTok

  • How to use hashtags on Pinterest

  • How to use hashtags on LinkedIn

Plus a bunch of great infographics. So let’s get started!

What are hashtags?

Once upon a time, a hashtag was just the hash mark or pound symbol, like so: #

The revolution started in 2007 when Twitter began to use the hashtag as a method of indexing keywords for easy discovery. Other social sites jumped on the bandwagon, and now hashtags are ubiquitous on social media. The term has become so commonplace that it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2010.

You know that pound (#) sign on your keyboard? Just add it before a word and voila, you have a hashtag!

A hashtag is a word or a group of words preceded by a pound (#) sign, which is used to categorize and find conversations around a particular topic or trend.

A hashtag is a clickable link to a group of posts using the same hashtag.

Yeah, it’s that simple! You don’t have to be a teen or a computer geek to use hashtags.

In geek-speak, hashtags are metadata tags which are used for grouping conversations. For example, suppose you are interested in Internet Marketing. You can search for #internetmarketing. Any social posts on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and such that use this hashtag will surface, so you can be a part of the conversation.

The very first hashtag was tweeted on August 23, 2007, by Chris Messina, a product designer and internet consultant.

Now, whether you’re posting on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, or LinkedIn, hashtags are the way to keep your social media accounts happening.

Other names for the hashtag are:

  • Number sign

  • Pound

  • Pound sign

  • Hash

  • Crosshatch

  • TicTacToe

  • And octothorpe – who knew!

Why use hashtags?

Hashtags have become an essential part of our day-to-day vernacular, all thanks to social media. And there is probably no better way to distinguish a digital novice from a digital native than the way they use hashtags.

Hashtags are often used as commentary or a punch line, but that’s not helpful to us as marketers.

We want to use hashtags that help our content get discovered, and to be part of a larger conversation around topics relevant to our business. Hashtags are also useful to discover what’s trending, and to follow breaking news. Click on a hashtag to get a real-time feed of the posts using that hashtag, and get an overview of an event.

You can also share your interest or your business with a hashtag like #weddingphotography, so that people who search for that particular topic can find your post.

Why are hashtags important for business?

Even though hashtags were created to organize content, they’ve since become a way to create conversations and promotions for brands and people. Before we dive into the benefits that hashtags offer, check out some statistics to understand the influence that hashtags have on Twitter.

  • The most important benefit of hashtags is that you can immediately find topics and conversations to join. A clever use of a hashtag can really put you on the map.

  • If you are a marketer, hashtags are a golden opportunity for you to create conversations without having to worry about finding participants. They find you!

  • Hashtags can lead to traction and sales, magic words to any business.

  • A relevant hashtag coupled with a clever tweet can even improve your online reputation.

How to use hashtags properly

Hashtags are a great way to get your message in front of people actively looking for your topic – but you need to use them well.

Follow these hashtag rules and you’ll be off to a great start! Remember that a hashtag is a single word. There should not be any spaces – even if the term contains multiple words, punctuation, and special characters.

The different words of a hashtag can be distinguished by using capital letters. For instance, a very popular hashtag campaign by Red Bull #PutACanOnIt is basically “Put a can on it.” The use of capital letters makes it easier to distinguish the different words of a hashtag. If you place punctuation within your hashtag phrase, you will break the tag. Only the part before the punctuation will be your hashtag.

For instance, if you want to tag #Let’sGoHeat, you need to use #LetsGoHeat. In the first instance, your hashtag is actually #Let, because it’s broken at the punctuation.

Just because you can add hashtags to your tweet or your post, does it mean #You #should #add #every #word #as #hashtag?

No, Nope, Nopes!

Although it largely depends on the social channel you are using (for instance, on Twitter, you should use fewer hashtags, but on Instagram it’s okay to use more), too many irrelevant hashtags just make you look awful.

If you’re a newbie and looking to dip your toe into hashtag waters, check out some do’s and don’ts that you absolutely must follow.

Consider them your Hashtag Rules:

Hashtag Do’s

  • The first step is to discover the hashtags used by others in your niche. Follow hashtags related to your line of business.

  • Before using a hashtag on a particular social channel, check out the rules. Although the fundamental principles are the same, the rules vary from one social channel to another. For example, Twitter focuses more on the topic while Instagram focuses on the description.

  • For a business, it’s important to perfect the art of targeting your audience. So get as specific as possible when using hashtags.

  • Get creative. The right hashtag has the power to go viral. After you’ve gotten the hang of using hashtags, try coming up with a new one. Who knows, it might become a trend

  • Hashtags are not just for marketing and promotion but for engagement as well. Use hashtags to start a conversation and participate in that conversation. Engaging with your users is a key to a well-rounded business.

  • New as of Fall 2020: DO use hashtags on Facebook!

Hashtag Don’ts

  • Don’t use a hashtag without research. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Check whether the hashtag is already being used. If it is, note what is it being used for, to save yourself from possible embarrassment.

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