How to Hashtag
If you have ever used the internet, chances are you have already come across a #hashtag.
A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded with a # (hashtag) sign. Think of hashtags as keywords, which are easily browse-able and searchable.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Hashtags were invented as a way to organize & interlink Twitter convos.” quote=”Although now available on many networks and used for many different things, hashtags were initially invented as a way to organize and interlink Twitter conversations.”]
The hashtag’s big break was in 2007, originally coined by Chris Messina adding tags to where he was tweeting from and what it was about but it wasn’t until the San Diego forest fire when the hashtags really took off.
how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?
— Chris Messina™ (@chrismessina) August 23, 2007
Use of the Hashtag
As of today, hashtags can be used on Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Vine.
Many people use hashtags every day for events and emergencies, and for following breaking news. By clicking on that hashtag, they can view continuous feeds of tweets and posts (depending on the network) that could be sent with a certain hashtag.
Hashtags have also been adopted to tag and share everyday things. #photography can help you find some new up-and-coming photographer (or get noticed as a photographer), #design for graphic designers, or #science for something to stimulate the mind! If you are going to share something of interest, hashtag it so others searching for that topic can find it!
Many television shows have even embraced hashtags. Shows regularly appear in Twitter and Google+ trending topics (#DoctorWho, #GameOfThrones). Special events such as awards shows (#oscars) and reality TV shows (#bigbrother) are especially popular among many on Facebook, Google and Twitter. The idea is, if a show becomes a trending topic, it could convince even more people to watch the show!
Hashtag Tracking and Analysis
Want to find out what hashtags people are using right now? Head over to see what is trending in the Explore tab on the Google+ home stream, or to Discover on Twitter. Another great resource is What the trend, for discovering hashtags and tracking hashtags that you are curious about. You can even browse #hashtags by region and country. Helpful for international businesses!
One great tool you should try is Tagboard. After just a short time with on the site, I knew it was for me. The main goal of Tagboard is to search through App.net, Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter and Vine for a specific hashtag. They present results beautifully, each network side-by-side or individually displayed. You can even interact with posts you find! Comment, Like, Reply, Re-share, and +1 with ease. Just a fantastic way to browse and target by hashtag.
There are many other great resources for tracking and identifying hashtags and trending topics for professional use. Until I create my own up-to-date blog post about it, here is a post from someone else with 69 Free Social Media Monitoring Tools to choose from.
WARNING: HASHTAGS CAN ALSO BE HARMFUL!
ALWAYS search for the hashtag you plan on using before you ever use it. You never know if that hashtag you picked for your marketing plan the same as a sex act you never knew about. Seriously. I’m not exaggerating.
Things can go WAY wrong. Blackberry learned the hard way when they chose to tweet about their job openings with the hashtag #rimjobs. Not only was it a fail to begin with (don’t they have the ability to Google over there?), but it was also hijacked, after the fact, on a massive scale. Minimize risk by being prepared! Here is a great link on avoiding aHashtag Hijacking, and another on Preventing Hashtag Disaster.
[clickToTweet tweet=”The noble hashtag is cursed by a problem Yogi Berra could appreciate: Too many people use it, so no one goes there.” quote=”The noble hashtag is cursed by a problem Yogi Berra could appreciate: Too many people use it, so no one goes there.”]
There are many useful exceptions, but hashtags for big news stories are particularly vulnerable to mathematical futility. -Daniel Victor, Nieman Journalism Lab
According to Twitter, there were 24.1 million tweets about the Superbowl game and halftime show in February, 2013. During the power outage, for example, there were over 3800 tweets per SECOND. Standing out from that crowd is next to impossible, especially as a newer account, or one with fewer followers than the average, as then it doesn’t have also have that boost from regular fans. Heck, just this past year, when Seattle Seahawk’s Percy Harvin was able to run a kickoff back for 87 yards, opening the second half of the game with a bang. That one moment alone generated over 381,605 tweets per minute!
It’s not just an event like the #Superbowl that has this problem. Using generic topic hashtags on your tweets, like #photography, #food or #art, when used for the purpose of expanding reach, can be a waste of your time. A hashtag’s effectiveness depends solely on the number of people currently searching for it, a number which we cannot measure, and I doubt Twitter wants to share.
[clickToTweet tweet=”We have been told #hashtags expand your reach… Well, that may be misleading.” quote=”Does this mean the millions of Twitter, Facebook and Google+ users who deploy such hashtags to increase their reach are all wrong? Well…yes. We certainly have a history of carrying out myths in technology. Shaking a Polaroid picture didn’t make it develop any faster. Blowing on Nintendo cartridges didn’t help, either. We’ve all been told at some point that hashtags connect you to more people, and it’s been widely accepted as fact.”]
-Daniel Victor, Nieman Journalism Lab“
But then again, that is just one person’s opinion. There is so much data to pore through, so many correlations… It’s impossible to come up with an exact equation for the perfect tweet or post, or the perfect hashtag with just the right timing. Maybe one day, but not today.
That isn’t to say, that hashtags can’t be incredibly helpful and useful. For example, I use hashtags on my own posts on Google+ not only for special days like #ScienceSunday, but also with basic topics, for my own reference. Sometimes it’s hard to think of the exact words you may have used on a post months or years before, but I can browse through a list of posts by me with a certain hashtag, easily finding whatever I need.
Until we come up with more definitive answers from the data, we can at least hold to a few basic standards.
The Golden Rules of Hashtagging
#HashtagAbuse: Don’t overuse hashtags.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Don’t overuse #hashtags. It looks amateur and desperate.” quote=”It looks amateur and desperate. Your current fans and followers will get the point: you could care less about their experience, you’d rather grasp at straws.”]
#KISS: Keep it Simple, Stupid!
[clickToTweet tweet=”#NoOneWantsToUseAHashtagLikeThis. If you make your hashtag complicated, chances are it will never take off. ” quote=”This is a rule for nearly everything you do on the internet. #NoOneWantsToUseAHashtagLikeThis. If you make your hashtag complicated, chances are it will never take off. “]
#DoGood: Remember, these things are public.
Tone down crude humor. Make sure your hashtag is useful, tasteful and appropriate.
Just because many individuals and businesses fail at using hashtags effectively, doesn’t mean YOU will fail
Simply remember this guide, be prepared, and #Hashtag with confidence.