What's a hashtag?

What's a hashtag?Hashtags are a big deal on social media and they’re something that you should be prepared to embrace if you want to be found. But what exactly are they and can you use them everywhere? Here’s a starter guide to hashtags. Well, #hereswhatithink

What is a hashtag?

A hashtag is a word or phrase that begins with a #. It’s just a normal word (or a few words), but that’s in front of it. There’s no witchcraft or wizardry about it. Honest.

Why are they used?

Hashtags are used, mainly, as a search mechanism, to help content be discovered on Twitter and Instagram predominantly, although some people do also use them on Facebook too (although there’s a lot of articles suggesting that on Facebook the search doesn’t really work with hashtags and it can actually lower engagement, but that’s a blog for another day!). The main platforms and the ones I’m focussing on here when it comes to the good old hashtag are Twitter and Instagram. Both work slightly differently.

Hashtags on Twitter

I believe that Twitter was the first platform to embrace the hashtag fully but, with only 140 characters to play with, use of the hashtag on Twitter has always been fairly limited. And that’s fine because that’s how the platform works. It’s generally accepted that one or two hashtags is the limit – too many and it turns people off. And you don’t want that. If you’ve gone to the effort to use a hashtag so your content is more discoverable, you don’t want people to find your tweet and move on, do you?

Hashtags on Instagram

Instagram is different to Twitter in that you can have up to 30 hashtags, and many people use them all. Using all your hashtags mean that you have more chances of your content being found, but by separating your copy with a few dashes to create space between your caption and your hashtags, or putting your hashtags as the first comment, you’re not overwhelming people.

Tips for using hashtags

  • Always keep them relevant – don’t say your content is about #chocolate if it’s about #spacetravel
  • Check them – sometimes when you combine words together to make a hashtag, the message isn’t quite the one you wanted. There was a brilliant example of this with a hashtag connected to Susan Boyle. Not good.
  • Don’t just use them for the sake of it. Yes, you can use 30 hashtags on Instagram, but you don’t HAVE to use 30 with each post. Make them count!
  • Do some research and see what people talking about similar topics are using for their hashtags. On Instagram when you start to enter your hashtags it tells you how popular (or not!) that hashtag is
  • If you want to follow or get involved with an event on social media, research the official hashtag and tweet, post or search using that. The official content should have this hashtag and content from other people wanting to follow or get involved should have this too.

What do you think? Are you a fan of the #hashtag or wish it would go away and leave you alone? I’d love to hear your comments.



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