Three things you need to understand about hashtags

Called a “pound sign” on your phone and a “hashtag” on social media, this one little symbol (#) has helped unify posts on the World Wide Web but if misused can also become a source of great annoyance. In order to learn how to use hashtags effectively across different social media platforms there are a few things you must understand.

A little goes a long way

Spam with red line crossed through it.

One hashtag is enough per post. Many people mistake hashtags as being the one and only search term for their post. Every word in your post is a search term no matter if it has a # sign in front of it or not. You do not need to put a hashtag in front of every keyword you use. Brands that over use hashtags are seen as spam and in fact the abuse of hashtags in your post makes it very easy to identify and skip over leading to far less views than you intended.

Hashtags are not just for searching

#AmericanIdol search results.

So if hashtags are not the way to identify keywords for searching then what are they for? Hashtags are just another way of grouping posts on the same topic within a social media platform. One of the most popular tag lines for Twitter is “Join the conversation.” If you are watching a TV show, sporting event or even the news you can use a hashtag to jump into a community conversation. Posting, “I can’t believe this show is still on the air. #AmericanIdol” will help share your thoughts with everyone else posting about #AmericanIdol. Hashtags on Twitter are clickable links that will take you to a stream of posts about the same topic.

You can use hashtags for your brand to collect posts and images related to your company or you can even use them to host contests. Have users include your promotional hashtag in their posts for a chance to win a prize. Starbucks does this, encouraging people to post photos of their red Starbucks cups around the holidays.

Not all platforms use hashtags in the same way

LinkedIn logo.

Social network, LinkedIn does not support hashtags.

If you use multiple social media platforms it is important to understand that not all websites use hashtags in the same way. Twitter started the hashtag movement; people expect the tags and know how to use them. Facebook, on the other hand, only recently enabled hashtags and people use the tags more for inserting sarcasm into their posts than they do for grouping like-posts. In fact, some studies have shown that hashtag use on Facebook can actually result in fewer views per post. Make sure to keep the platform you are using and your audience in mind when coming up with a strategy for hashtags.