One of the most widely used functions today, hashtags are a polarizing element of social media.
You either #loveem or you #hateem.
Given their popularity today and crossover into pop culture, most folks seem to love them.
Hashtags have taken on a life of their own, even television shows encourage viewers to use them to engage with fellow fans on social media.
The interesting thing about hashtags is that the rules change by medium. What works on Twitter doesn’t work on Facebook. What works on Instagram doesn’t work on Twitter.
Used right, hashtags have the ability to help increase followers and recognition of a brand, campaign, or issues.
Let’s start with where hashtags started.
What is a hashtag?
The hashtag is a metatag that is used to index keywords and topics for following purposes.
There are no spaces used within the hashtag. Instead, multiple words can be differentiated by the use of capital letters. Numbers can be used as well, but not punctuation marks, asterisks, or other #special characters.
Where are hashtags used?
Most social media platforms support hashtags, but hashtags haven’t taken hold on all of them.
For example, hashtags are heavily used on both Instagram and Twitter, although their use on Instagram is significantly more accepted by users.
Facebook users have been #slow to adopting hashtags. Facebook supports them, but the nature of Facebook as a social platform between known “friends” makes the ability to search by hashtag less important and less used.
How many is enough? How many is too many?
The general rule of thumb is 1-2 hashtags per tweet. Hashtags can help give a tweet context, but users generally frown upon tweets with #toomany hashtags. Tweets with hashtags reportedly receive two times more engagement than tweets without hashtags, but using too many hashtags reportedly decreases engagement. Research has shown that tweets with 1 or 2 hashtags have a higher engagement than using 3 or more hashtags.
One hashtag is generally #enough, although no hashtags at all is fine, too. Facebook has supported hashtags since 2013, but the feature is neither widely accepted nor used. Posts without a hashtag often perform better than those with one.
Hashtags are your #friend on Instagram. Instagram is a hashtag-driven platform where users find new content via unique hashtags. Three to five hashtags is the norm, if not more. Engagement has been shown to be higher on posts with as many as 11 or more hashtags. A great way to include a high volume of hashtags while keeping your post easy to read is to include those hashtags as the first comment on your post or space the hashtags from the main text of your post with returns and periods.
What’s the best way to use hashtags?
Hashtags should be specific. The more specific, the more targeted your audience. If a hashtag has a lot of content related to it, that’s a good one to use.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t develop your own relevant and branded hashtag to define your campaign, brand, or issue.
Keep those hashtags short and easy to read, though. There is not limit to the number of characters in a hashtag, but they shouldn’t be too long or overly complicated. They should also be easy to spell and remember and feel more organic than forced.
Do be careful not to overdo it with hashtags. Users that overload their content with hashtags are often viewed as spammers. Too many hashtags takes away from your message rather than supporting it. Not every piece of content needs a hastag.
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