What is a Social Media Hashtag?

A social media hashtag, at the basic level, is the pound (#) followed by a word or short phrase, without spaces. It looks something like this: #SocialMedia. The social media hashtag has different uses across different platforms, but in general it serves the singular purpose of being able to share information with like minded individuals. Clicking on a hashtag on a social media platform will take the user to public posts from other users that are using the same hashtag.

How to choose a hashtag?

Efficient hashtags will fall into one of three categories: Content, Trending, and Brand-Specific.

Content: A content hashtag is going to reflect the post, company, and/or product that is being discussed. For instance, a pumpkin patch may use #HappyFallYall in a post describing their fall features. A coffee shop may use #LoveALatte around Valentine’s day. With content posts there is a need for specificity, because being too general (#pumpkins for instance) will reduce the visibility of the posts. However, being too specific may mean that people aren’t searching for that content (i.e. #WhiteChocolateLowFatFrap)

Trending: Using a hashtag that is trending in the media makes your posts more visible. The Tonight Show Starting Jimmy Fallon makes use of this every week by asking viewers to participate with hashtags like #MomTexts. A cell phone company may capitalize on trending hashtags like #Momtexts by advertising a B1G1 promotion for their new cellphone. (i.e. Don’t miss out on #MomTexts, treat both of you with a new phone between now and Mother’s Day.) Companies should take measures to ensure that they don’t use politically charged hashtags that may alienate their customer base.

Brand-Specific: When a company creates a hashtag that is brand specific while also showcasing what they want to be known for. Coca-Cola did this best by creating the @ShareACoke campaign with personalized messages and names on their bottles. Wedding planners also like to brand their weddings with certain hashtags in order to make it easier to share images (i.e. #TracyGetsHitched)

When to use a hashtag?

Hashtags are typically used across most social media channels. However, different social media applications put a different weight on hashtags.

Twitter: More than 2 hashtags usually result in less engagement on Twitter.

Instagram: Users benefit from using up to ten hashtags on Instagram before suffering a loss in engagement. Hashtags can be placed in the caption or the first comment.

Pinterest: Up to 20 hashtags may be used in the item description.

Facebook/LinkedIn: Hashtags have little effect on these platforms, and it’s recommended to use a well written caption instead.

To ensure that you are using hashtags that will elicit a response, use hashtags that the general social media population already uses. Hashtagify is a resource that provides valuable information about the level of engagement that a hashtag has. Use Hashtagify to ensure that your tags are popular enough to generate engagement, or specific enough that they won’t get lost in a sea of posts with a too general hashtag.

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