Better SMM: Clearing Up the Hashtag Confusion

Hashtags allow you to gain more exposure for your social media page and join conversations about topics you know a lot about or want to promote. You can also organize the content on social media sites by clicking on other people’s hashtags to narrow which posts you see. Any word or phrase can be turned into a hashtag easily, and you can see which hashtags are currently popular on Twitter thanks to the “Trending” section on the homepage. Your social media marketing can be improved by the proper use of hashtag, because the tag keywords will increase traffic to your site and may even come up in search engine results.

What is a Hashtag?

Hashtags seem random or confusing the first time you sign on to Twitter or Facebook. In fact, they are used quite strategically and can help drive traffic to your social media page and ultimately your company website. A hashtag is any word or phrase that follows the “#”sign, also called a hash sign. Once you include the hash sign, the phrase immediately becomes clickable. This allows users to click on your hashtag and see everyone else who has used the same hashtag. Likewise, you can search for a particular hashtag and see what other people are saying about it before you add to the conversation.

Why to Use Hashtags

Hashtags allow you to bring about a conversation about your brand, company, or a product that you want to bring awareness to. They also allow you to check out what people are saying about a company name, like Yodle, or a topic that relates to it. When you start to use clickable hashtags, any time a user searches for that hashtag there is a chance that she will see your messages in the list of posts that appear. Hashtags that trend get even more attention, so using a hashtag that trends improves your chances of getting noticed even more.

How Many Hashtags Should I Use?

While hashtags can be a useful tool for joining conversations, if you use too many your message just becomes cluttered. Readers won’t know which hashtag to click on and all of the links may start to blend together. Instead of hashtagging every other word, choose no more than three or four words that are salient enough to deserve a hashtag. Any more than four hashtags, particularly in a very short post, may actually deter people from wanting to read your posts or head to your profile page. You can add the hashtags either to the end of the post or blend them into the message. For example, “This tweet has hashtags. #SMM #hashtags” is one option, and “This #tweet has #hashtags.” is another option.

What to Avoid With Hashtags

Don’t use the same hashtag multiple times within the same message. This redundancy won’t make it more likely for someone to click on your links, and in fact it might annoy some readers. As previously mentioned, you also shouldn’t hashtag literally every word in the same post. This is considered overkill in the social media world and it makes your messages more difficult to read. Consider phrases one hashtag instead of splitting up the words within the phrase. For instance, hashtag #CollegeLife instead of #college #life. Splitting the keywords won’t allow you to get as much traffic for the specific phrase that you are trying to have a conversation about.

Hashtags are able to increase your visibility on social media sites, but be cognizant of which hashtags you use and how many you include in each message. When in doubt, seek out one of the thought leaders in your field on Twitter and see what that brand does with hashtags. Also, search keywords related to your field and see what comes up – this will give you an idea about what people want to talk about in your field of interest or topics that relate to your business. Remember that hashtags are sometimes a trial and error endeavor, so don’t give up on the practice entirely just because one hashtag doesn’t take off. Similarly, give a hashtag some time to become popular before you abandon it; tags may take weeks to catch on so keep using a hashtag for a while before you give up.

Bill Nixon is a business manager who has embraced the world of social media. When he’s not marketing, he’s writing about it on various blog sites.