#Hashtag101: That’s not a pound sign

My mom is a fantastic, bubbly, people person. Needless to say, she has enjoyed her jump into the world of social media over the last few years. Because of her background in marketing, I’ve tried to get her interested in Twitter, Instagram and starting a blog, but Facebook seems to be the only outlet that has really stuck.

When Facebook jumped on the #bandwagon … enter much confusion and befuddlement. Those of us who’d seen hashtags on other social media took it with a grain of salt and snidely thought “copycats.” From those like my mom, whose social media existence resided exclusively on Facebook, there arose a collective exclamation of “What does that pound sign mean?!?”

So it is, in my lovely mother’s honor, that today I bring you Hashtag 101. I’ll cover questions that may or may not have come directly from the lovely horse’s mouth. Be honest, have you asked one yourself?

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What do they do?

Hashtags are a way of finding like information or posts across a social media outlet. Think of it as a keyword search or the topical index in a reference book. If I am on Facebook and interested in seeing posts that relate to marketing, I might type #marketing in my Facebook search bar. The results displayed will be from users across Facebook who have included #marketing in their post and its content, ideally, is about marketing. Genius! You’ll see posts from anyone who has used this hashtag and made their post public, regardless of whether or not you are friends with them or have liked their page. The same general rules apply across most social media platforms. Make sense? Ta-da! Baby steps …

[gdlr_column size=”1/3″][gdlr_quote align=”left” ]WHAT DOES THAT POUND SIGN MEAN?!?[/gdlr_quote][/gdlr_column]

Where, what, how?

“Sounds interesting,” you say? As you prepare to dip your toe in the sea of hashtags, please keep these basic ground rules in mind.

  • Hashtags can be used on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram. They do not work in emails. A good hint, if after you post, your hashtag isn’t clickable, then wherever you’re posting doesn’t have them enabled. I’d recommend deleting or editing the post to remove that hashtag.
  • You don’t have to do anything special to make a hashtag happen. You literally just type the # and whatever you want to tag. Keep in mind though that you shouldn’t use spaces or punctuation. Gasp!
  • Keep it short and to the point. Example: #marketing, NOT #toptenreasonstohaveagreatlogo. I hope that the reasoning behind this is obvious, keep it topical (more on why in just a second).
  • Use only one or two hashtags per post. According to Buffer, tweets with more than two hashtags show a 17% drop in engagement as compared to those with none. Yikes. Don’t junk it up.
  • Hashtag broad topics that relate to your post. As with Google, the broader your search, the more results you get. With hashtags, the broader your topic, the greater your reach. If you are a marketing firm, #marketing, NOT #juicemarketing. Don’t get too specific. *Note: there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if we were hosting a large event that others would be posting about, we may create a very specific hashtag for that event.

[gdlr_quote align=”center” ]Tweets with one or two hashtags, on average, can get you 2x the engagement of a tweet with none.[/gdlr_quote]

But #why?

Oh, this is just my favorite part. If you’ve read this far and thought, “well, that sounds like a lot of malarkey,” I’d first commend your use of the word “malarkey,” then I’d beg to differ. According to Buffer, tweets with one or two hashtags, on average, can get you 2x the engagement of a tweet with none! That’s twice as many people learning about your company and its heart. (See my last post, Socialize, Don’t Sell.) Twice as many people have now seen your logo and your company name connected with something that interests them. How is that not a #win? That statistic doesn’t even take into consideration the amount of exposure gained by your use of hashtags across multiple social media platforms! #WIN

I’d like to leave you with this recent example from Juice’s own Twittersphere. Upon tweeting my last blog, I hashtagged #SocialMediaMarketing. Within 25 minutes, users we were not following, nor were they following us, had retweeted our blog to more than 2,300 other users! Because of that simple addition to our tweet, potentially 2,300 people were introduced to the joy that is Juice Marketing. I’d say that’s worth every typed character.

To my sweet mother and any other hashtag rookies out there, no longer do you have to fear the unknown, mysterious pound sign. Embrace the hashtag in all its wonder.

*Updated April 19, 2017 to recognize that LinkedIn now allows hashtags.