These days it’s all about the hashtags in social media. You see them on most posts from public social media accounts – when a keyword or phrase is preceded by the hash symbol… #cool! The hashtag symbol itself was first seen sometime in the 1300s, way before telephones and Twitter existed. The hashtag came from “lb,” the Latin abbreviation for “pound”. According to its official name is the ‘octothorpe’, a name invented by telephone technicians when they added the symbol to telephone keypads.

The first hashtag in a social media context was used back in 2007 by a then Google employee Chris Messina who tweeted “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?” By 2010 the word had been added to the Oxford dictionary and by 2014 the Scrabble dictionary. The rest, as they say, is history!

But why should you bother using them? And do you know how to?!

The simple truth is that using a hashtag makes it easier for people to find your posts. Think of it as a label for your content. The hashtag is a way of bringing together seemingly random posts by adding them to a category, the category being the hashtag itself.

There are some important facts to note when it comes to hashtags:

  • they are not case sensitive. So #SocialBee is exactly the same as #socialbee.
  • you can include numbers in your hashtag. #3weekstogo is a workable hashtag.
  • not all recommendations for hashtags apply across all social media platforms. For example, there’s evidence to suggest that any more than 2 hashtags in a tweet results in less engagement. But the opposite is true on Instagram where up to 10 in a post can be highly effective.

If you don’t find the world of the hashtag a natural one, then our top tips for using them effectively are:

  1. Develop a campaign – you can create your own buzz by starting a hashtag campaign that’s relevant to your own business. This can either be for marketing a particular product or just for overall brand awareness for your business. #buzzforbusiness would be perfect SocialBee for a particular campaign. It’s relevant to the business but not widely used at all, so won’t be confused with other campaigns.
  2. Create a buzz for your business – one way of using a hashtag campaign, especially if you’re just starting out, is to create a competition or prize draw using a specific hashtag. It brings us back to the “what’s in it for me?” concept that we’ve touched on before. People are more likely to engage with you and promote your hashtag if they might win something at the end of it!
  3. Get the format right – there are some simple rules to remember when it comes to formatting your hashtags. There should be no spaces between words (so if you’re hashtagging a phrase you need to let the words run together). You can add capital letters to make it easier to read but these won’t affect how the hashtag is picked up = #HappyBirthdayToMe)
  4. No punctuation – you can’t use any punctuation or symbols at all, aside from the hashtag symbol itself. Numbers are fine but there needs to be at least one letter in the hashtag, it can’t contain just numbers.
  5. Make the most of trending topics – you’ll increase your reach by taking part and being active in what’s hot right now. So #Christmas would be great right now, but any time there’s a major event (#worldcup), ( or TV series (#strictly) you can also join in the fun.
  6. Engage with hashtags relevant to your business – it’s a great way to reach people that may not yet have seen your brand. You can even use it as a networking tool by engaging in the #FollowFriday phenomenon. Find people on your chosen social media platform that is of interest to you and repost one of their posts using the #FollowFriday hashtag. Hopefully, they will do the same, and promote your business to their followers.
  7. Be aware of what your competition is doing – a great way to test the water when you’re new to using hashtags is to do some research around what your competitors are doing. It’s very helpful for understanding what’s effective in your industry.
  8. Be spam aware – it might be tempting to throw loads of hashtags out with each post. For example on Twitter you can use up to 30 hashtags in one post… but just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should! You do need to be mindful of your posts beginning to feel like spam, and tagging each word in a post is a sure way to annoy your followers. There are different guidelines for the optimum number of hashtags depending on the social media platform you’re posting on. These are the maximum recommended number of hashtags for each platform:
  • Facebook: 2
  • Twitter: 2
  • Instagram: 11
  • Pinterest: 3
  • Google+: 3
  • Linkedin: 2