Everything You Need to Know About Hashtags

Everything You Need to Know About Hashtags


photo credit: oggin via photopin cc

Hashtags are everywhere these days. Probably because they’re so useful. According to studies, social media posts using hashtags get an average twelve percent increase in audience engagement. This tool allows content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google +, Tumblr, and Pinterest to be searchable, categorized, and connected. In this blog we focus on how they can be used to benefit your organization. And yes, hashtags can be #professional.

First things first, what the heck is a hashtag?

Hashtags are like a filing system; they are key words or phrases that follow a pound sign (#) and link words in a tweet/post/photo etc with other content using the same hashtag, or keywords, across the platform in which it is posted. If you search, for example, #education on Twitter, you will find a huge collection of tweets about education, and if you tweet something with #education you become a contributor to the #education conversation.

How to Use The Thing

Stay Informed – It is important to stay abreast of issues important to your organization, and following Twitter hashtags is an efficient way to do just that. You can do a simple search for the hashtag you desire, or use apps like TweetDeck and HootSuite to organize your hashtag searches for you.

Build a Brand – Joining in on a conversation has its benefits, but pioneering the way can also bring value to your organization. Organizational hashtags can serve to highlight a particular cause or campaign, and it allows you to encourage your followers to get involved and share photos, videos, ideas, and stories using the hashtag you created.

Living Conversations – Live tweeting enables you to be actively engaged in a conversation around an event. Use a special event hashtag to pull the audience in and draw attention to the important work that you’re doing. For example, if you’re hosting a forum or public meeting you can craft tweets about the event in real time. This allows your audience to follow the important ideas or happenings of an event if they are unable to attend themselves. Live tweeting can also be used to facilitate a question and answer session with higher ups in your organization. Inform your audience that they can ask questions using a particular hashtag and you can respond using that same hashtag. This is a great way to directly interact with the audience and showcase how much you care about the people involved with your organization.

Hashtags are one of many ways for your audience to get involved and spread the word.

Creating Your Own Hashtag

Hashtags should be simple, short and easy to remember. They should accurately reflect the goals of your hashtag campaign and showcase who you are as an organization. (To be safe, always invest in a little time and energy into searching your hashtag to ensure it doesn’t carry any baggage).

A few basic rules of hashtags:

  • Never use spaces. If your hashtag involves multiple words, use capital letters to differentiate between them. (#EducationReform)
  • Numbers and letters are fair game, but no punctuation marks or special symbols are allowed with hashtags.
  • Try to use between one and three hashtags per tweet/post/photo. Too many hashtags can be distracting.

A note of caution about hashtag campaigns: they are impossible to control. The point of hashtags is to allow the audience to share and build upon your message, and the danger with social media campaigns is that you have very little power over them once they’ve been shared with your audience. Take NYPD’s #myNYPD twitter campaign as an example. They asked followers to tweet photos of them with NYPD officers with the hashtag #myNYPD in the hopes that twitter feeds would be filled with photos of smiling officers and civilians. Twitter users had a different idea. The movement was almost immediately hijacked by users posting photos of police brutality and misconduct with the hashtag #myNYPD. While we’re not worried about something like this with any of our clients, this campaign serves as a reminder about the unpredictability of social media. When creating a hashtag, make sure to think it over fully and carefully before you let your audience take control of your message.

Creating and Tracking Your Hashtag Campaign

Once you’ve decided on a hashtag and campaign, create a unified campaign that spans all of your hashtag-friendly social media platforms.

You can track your progress and impact by using a simple Google search or using applications like Tagboard or Talkwalker. Watching the conversations and ideas that grow from your hashtag is a great way to track audience engagement to inform campaign direction and evolution.

We know the work you do is important to the communities of New Mexico. Hashtags are a way to make sure everyone else knows it, too.

Written by Marissa Higdon

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