Hashtag – The Ultimate Guide

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What is a hashtag (#)?

A hashtag is made by putting a pound sign (#) before any word or expression with no accentuation or spaces. The hashtag goes about as a record of the keywords used on a social media platform.

Technically, a hashtag must not have punctuation or special characters like $, %, & etc.

Even if multiple words have to be written, they should be written together without spaces. For instance, #ThisIsAHashtag is the right way to write it instead of #This is a hashtag.

If you want to use numbers, make sure to use them with letters and not alone.

On almost every social media platform, putting ‘#’ before any word(s) makes it a searchable link on that platform.

Hashtags are basically used to:

  • Classify topics on a social media website which makes it simple for the users to look for content on their desired topics.
  • Limit the discussions to any subject
  • Group conversations

A hashtag brings together the conversations of the same topic posted by various users in a single stream. In the event that you incorporate a hashtag in your tweet, users who are looking for that hashtag will see your tweet.

History of hashtags

  • Hashtags were introduced by former Google designer Chris Messina in 2007 when he asked his followers in his tweet if they want to use the pound symbol (#) for grouping their conversations.

Who creates the hashtags?

Brands, media agencies and users like you and me. Anyone can create a hashtag by writing a keyword or a phrase without spaces after the “#” symbol.

You can include these hashtags anywhere in a post. These are not case sensitive. For example, both #ILoveNY and #inlovewithapple are valid hashtags.

But it’s better to capitalize the first letters of words in a hashtag as it can be easily understood in case multiple words are used.

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Platforms which support hashtags

Different social media platforms have different ways to display the results when a hashtag is searched on them.

For instance, most of the social media platforms show posts with greatest popularity are on top while on Facebook, posts by friends containing those hashtags are displayed before public posts.

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Twitter

The hashtag was introduced by Twitter hence this is where it’s used the most. Trending hashtags are displayed on the left side of the Twitter stream. By clicking on the hashtag, all tweets, photos, videos, GIFs can be seen.

You can find others sharing the same interests in that specific hashtag’s stream even if they aren’t connected with you.

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Facebook

Hashtags on Facebook also bring posts shared by different people into a single stream. However, unlike Twitter, a lot of people on Facebook have private profiles.

Their posts aren’t displayed in the hashtag stream. On the top right corner, the trending hashtags are visible.

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Instagram

Hashtagging on Instagram works similar to other platforms. Photos having the same hashtag appear in its stream. One can scroll through it and view photos of the same theme.

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Google+

Google+ adds hashtags on the upper-right side of the post and other posts having the same hashtag can be viewed on the same page. It also suggests hashtags which can be added depending on the content of the post.

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Tumblr

Tumblr has a separate field for adding hashtags labeled as ‘tags’. Hashtags and keywords can be entered in those fields without the # symbol as Tumblr adds them on its own.

Adding them in the content doesn’t make them clickable. Unlike other platforms, spaces, apostrophes, commas, dots, and many other symbols can also be used on Tumblr.

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Pinterest

Pinterest allows hashtags to be added in the pin description only. Related content can be found by clicking on the particular hashtag.

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YouTube

Youtube uses hashtags a little differently. They can be used in the comments section and clicking on them will lead to the specific streams containing videos with titles having those hashtags.

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Types Of Hashtags

  1. Brand – Brands build hashtags around their taglines to form a community of people connected with the brand like the customers, suppliers, influencers etc.

A great way to build relationships, it can be used to introduce people to the brand.
Nike is the perfect example of how a brand uses hashtags for promotion. Nike uses the hashtag to promote its tagline #justdoit

  1. Campaign – Hashtags generated by brands are used for their campaign strategies. They help the users in interacting with the brand and engaging with the campaign. It’s also a great way to keep track of the campaign’s reach and engagement using hashtag tracking.

For instance, the hashtag #ALSIceBucketChallenge was pretty instrumental in making ALS Association’s campaign a success.

Be it celebrities like Lady Gaga, Shakira or tech honchos like Bill Gates; all of them used it to participate in the campaign and it went viral.

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  1. Event – Just like brands, hashtags are used by major events to start the conversation, let everyone connect to it easily and increase its popularity.

The brands involved with the event can use it to increase their reach.
It is used to build relationships with the attendees of the event, convert them and communicate to the world just how great it was.

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  1. General – These are added to the tweet to add context to it and describe it better. They can be used to reach a wider audience if common hashtags are used.

Those can be related to different categories which may attract various factions of audience. But the tweet should not be filled with hashtags as that can be annoying.

  1. Common expressions – These are sentiments which people express via short forms using hashtags. Some common expressions are TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday), #YOLO (You Only Live Once), #TBT (Throwback Thursday).
  1. Trending hashtags – These are those hashtags which have been generated organically and have gained traction pretty quickly. They can trend for days or even just for a few minutes.

Trends can be used by businesses to increase reach easily but they should be used only if they are relevant to the brand and the tweet content.

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How To Get Your Hashtag Trending?

After you have come up with an effective hashtag, now is the task of getting it trend on social media. Here are the top guidelines to make your hashtag trending:

  1. Choose right topic – Before you start tweeting on a topic, look for something relatable which will definitely start a conversation because if people can relate to the topic and think they can add to that conversation, they will use the hashtag.
  1. Pick the right audience – Target the audience which would be interested in the conversation you want to start by tagging and inviting agencies and groups to bring in more followers to join the conversation.

Try responding as much and as quickly as you can. Your updates and replies should always have the respective hashtags and encourage followers to include the same.

  1. Pick the right time – After identifying the right audience, it is very important to pick the correct time to connect with them for maximum reach and engagement. You can extract the best time to post the content by using third-party tools.

For instance, if you are posting on Twitter, you can use ExportTweet’s hashtag analytics to know the time when the most number of people are engaging with the desired hashtags.

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Above screenshot  is a part of hashtag analytics report showing the pattern of tweets posted by users with the searched hashtag.

  1. Keep updating – Adding something new to the conversation keeps it going for long. Keep updating with new information, stats, events that are happening right now.

Be spontaneous and quick then, you won’t lose traction. But stay relevant and don’t divert from the main objective.

  1. Social Media Influencers – Even if you create entertaining content and manage to coin a nice phrase for a hashtag if you don’t promote it properly, it won’t trend.

Look for relevant influencers according to your content and build relationships with them.Stay in touch by tweeting regularly. So when you post compelling content, they may help in promoting it.

Here is a link to a must-read article on 9 Key Benefits Of Social Media Influencers

  1. Track Metrics – It’s important to figure out what works with your audience. So, once the campaign gets wrapped up, fetch the data to know what tweets went out and how much engagement they gained.

For this, you can use Twitter profile analysis and hashtag tracking tools provided by ExportTweet. Based on this data, you can plan your future campaigns and be surer of the results.

Dos And Don’ts Of Using Hashtags

Sometimes hashtags can be underutilized or misused. It is important to know the dos and don’ts of how to use a hashtag.

Dos

#1. Be specific – Be very specific while using hashtags. They should be relevant to the content being posted. The more specific the hashtag is, the more targeted the audience will be. Whether it is the description of the content or the reaction towards it, all of it needs to be relevant.

#2. Keep in mind the social network you are using it on – Hashtags have varied functions on different social media. Hashtags on Instagram are used to describe the content posted, hashtags on Twitter are used to refer to the topic of the conversation while hashtags in WordPress are used as tags to categorize the topics of the articles.

Do get familiar about how the hashtags function on different social media platforms before start using them right away.

#3. Use new and innovative hashtags – It’s better to be original with hashtags and make sure that they haven’t been used too recently. This could be the campaign’s or brand’s tagline. Be creative while brainstorming because in a world replete with hashtags, you need yours to stand out.

#4. Promote them – If there’s a hashtag which matches your brand or perfectly encapsulates what you stand for then it needs to be promoted well so people can find you and your community easily. It should be used on every social network and promoted offline as well on your business cards or brochures.

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#5. Check For The Same Username – Always check if there’s an existing username already exists for the keyword you intend to include as a hashtag. For example, it may cause confusion if there is already a user with the name @sweethome for the hashtag #sweethome.

Don’ts

#1. Use too long or complicated hashtags– Hashtags need to be short and sweet so they can be easily read hence, easily used. It needs to be simple so that there’s a chance that people may search with similar terms.

Since Twitter allows just 140 characters, if the hashtag itself is too long then most likely, it won’t be used because people would have to cut short their message and no one would want to do that.

#2. Use too many hashtags – Using too many hashtags can be simply lethal because although it means more reach, the reach could be of the wrong kind.

The posts will reach spammers or people who follow you only because they want to be followed back. The message won’t get communicated properly and using too many of those is just plain annoying.

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#3. Use trending hashtags because they are trending – Trending hashtags should be used after proper research. Using a hashtag simply because it’s trending even though it’s irrelevant to the content posted wouldn’t achieve the desired results.

#4. Use special characters or spaces – Hashtags support alphanumeric characters only without spaces. Avoid using special characters like ‘&’ ‘-‘ ” because then only the first word will be considered in the hashtag.

Advantages Of Using Hashtags:

Using hashtags can be extremely advantageous to brands or individuals who want to promote themselves on social media.

Following are some of the top advantages you can capitalize on if you use hashtags:

  1. Brand Identity – Brand identity is how a brand wants its customers to perceive it. Hashtag enables a brand to project itself the way it wants to be projected as it can coin a hashtag related to its name, tagline, USP etc.

This will allow people to easily find and follow the brand. Promoting that hashtag everywhere including communication outside social media like emails, flyers etc. increases customers’ chances of using it, thus building a relationship between them and the brand.

  1. Get Viral – Using a hashtag ties your content to its stream thus allowing people to find it on social media when they search for it. You can instantly become more visible and part of a trending conversation.

#nomakeupselfie was picked up when a novelist Laura Lipmann used it as a caption for one of her photos with a different hashtag which wasn’t related to cancer at all. People attached the idea of cancer  to the hashtag themselves and it went viral when thousands of people started tweeting with it.

  1. Connect Target Audience – Brands can engage in relevant conversations of trending hashtags. This allows them to connect to their target audience and discover their views and opinions thus, they can cater to them better.

Disadvantages Of Using Hashtags:

Certainly, there are some disadvantages too if hashtags are not used properly. Some of them are listed below:

  1. Privacy breach:A hashtag campaign is a course of action in which hashtags are created on the social media platforms to achieve defined objectives of marketing, public relations, helping shape brand image and increase engagement.

If you use hashtags publicly then your content could be exposed to unknown users who search for those hashtags. For instance, hashtags such as #selfie, #love, #girl, #hot are some of the most vulnerable ones.

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  1. Hashtag hijacking or hashjacking: Hashtags can geet hijacked when someone else includes your trending hashtag in their own post in order to increase their reach by taking advantage of its virality.
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DiGiorno, a pizza brand, live-tweeted the premiere of NBC’s hashtag ‘The Sound of Music’ which was its TV special. This allowed it to gain a lot of attention of people which it otherwise wouldn’t have.

Though getting trolled is not as harmful as getting hashtag-hijacked but if the troll is annoying or harassing you, you can report its account to Twitter.

  1. Trolls: Hashtags can be attacked by trolls who are people who post content including target hashtags, based on their personal sentiments, bad experiences or with the intent of ridiculing and making fun of the message.
hashtag-trolls

An amusing example of being trolled is that of Susan Boyle’s tweet.
Her PR group tweeted the hashtag #susanalbumparty to promote the launch of her new album but very soon they found Twitterati having a field day with Susan Anal Bum Party!

How to avoid getting your hashtag trolled or hashjacked?

  • Avoid vague, open-ended question type hashtags – Don’t create hashtags which can be interpreted according to someone’s own convenience. It needs to be to-the-point and unambiguous.

Trying to make people appreciate your brand without a real reason, just for a hashtag’s sake invites sarcastic insults instead, bringing a lot of negative publicity.

  • Give people a specific reason to tweet – Make a hashtag and specify the reason to the audiences to use it. For example, if they need to use it in their tweets to avail discounts or participate in a challenge then it is less probable that they will be hijacked. If the users are motivated enough to tweet using it, they will.
  • Think of your company’s overall situation – Do consider your company’s existing situation when the hashtag campaign is started. If the company is already being criticized and getting negative publicity then starting another campaign will just invite people to criticize further.
  • Try to include your brand name – Many times, brands purposely pick hashtags without including their names in the it. On the other hand, they should do that as such hashtags are less likely to be ridiculed.

Hashtag Campaigning

Hashtag campaigns are used to gain attention towards new products, popularize existing ones, and/or disseminate content to build brand awareness and increase sales. They can also be used as a part of contests or giveaways.

How To Make A Successful Hashtag Campaign

A hashtag campaign, if carried out right can bring all the attention your brand needs. Below are the guiding steps to create a successful hashtag campaign.

  1. Analyze your own and your competitor’s presence on social media – Analyze metrics such as your current followers, reach, contributors, impressions, top sites & content, influential users. List the main keywords and associated keywords which are relevant to your brand and niche.

Run the same analysis for your competitors to know the kind of campaigns they have run in the past which will apprise you of the response to different kinds of content. It will allow you to learn from others’ successes and failures.

  1. Set an objective– Before you start strategizing and implementing, it’s important to know the objective which you want to achieve with the campaign. It can be increasing brand awareness, followers, customers, app downloads etc. Depending on the objective, the strategy can be effectively planned.
  1. Strategize– The entire structure and idea of the campaign needs to be outlined before you start working on it. It needs to be:
  • Interactive – Make the hashtag interactive, something that asks users for their opinions, experiences or ideas or asks them to post content around a theme.

For instance, the way Charmin asked users to post tweets while they were tending to their business with #TweetFromTheSeat. The campaign was very popular for its innovative idea of giving a nice twist to something very routine, consequently, promoting its ‘not-so-glamorous’ product successfully.

  • Incentivizing – Encourage people to engage more with your hashtag by giving incentives such as using the hashtag to enter a contest. Like, Audi used #WantAnR8 for one of its most successful campaigns of all time.Audi created a contest in which users had to create and post a Tweet using that hashtag for entering a contest to win a chance to have an R8 for a day.
  • Innovative – Brands can also take advantage of hashjacking that is using already trending hashtags for their own relevant content to gain attention. For instance, KFC used #NationalFriedChickenDay.

The hashtag was already trending and all KFC did was use it so the users know where to order from on National Fried Chicken Day.

One thing to keep in mind is that the hashtag needs to be relevant to the brand otherwise, hashjacking may do more harm than good.

  • Promote – One of the most important aspects of a hashtag campaign is increasing its awareness. That needs to be done via both online and offline promotion.

Here are some effective ways to promote your hashtags:

    1. For promoting offline, you can take to print or digital media depending on the budget, goals and target audience.
    1. Cross-promote on all social media sites which allow hashtags. Just because your campaign is running on Twitter, doesn’t mean you can’t promote it on Facebook, Instagram etc.
    1. Use trending tweets related to your brand along with the hashtag featured in your campaign to display content in front of a wider audience.
    1. Ally with people relevant to your campaign like celebrities, influencers or even other companies complementary to your brand which can help you in increasing your campaign’s reach. Eg: Coke partnered with Ryan Seacrest in its #ShareACoke campaign.
      People had to find a bottle or a can with the name “Ryan” written on it to win a chance to share a Coke with Ryan Seacrest.

Use paid promotion offered by Twitter to get a more targeted reach and maintain the traction. Paid promotion can be scheduled such that once the campaign has taken off organically and the goal has been partially achieved, ramp up the efforts via paid methods.

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Benefits of Hashtag Tracking and Analytics

Here are some top benefits of hashtag tracking and analytics:

Gain competitive intelligence – Use hashtags to analyze your competition’s strategy and create your own, keeping theirs in mind. The hitch is Twitter itself doesn’t provide hashtag tracking analysis.

In this case, ExportTweet can be a great tool. Using it, you can get the following insights:

Potential Reach And Engagement – You can conduct your own hashtag tracking analysis of your competitor’s campaigns to know the reach and engagement achieved which will help you estimate the potential reach of your campaign.

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Competitor Analysis – Get crucial insights and analyze the competitor’s strategy with daily tweeting pattern and the peak hours of tweets, average weekly/monthly tweeting pattern and the most active days in the week/year.

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Find Trending Hashtags – Using any hashtag, hoping that it will gain traction is definitely not the right way to go. Know the top trending hashtags related to your domain, niche or business’ hashtags and the ones which are frequently mentioned or talked about in a given day, week or month.

Use third party tools such as ExportTweet for real-time hashtag tracking and take advantage of word cloud generated for the top related hashtags and keywords.

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Find Relevant Individuals To Follow – Discover relevant accounts you can follow or ask them to share information about your business like suppliers, customers, niche influencers etc.

Hence, you will have relevant content in your twitter feed to help you stay informed of the new occurrences in your industry.

Monitor Campaigns – Find out how your tweets or Twitter campaigns are performing by analyzing metrics such as impressions generated, estimated reach of the tweets etc. This should help you plan your future course of action efficiently.

Top Contributors Of The Tracked Hashtag – Engage with the top contributors according to the sentiment of their tweets. If you see negative public reactions, you can converse with them in a manner to soothe the situation or you can amplify the positive reactions you come across during the hashtag tracking.

You can find out top contributors for any hashtag by using hashtag analytics by ExportTweet.

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Hashtag Analysis And Tracking Tool

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ExportTweet exclusively provides in depth analysis of Twitter accounts along with all the followers and following including the complete analysis of your own account, hashtag analytics with real-time tracking and historical data along with comprehensive insights reports powered with crucial metrics for offline analysis.

Its combined pricing model of pay as you go and monthly subscriptions fulfills the needs of individuals and enterprises.

Hash Your Own Trend

Have you started hash-tagging your content yet?

Have any suggestions or questions? Write away in the comments below. Curious to know your feedback!

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Hashtag : The Ultimate Guide
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Hashtag : The Ultimate Guide
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Hashtag-The Ultimate Guide tells you all about what and how to use hashtags on various social media platforms. Hashtag plays a key role in the sphere of social media marketing and promotions for brands, products and individual.
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7 thoughts on “Hashtag – The Ultimate Guide”

  1. Very interesting and helpful post , thanks for explaining in detail about hashtag.
    Great work Piyush

  2. # Meri Aankhae Khool di Aap na …its really very informative great job guys..keep it up looking forward to see more Article from Markitics

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