Hashtags began on Twitter and gradually made their way onto almost every major social media platform. Over the years, hashtagging has grown in popularity and now connects users on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, and YouTube. The practice revolutionized global communication and continues to bridge the distance between users as well as the gap between companies and consumers.
The term “hashtag” refers to any topic or discussion on social media preceded by the hash (#) sign. Using hashtags on social media allows users to follow and share specific content. Essentially, they help to organize the vast amount of posts and daily conversations shared across social media.
Using hashtags to navigate social media makes it easy to follow any subject matter over multiple days despite the constant global stream of online posts. Hashtags make it possible for users to search and follow what they care about most.
Hashtags and other meta-tagging techniques have existed for a while, but hashtagging as we know it is attributed to Chris Messina. As a product designer in Silicon Valley, he wanted to use hashtags to improve the user experience on Twitter. In 2007, he pitched the idea to Twitter, which had just emerged the year before, and the young company turned down his idea. However, Chris encouraged his circle of friends to use the hashtag when discussing the San Diego fire. The hashtag caught on and grew to what we know today.
Over the years, the use of hashtags has evolved and grown to include:
- Giving a media post context. Hashtags are used on Twitter, which limits posts to 280 characters, and other platforms where readers expect short content. When time and space are limited, hashtags help users explain the context of their post with one short phrase.
- Hashtags group together media posts that discuss a single topic. Topics often include events, people, or controversial subject matters. For example, you can use #AmericaDecides2020 to discuss or follow the presidential election in the U.S.
- They enable users from all over the world to join in a conversation. Social media is about connecting people. Using hashtags allows users to link up and discuss any subject matter, for example, #Oscars #SuperBowl.
- Hashtags can also be used to create data on a specific topic. This is useful for social listening or research on the discussions consumers have about your brand or industry.
- While hashtags originated on Twitter, users can now utilize this technique across all social networking platforms. This includes Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and more.
Different Ways to Use Hashtags
Social media has not only brought people together, but it has brought brands closer to their customers. Hashtags help to organize and categorize mass amounts of interactions between brands and consumers. Categorizing media posts also makes it much easier for platforms and search engines to follow important topics.
In turn, companies have developed numerous useful strategies for using hashtags in digital marketing. These tactics include:
- The use of hashtags by brands to create a conversation around itself and it’s activities.
- Using hashtags as a channel to deliver a short, distinct message about the brand’s persona, aspirations, and objectives.
- Hashtagging posts to humorously, seriously, or casually weigh in on a trending topic.
- Creating content around a hashtag that helps social media users find the brand’s content quickly. This builds the reputation of the brand as a thought leader.
Advanced Hashtag Use
Hashtags work, and they work well. They can get a brand, issue or topic noticed and, in some cases, trending. When creating a hashtag, it is essential to:
- Keep it simple so the target market can easily find the hashtag and memorize it for future use.
- Keep it short. Hashtags have no punctuation and are usually grammatically incorrect, so keeping it short makes it easier to read and understand.
- Make it easier to read by capitalizing the first letter of each word, for example, #LifeIsGreat.
- Avoid generic terms. Use terms that only the target audience would know or use. For example, a musical instrument shop would use #MusicalInstruments rather than the broader scope #Music.
- Do not over hashtag. Using more than one or two hashtags in a single post can lower its impact.
Also, keep in mind that creating new hashtags for your target audience may not be necessary. The people most likely to consume your content have likely already created their own hashtags that you can tap into.
Influencers and social media tools make it easy to find the community you reach. Social media tools like Buzzsumo and RiteTag help you find the influencers already using industry-specific hashtags to hold discussions with your target audience.
Using hashtags is a simple and effective way to join in or create a conversation around any topic. What began as a tool to discuss a wildfire has become an essential and compelling aspect of digital marketing strategy. By employing hashtags, your brand can reach the masses and create great conversations that your audience can find, engage with, and join.