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How to make hashtags work for you

How to make hashtags work for you

By Rupert Staines, managing director Europe, RadiumOne

Social media use showed no sign of relenting in the last 12 months, and with that growth came the wider use of the hashtag by businesses and consumers. In fact, the American Dialect Society crowned ‘hashtag’ the word of the year and one couple even went as far as naming their child Hashtag. In light of this, here are some tips to help businesses use hashtags to best effect:

1.    #Don’t #overdo #the #hashtagging

Instagram users briefly enjoyed Firegram, an app which changed the hashtags on photos continually so they’d appear in more searches, gain greater exposure and consequently more likes. Needless to say it was essentially spamming and the app was taken down. The more hashtags you’re using, the more conversations you’re entering. Instead of jumping on three hashtags to make sure your content is seen, just pick the most relevant possible hashtag and use that (numerous hashtags can make things look messy and hard to read.) Stick to these basic rules: one is the best, two is acceptable, three is pushing it and more than that and you’re just spamming.

2.    #Makesureyourhashtagisshortandconcise

There are a couple of good reasons short and concise hashtags work. The longer a hashtag is the harder it is to read and the easier it is to confuse. Secondly, typing out something long will often result in the hashtag being misspelt, meaning the content won’t be associated with its intended conversation, especially if done via mobile. Finally, a hashtag that takes up half your space just isn’t viable if you really want to say something. It’s hard to be simple but it pays in social media.

3.    Jump on other hashtags

Popularising hashtags is difficult, so rather than coming up with your own, search social media to find out what is being used in conversations similar to the one you’re trying to start. As long as what you’re saying is relevant it’s not a crime to add to the conversations. There are even opportunities to change the use of a hashtag altogether, a great example being the charity Water Is Life turning #firstworldproblems on its head.

4.    Remember your hashtags are accessible to everyone

You may have come up with it but that doesn’t mean you own it. As with everything on the internet, hashtags are open to manipulation, often in a bad way. First off, make sure your hashtag is fool proof. Long hashtags made up of many words can often make for some difficult reading. Additionally, individual words used as a hashtag can easily be manipulated in any sentence. Best practice would be to come up with an acronym and end it with a number (if relevant) to ensure it isn’t internet trolled. There are already enough hashtag disasters out there and you don’t want to be the root of the next one.

5.    Look beyond the obvious

Using hashtags in their conventional ways should now be second nature but their capabilities don’t end there. One such way businesses can innovate is by using hashtags for advertising. By identifying consumers through the hashtags they use, businesses can connect in real time with people who are receptive based on their engagement with a particular subject, hence getting relevant adverts to the right audience.

These tips should point you in the right direction when using hashtags but as with everything social media, using a little bit of common sense and instinct never goes amiss.

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