Hashtags have been around for as long as Twitter has existed and while other platforms such as Instagram loved their hashtags from the get go, Facebook is still slow on the uptake. One of the challenges around this is that while more and more platforms introduce the use of hashtags, you as the user need to be really clear about your purpose and usage of the hashtag on each platform.

So what exactly is a hashtag?

hash·tag

ˈhaSHtag/

noun

(on social media sites such as Twitter) a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic.

“spammers often broadcast tweets with popular hashtags even if the tweet has nothing to do with them”

the hash or pound sign (#).

The way I like to think of a hashtag is that it describes the name of a community I’d like my tweet, photo or post to show up in, depending on the platform. I’m just going to mainly concentrate on Twitter in this blog, and will follow up on using hashtags on other social media channels in another posts.

How many hashtags should I use?

The main thing to remember in Twitter is the limitation of 140 characters. This clearly restricts the need for too many tags and staying on message. The general rule of thumb in Twitter is to use no more than 3 tags per tweet.

For example in this tweet below, you can see that I’ve used #LinkedIn #Twitter #fanforlife hashtags in my post to the amazing Chris Lema. 

 

Why use a hashtag?

To spread your content with a wider audience and expand your connections. In my tweet above, I was reading one of Chris Lema’s blogs via LinkedIn and was so taken with some of the content, I took a screen shot and shared it on Twitter, and of course referenced him. I used the #LinkedIn hashtag because I wanted the content to show up on the LinkedIn community on Twitter, and I added in the #fanforlife tag because I’m so impressed with this guy’s attitude and quality content. And guess what? When I sent Chris an invite on LinkedIn, he accepted. Yes yes, he may have done that anyway, but I really wanted to get this guy’s attention and let him know I love his work. Do you get it now?

Who can create a hashtag?

Anyone can create a hashtag, which is fantastic for branding, but you need to be mindful of how you’re going to motivate your audience to use the tag as well. Best way to get started with tags is to go to Twitter search box and type in a key word relevant to you, being mindful of what your purpose is. For example, if you’d like to network with fellow artists, type in the genre of art + artists and see what comes up.

I happen to love Lolly Daskel and her #Leadfromwithin tag so much I have it as a saved column in my Twitter stream. Not only does Lolly tweet quality tips, inspiration and guidance, her tweet chats are phenomenal and so are loads of her followers.  In fact, prior to speaking at the YWCA International Womens Day in March this year, I saw one of Lolly’s quotes through the tag, and tweeted that I was going to use it in my speech. And guess what? Lolly Daskel retweeted my tweet! Yup, little old me got retweeted by LD, which was like earning a Brownie Badge not only for me, but to all of her followers.

Like I said at the beginning, I’m not going to talk about hashtags on Instagram or Google Plus – that’s for separate blogs. Go digest this one and let me know what you think ok? And if your business needs a Social Networking Ninja, then let me know!