Hashtags are a powerful tool for getting your message out to your customers; for spreading the word about a contest or product, or for potential customers to be able to find you, but there is some etiquette around using them.
First, we’ll look at what hashtags are; they are a way to categorise and group messages of a similar theme together, creating a searchable link within the social media platform. For example, if you wanted to ‘talk’ about an episode of Masterchef New Zealand you would use #masterchefnz then anyone who wanted to see what was being said about Masterchef could search on that hashtag and see all the messages (including yours) that are in that category.
People will often search on hashtags, so by using a hashtag relevant to business on your social media posts you will be found more easily. The first major use of them was in October 2007 with #SanDiegoFire when people were using them to give information regarding the fire and evacuation details, allowing affected parties to quickly and easily find the information that they needed during the emergency.
Hashtags are created as soon as someone uses # before a word or string of words, but there are some things to remember when creating a hashtag: there must be no spaces between the words, a space is the end of a hashtag; numbers are okay, but punctuation isn’t; hashtags are not case sensitive, but you may want to use the #CamelCase format where the first letter of each word is a capital as this makes it easier to read.
You will notice that some hashtags are for humour value only, for example #cantbelieveitisrainingforthe8thdayinarow, this conveys the feeling of the reader, but it is unlikely that anyone will search on that hashtag.
Some points of Best Practice for use of hashtags are:
- Be specific in your message and hashtag, and make sure it is relevant to your readers
- Keep it simple, use only 2-3 hashtags per message, and don’t repeat a hashtag
- Give context around the hashtag you are using, if you start to use hashtags inappropriately then your messages may not show up in a search
When using hashtags for business:
- use them to consolidate messages, for example about your event or product
- make sure the hashtags you use are relevant to your business
- Make use of trending: what hashtags are already being used widely that are relevant to you? Use them.
Hashtags can seem like another language when you first start to see them, but like any language the more you use it the more fluent you’ll become, and then you can use them to your business’ advantage.