While most folks are familiar with Twitter’s hashtag, not everyone is just as knowledgeable about using it effectively. Introduced in 2007, the hashtag is the “#” symbol you put in front of a keyword or topic in your tweet.
Using the hashtag correctly can increase visibility to your Tweets. Using it incorrectly can actually decrease the exposure of your tweet or even lead to annoyance or outrage in the social media scene.
Getting It Right by Avoiding the Wrong
Using hashtags effectively can start with knowing what to avoid. One of the most common forms of hashtag misuse is hashtag stuffing. Similar to keyword stuffing on your website, hashtag stuffing can involve:
- Using too many hashtags per tweet
- Randomly choosing hashtags based on their popularity rather than their fit with your content
- Not properly researching what the hashtag categories are referring to
The last faux pas resulted in a negative reaction against the donut-making brand Entenmann’s. A company tweet used the hashtag #notguilty in a tweet that read:
“Who’s #notguilty about eating all the tasty treats they want?!”
The #notguilty hashtag at the time was trending on the topic of the Casey Anthony trial, with people largely discussing their anger and dismay at the verdict. Many were equally displeased when a reference to tasty treats showed up in the topic category. Entenmann’s later apologized, saying they had failed to properly research the hashtag before using it.
Hashtag Tactics that Work
Now that you know major pitfalls to avoid, it’s time to look at strategic tactics that can put the hashtag to good use to boost your tweets.
Stick to one or two hashtags per tweet. Twitter recommends using no more than a maximum of two hashtags per 140-character tweet. Having a hashtag in front of too many words can be particularly annoying in such a limited space.
Keep hashtags natural and relevant. The most effective hashtags are those that would naturally show up in your tweet. If you’re a lifestyle magazine and you’re tweeting about your latest issue featuring a celebrity, for instance, the celeb’s name could be a natural and relevant hashtag that increases visibility to an audience interested in the star.
Research what’s trending on the hashtag topic. Entenmann’s proved what can happen when you use a trending topic hashtag without properly researching its associations. Such a move can also appear as an obvious way to cash in on a highly popular topic even if you have nothing relevant to say about it.
Create your own hashtags instead of simply following the crowd. If you’re holding a special event, issuing a special edition or otherwise have a hot topic, feel free to create your own hashtag to go with it. It will automatically be relevant, natural and may start a trending topic all its own.
Hashtags can be helpful to increase visibility of your tweets, but they shouldn’t be the sole driving force behind them. Your tweets should be relevant, engaging and valuable to begin with, while using hashtags as the icing on the cake that makes them just a little bit sweeter.