How #hashtags work, and how you can use them (Part 2)

How Hashtags Work - Fernand Fenech Web Design Development Consultancy

Friday, March 20th, 2015

Following the brief introduction to hashtags in last week’s blog article, this week we will tackle the differences between the main social media platforms. Lastly, we will also have a look at how to use hashtags to your advantage for your business.

Twitter

Twitter’s hashtags are primarily used to highlight topics of conversation of that particular update being written. Twitter then ranks these mostly used topics of conversation on the side of Twitter itself. People may also search for particular hashtag topics, including from people that they don’t follow.

Twitter does not support special characters like +,$, %, !, -, * and ^ in their hashtags. However they do support both letters and numbers, together with underscores (_). Twitter does not limit the number of hashtags you can have in a ‘tweet’, but each ‘tweet’ must be no longer than 140 characters.

The best way to use hashtags on Twitter is for the promotion of products or events (such as conferences or festivals). People can join in the promotion by using the hashtag created in your update, resulting in increased exposure. However, remember to market the ‘official’ hashtag as frequently as possible for your audience to use it.

Another way to make use of hashtags more effectively on Twitter is through ‘Twitter Chat‘. This means that you as a marketer can ask a question to your audience and attach a hashtag. People will then reply to your question and append your hashtag at the end of their response ‘tweet’. People can then follow the conversation and reply to one another, increasing virality of you content.

Facebook

Hashtags on Facebook - Fernand Fenech Web Design Development Consultancy MaltaFacebook added the hashtag support relatively recently in June 2013. Similar to Twitter, Facebook uses hashtags to group conversations. When people click on a hashtag link, users are redirected to a page within Facebook showing all the posts containing that hashtag, even from people you may not be linked to.

Facebook hashtags support the standard set of characters like Twitter (letters, numbers and the underscore character). In addition, there is no real limitation on the number of hashtags you may have in a Facebook update.

Once again, promotion of products and events can work well on this social media channel, however Facebook hashtags have not picked up much steam and are not as effective as other social media channels.

Instagram

Hashtags on this social media channel are usually appended to photos posted. Some hashtags were created specifically for certain topics (such as #ThrowbackThursday or #tbt).

This springs a great marketing idea into mind. You may create challenges for your audience by asking them to take a particular picture (e.g. the audience posing with the product) and then asking them to attach the hashtag you created. This way you can track the pictures your audience posted while making your content go viral.

You may use up to 30 hashtags on a single photo by adding them in the comments section of your photo. Feel free to use trending hashtags to make your photo more popular and increase your followers on Instagram dramatically.

Google Plus

This social media channel does not use hashtags to organize, join and monitor conversations, but allows the social media platform to be explored, by Google itself and its users.

The only rule for Google Plus hashtags is to not contain any spaces. However research shows that still some people may find it troubling to add special characters as Google Plus will try to drop them from the linked part of the hashtag, resulting in a partial link (e.g. #This-is-a-hashtag, ends up just #This). You are also not able to create a hashtag with numbers only (e.g. #2015).

Lastly, there are no limits for the numbers of hashtags you can have in an update. Research also suggests that using specific hashtags (like Games, events and locations) do not really work well on this social media channel. People can however search for hashtag terms and in return, Google Plus hashtag search results are ranked by popularity and also includes ‘related’ hashtags.

Conclusion

Hashtags can be a powerful and convenient marketing tool. It’s important not to overuse it (e.g. by having more than 4 hashtags on one status update). Remember to use relevant hashtags and research if a hashtag is already being used by someone else, otherwise you will end up joining someone else’s conversation! Make your hashtags informative, yet short. Always include this hashtag in your marketing material to increase exposure and thus, virality of your content.

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