Using Hashtags on Social Media Networks
Used for the first time on Twitter by ex-Google employee Chris Messina in 2007, hashtags are now a highly popular practise across most social media networks.
Why use Hashtags?
Preceding words with hashtags (#) identifies these words as keywords/ topics of interest. Immediately indexed by social networks, it is subsequently possible for others to search for particular words. On clicking on a hashtag, users are taken to a page of posts featuring the same tagged keyword. Keywords picking up sufficient momentum then become known as ‘trending’. Based on individual personal connections and location, the trending topic of each user is different. Trending is therefore not merely a case of becoming a network’s most popular hashtag.
Basic Hashtag Etiquette
While it is simple enough to add hashtags, a little basic etiquette should be followed in their creation and use. To begin with, it is necessary to keep them comparatively short. Users should not string excessive amounts of words together with single hashtags. Secondly, it is not acceptable to spam people with hashtags by adding more than a single tag to tweets/ posts. Obviously, hashtags should relate to the topic at hand. This is particularly important when ‘riding’ on already trending hashtags to advertise products/ services.
Done correctly and with a bit of luck, hashtags can quickly start to trend among follower circles. Creating tags can subsequently be a powerful tool for reminding people of a brand. It is, however, vital to ensure a tag leaves no room for ambiguity. The aim is to gain total control over where a hashtagged ‘conversation’ goes. Some major fail examples include:
#susanalbumparty – Created to promote the latest album of singer Susan Boyle, this tag was read rather differently by social media users…
#McDStories – Mc Donald’s used this looking for heart-warming stories. Instead, they got dreadful stories about diarrhoea…
#nowthatchersdead – Following Margaret Thatcher’s death, this hashtag was unfortunately read by many as ‘now that Cher’s dead’…
These examples clearly demonstrate the importance of maintaining control over how people respond to hashtagged posts/ tweets by avoiding ambiguity.
The Bottom Line
Used within reason, hashtags play an important role in social media use. Creating an incentive for users to categorise posts, they make it much easier for others to find content related to specific topics. They can also be used to easily distribute news among users who may not actively be searching for it. In short, hashtags are here to stay.