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The Futurist

The ABCs of hashtags

A quick guide to hashtags

This weekend is the anniversary of a milestone in social media, the first ever hashtag use on Twitter. The hashtag started off on Twitter in 2007, and has since spread over Instagram, YouTube, Google+, Facebook and more. Proper hashtag usage can help you get substantially more engagement on your tweets, meaning more new followers, more replies and more exposure.

This weekend is the anniversary of a milestone in social media, the first ever hashtag use on Twitter. The hashtag started off on Twitter in 2007, and has since spread over Instagram, YouTube, Google+, Facebook and more. It all started on August 23rd, 2007, when Chris Messina proposed using the pound sign as a way of grouping conversations in Twitter.

 

More than the simple categorisation that hashtags started as, nowadays proper hashtag usage can help you get substantially more engagement on your tweets. It has been proven that tweets with the right hashtags can have double the engagement rate, meaning more new followers, more replies and more exposure.

So where do hashtags come into it?

Here are a few cases where you might want to pick and use a hashtag consistently to help your engagement. This can be across Instagram, Twitter, any platform that supports hashtags.

Promotions and contests

Want to get more exposure and traction on a contest you are running? Get on board the hashtag train and increase the chances that more people will get on board with you.

Events

What better way to keep an eye on what your attendees are doing and saying than to designate a tweet just for your event. There are hundreds of examples of conferences and festivals around the world doing this, but lets look at  SATIC’s usage of #2014SATIC for their 2014 Tourism Conference in May.

 

 

Aggregation galleries

This is where hashtags are vikings. Do you have a Twitter or Instagram feed on your website? Many sites use hashtags to create these feeds and show any posts relevant to their topic. Want an example? Check out  The Wheaty’s website, which collects Instagram posts from the Wheaty staff and fills the gallery with any tagged with #wheaty!

And what should you use?

Don’t use hashtags? Well there’s no better time to start. Here are a few tips for picking and using hashtags.

Keep it simple

Tweets are valuable real estate. 140 characters or less. Now how much do you think your hashtag is going to be used if it is 40 characters long? #hashtagsaresuperawesome might be a little too long, so lets stick with #yayhashtags.

Keep it unique

Time for a secret. You may have noticed in the last couple of years Freerange made use of the hashtag #FFteam when posting photos to Instagram. We’ve now changed our company hashtag because we didn’t want to share with Fitness First, who’s members clearly love posting gym photos as part of the Fitness First team. Keep it unique and you can avoid having to change down the track.

Keep it understandable

If you are going to use abbreviations or acronyms in your hashtags make sure they are either commonly known, or at least easy to figure out. Your hashtag is going to be less effective if no one knows what it means.

Keep it conversational

The more effective hashtags are ones that can fit seamlessly into posts and encourage conversation. The Cancer Council's #showyoucare hashtag fits into all of their call to action statements, and is easy for their followers to replicate in their own tweets.

 

Originally people weren’t too impressed with the ideas of hashtags, the higher-ups at Twitter said they were “too nerdy”, while others cited them as ugly and unnecessary. So since they have been around for 7 years now, how well do you think you use hashtags?

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