when should I use a hashtag?

when should I use a hashtag? - design by insight

#hashtags #are #everywhere!

When it comes to social media marketing, hashtags are currency. One of the most useful tools to collect information, to monitor discussion, and to build an audience, hashtags have become both the boost and the bane of content developers. We use them in countless ways and sometimes even just for fun. We’ve seen guidelines or best practices evolve for the use of hashtags but, the truth is, for many bloggers and small businesses, hashtags remain confusing.

Today we’re going to answer a few of the biggest questions many people have about the use and value of hashtags.

What makes hashtags valuable?

The value of hashtags is simple, they allow  people to connect via social media around a specific idea, topic, or event. We all realize one of the biggest benefits of a social media strategy is building connections. Because they are searchable, hashtags allow people to connect about almost any topic or idea imaginable. If you are looking for information about small businesses, you can search #smallbiz and find countless links to articles and resources. If you want to connect with people who are interested in ending human trafficking, #humantrafficking will lead you to them.

Why are hashtags useful?

For a writer, nonprofit, or business, hashtags are useful in several ways.  For example, Lands’ End was one of the first companies to use Twitter parties. In January, they used the hashtag #GetActive to promote their activewear line. Nonprofits like Compassion International have also been very successful in using hashtags to spread their message. Using the #CompassionBloggers hashtag, readers can follow along with bloggers who chronicle their trips to visit sponsored children and other Compassion projects.

Authors are also making use of hashtags. Mary DeMuth, who has excellent social media practices, is using #NotMarked to help promote her latest book by the same title. And bloggers can use hashtags in a variety of ways. When Lisa-Jo Baker started her link-up, Five Minute Fridays, she had no idea it would end up becoming such a big community. Hashtags such as #FMF and #FMFParty are used to help bloggers connect with each other and support each other’s writing journey. Conferences are jumping on the hashtag bandwagon.  The Raising Generations Together conference uses the hashtag #RGTHope to share photos and words of encouragement about parenting and family togetherness. Designers and developers working with the Genesis Framework (including Design by Insight) have created a thriving, helpful community of their peers via the hashtag #GenesisWP.

How do I choose a hashtag?

There are just a few simple guidelines for choosing a hashtag. First, make sure it isn’t already being used.  Search various social media platforms and see what shows up when you search your proposed hashtag. Remember, hashtags are now used on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and Tumblr. Second, keep it short and simple. You want your hashtag to be easy to remember and make sense.  Avoid longer hashtags and more than two or three words.

When should I use a hashtag?

Well, basically, whenever you want! There are so many ways to use hashtags and because they are searchable on so many social media platforms, it makes sense to use them as a key aspect in your marketing strategy.  Just remember to be consistent in your use and don’t use more than two hashtags per post.   A good rule is to use a general hashtag and a specific hashtag together.  For example, I am using the hashtag #28Days28Ways for my current blog series but I also include #marriage when I post so I can reach a broader audience.

Hashtags can be a lot of fun. But they are also a very useful tool for marketing and promotion. One of the best uses of hashtags I have observed is the reality show Survivor. They carefully develop hashtags for each show. By having the hashtags on the screen, they encourage their audience to use them as they discuss the show online.

Don’t fear the hashtag! Experiment and figure out how you can best add this tool to your marketing plan.

How have you used hashtags?