Teach-Me-IT Series: Using Hashtags

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hashtag trend

Seeing posts with words carrying the pound sign or the number sign (#) is normal today and sometimes you want to create posts as such. Using hashtags is common place on the internet and so is its use, misuse and abuse.

What is a Hashtag?

Hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by a hash (#) to categorise topics of interest, conversations, trends and other various content on social media. Due to its common use, Oxford Dictionary added the word “hashtag” to its lexicon in 2010. Twitter, in 2009 started to hyperlink hashtags to mark keywords or topics in a tweet. Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine and a host of other social media platforms has also incorporated the use of hashtags to categorise content on their various platforms.


The Proper Use of Hashtags

While it has become rampant to use hashtags, it is necessary to enlighten social media users on its proper use. The right way of writing (or rather say, typing) a hashtag is to put the hash sign before the word or phrase. I put together a couple of rules to follow when composing a hashtag.

1. For single words, always put the hash sign (#) before the word:

#Blogging #category #wedding

2. For two or more, don’t add spaces between the words.

Wrong Use: #save the date #throwback thursday #easter sunday special

Proper Use: #savethedate #throwbackthursday #eastersundayspecial

3. Don’t add symbols or punctuation marks. They break up the hashtag.

Wrong Use: #work@Shoprite #leaders.serve.too

Proper Use: #workatshoprite #leadersservetoo

4. Adding another hash at the end is not necessary

Wrong Use: #followfriday#

Proper Use: #followfriday

5. There is no point muddling up hashtags. What are spaces for?

Wrong Use: #photooftheday#bestdayever#ilovemyself#selfie

Proper Use: #photooftheday #bestdayever #ilovemyself #selfie

Now once you follow these simple rules, you can create good hashtags. You can also use numbers. However, there is one question: why hashtags?

Why Hashtags?

I said earlier that hashtags are used to categorise content on social media. You can ask, of what use if that to me.

If you are social media savvy and you love to follow the latest gists and trends on the internet, hashtags makes it easier for you to follow. Almost all social media platforms hyperlink hashtags which if clicked on, takes you to a page where all relevant posts, tweets, images to the hashtag are grouped. You can also join the conversation by responding with the relevant hashtag in your posts. By doing this, your posts will also be featured in search results of the same hashtag.

Michelle Obama - Bring Back Our Girls Hashtag
Michelle Obama – Bring Back Our Girls (image courtesy of Mashable)

You can also start your own hashtag. If it is interesting enough for people to follow, they’ll pick up your buzz and trend it after you. For example, Leke Alder writes every weekend on Twitter using #Letr2Jil #Letr2Jack and #Illuminaire which is being followed by thousands if not hundred of thousands of youths worldwide. #OccupyNaija was one of the hottest trends of all time on the Nigerian social media space which even led to a nationwide strike owing to the fuel subsidy removal in 2012. And #BringBackOurGirls campaign is still on.

share a coke hashtagsOnce you post using a particular hashtag on any social media platform, anyone who searches for that keyword will find your post. This is why most times it is advisable to keep your hashtag unique, short and consistent. Some companies have keyed into this and some of them have specific hashtags to their brand. For example, Virgin America named one of their planes #nerdbird, Coca Cola’s #shareacoke campaign and Audi #WantAnR8 are some of the most successful hashtag company campaigns.

It is not just about hash-tagging. You need to do it right. Don’t use too many words. Repetition is not consistency. Use hashtags where necessary not all the time. Only use hashtags relevant to your posts. Some social media platforms have policies against irrelevant hash-tagging and over use. Avoid getting in their black book. And one more thing, while hash-tagging might be fun, don’t hashtag everything.

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