Monday, July 21, 2014

#Hashtag - Understanding Hashtags and How To Get Started Using Them With Your Business

Either you run the day, or the day runs you.
- Jim Rohn

While I've been tweeting and posting my way through the Social Media World quite regularly, I have to admit that I've been a late-comer to utilizing hashtags as part of my social media strategy. I finally decided it was time to bite the bullet and get started utilizing hashtags. 

What is a #Hashtag?
Simply put,a hashtag is an easy way for people to categorize, find and join conversations on a particular a number sign (#), the hashtag is paired with a word or phrase to perform a variety of functions. attach hashtags to tweets and posts as search mechanisms, categorizing tools and marketing tactics.

Hashtag Formatting 
The hashtag is used to highlight key words or topics, and can be placed anywhere within a post or tweet.
  • Not case sensitiveMust contain at least one alpha character. 
  • Cannot be all numbers (ex: #1234)
  • Can be combination of letters and numbers (ex: #4change, #iPhone5, #good4you)
  • No special characters (ex: !@$%&*)
  • Must be all one word with no spaces (ex: #SocialMedia, Not #Social Media)

Why Should You Use Hashtags For Business
First and foremost, it increases your exposure on popular social sites. More visibility and exposure is why we're on these social sites. More exposure gets you more followers, and since hashtags are used to categorize subject matter, it helps you get the right type of followers by targeting your audience. 

4 Steps to Getting Started With Hashtags
If you're a complete newbie to hashtags, these 4 steps will get you going in no time.

Step 1: Find Popular and Relevant Hashtags In Your Industry
  • Start following companies in your field to see what hashtags they are using and what type of engagement they receive. Look for a mixture of large and small companies, including your direct competitors.
  • Check for trending and popular hashtags.
  • Search glossaries or directory of terms published by professional associations or other groups.
  • Input hashtags at to see how they are being used by other people and companies.
  • Search for hashtags used in Instagram.
Here's an example of a typical display by entering the hashtag '#handmadejewelry' into Tagboard. I can then view other hashtags users entered in the same post.
In the below example, I entered '#handmadejewelry' and looked through the feed until I found some posts that looked interesting and had good engagement. I then clicked on the photo to display the hashtags being used. 


Step 2: Create a Hashtag Spreadsheet
Below is an example of a spreadsheet I started. In the first section, I listed other jewelry designers I follow. Then I created columns for typical jewelry categories I use. The bottom group of columns list my other interests, hobbies, and topics I also tweet, blog, and post about, so I also needed hashtag ideas for them.

This is a living document that I modify on a regular basis. It's great to have it handy whenever I'm posting so I always have a list of hashtags I can use.

Step 3: Start Posting With Hashtags on Your List
Now that you have a good list of starting hashtags, start tweeting and posting. If you are getting stuck on where to begin, here are some good suggestions:
  • Participate in Daily Trends. #ThrowBackThursday and #FollowFriday are examples of popular daily trends. There are also numerous daily trends in many industries. Find one that matches your business and post every week.
  • National Day - There is a 'national day' for just about anything you can think of. Find some that pertain to your business or interests and post something relevant on that day. You can always find a hashtag that describes the day.
  • Look for trending topics or search a hashtag to join the conversation.
  • Post or tweet while you are at events, conferences, or even out to dinner. Be sure to take pictures and include them in your post.
  • Do you have a good tip or advice related to your field? Tweet about it.
  • Retweet other posts that you find interesting. People love to be retweeted. Make sure to thank people who retweet your posts too.
Below are some examples of good tweets:

Humorous take on a trending topic.

 Great tip that people will tend to retweet.

Thanking people for retweeting is always appreciated.

Mistakes to Avoid
  • Only use 1 – 3 hashtags per post/tweet. Overuse of hashtags leads to less engagement
  • Don’t use the same hashtags in every post or tweet -  mix it up.
  • Don’t input hashtags that are not relevant to your post. 
  • Don’t hijack hashtags involving sensitive situations. 
  • Don't hashtag every word (i.e. #I #am #so #excited #today)  
  • Don't hashtag the same word more than once (i.e. It is my #birthday. Here is a photo of my #birthday cake, my #birthday presents, and my awesome #birthday party!) 

Epic Hashtag Fails

Don't try to capitalize on a sensitive issue.

Asking for retweets is always bad. It looks spammy when linked to a disaster.
 I don't even need to explain this one.

Or this one.

Step 4: Create Your Own Hashtags
Now that you've gotten comfortable using existing hashtags in your posts, it's time to create your own hashtags. This is where branding comes into play, so be sure to create hashtags that are unique to your business name. I use #TheresaRoseDesigns and #TheresaRoseJewelry often in my posts.
  • Keep hashtags as simple and short as possible.
  • Don't customize beyond what's necessary. For example, there is no need to add the year to the following hashtag: #JewelryTrends2014.
  • Test your hashtag on social sites such as Tagboard and Twitter to make sure it's unique and more importantly, appropriate.
  • Make sure your hashtags are clear, unique and relevant.
  • While you can design a hashtag using CamelCase (for example: #TheresaRoseDesigns), it's always a good idea to test it using all lower case. Can you spot the problems with the below hashtags?

Finally, here are a list of useful sites that help you while researching hashtags: 
Lists popular and trending hashtags, along with article and news about hashtags. Includes analytics for a fee. 
Lists most popular hashtags for the week, all-time, new tags, and top users. Gives definitions for popular hashtags.
Input a hashtag to see how a hashtag is used across multiple networks. The results show posts from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Vine, and 
Shows relevant hashtags that are being used in your geographic area.