Hashtags: what are they and how should you use them?
Carolina Mateus
26 Apr. 2017

Making a hashtag is pretty easy. All you have to do is start with a # and then type your word or (unspaced) words. Making good, effective hashtags… well, that’s a different story.

First of all, what are hashtags and where did they come from?

The first hashtag was used on Twitter by a former Google designer named Chris Messina. Back in 2007, Chris posted a tweet saying “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?” and decided to name this new feature “channel tags”. The people at Twitter weren’t exactly impressed. They thought “channel tags” were too nerdy and rejected the idea at first. Little did they know that years after it would be difficult (to say the least) to imagine Twitter without hashtags.

Basically a hashtag ties together a group of public posts, helping to categorize and organize social media content and making it easier for users to find it. For brands looking to increase their visibility and expand the reach of their message, hashtags can be very useful. Just think about today’s big events or marketing campaigns: the majority of them have a hashtag associated, right? Using hashtags properly, on both online and offline channels, can be truly beneficial.

Are there rules I should follow when using hashtags on social media?

When it comes to hashtags, yes, there are a few rules that you should always have in mind:

  • #DontMakeSuperLongHashtagsAsTheyArePrettyHardToDecipher
  • #Also #never #hashtag #every #single #word #on #your #post (annoying, isn’t it?)
  • Don’t use random hashtags. And do your research! #unicorn
  • #capitalizeeachword, otherwise it can get a bit hard to understand (as you can probably tell)
  • Punctuation in the middle of a hashtag: #Nop,Don’tDoIt (the hashtag here would only be #Nop – not exactly what we had in mind).
  • Don’t use hashtags that are trending but have nothing to do with your post, just because they are trending. As I’m writing this article, #NationalHaikuPoetryDay is on the list of trending hashtags. If I were to make a post linking to this article, sure, I could be tempted to use the hashtag I mentioned but… how are the two things related? It doesn’t make sense and it can be annoying for users. So don’t do it unless there’s a strategic purpose behind it!

  • Make sure the hashtag means what you think it means and that the words put together don’t give the hashtag a… not so good meaning. Otherwise, you might end up in the same situation as Susan Boyle’s PR team and their so popular hashtag, #susanalbumparty… No, thanks!
  • That being said, there are two things you should never forget. First, hashtags don’t work on every social media platform. And second, they don’t work the same way on every platform. But that’s a topic for another article, that will be published soon. Stay tuned!