The world of social media has exploded and with it, the beloved—or for some, the hated—hashtag has emerged. But what’s the point and how do you use them?

A Quick Rundown of the Hashtag

Hashtags (#) were first introduced to Twitter in 2007 when Chris Messina suggested the idea and as they say, the rest is history. From there, hashtags have grown in popularity and are now used throughout various social media platforms.

Hashtag picture

Photo from 

What’s the Big Deal?

With the expansion of social media and digital marketing, hashtags have become of major part of our culture and to draw more people into conversations. In a recent study conducted by Buddy Media, research showed tweets with 1-2 hashtags had a 21% higher engagement than those with 3 or more hashtags. In addition, tweets with hashtags received 2 times the engagement than those without them.

Many businesses have created successful campaigns using hashtags to engage their audience and grow their business.

One example, Dominos in the U.K. campaigned that every time the hashtag #LetsDoLunch was retweeted on a particular day between specific times, the price of their pizza would go down. This was a popular promotion and people saw the price drop from £15.99 to £7.74 on that day.

Businesses are not the only ones who can benefit from a well thought out hashtag. Organizations have also found a powerful voice across social media and are using hashtags to bring awareness to their causes. A great example is the #IceBucketChallenge which, as of September 15, 2014, has raised $113.3 million in donations from just this hashtag to help find a cure for ALS.

Side note: hashtags don’t have to be serious all the time either. In some cases, hashtags are used to add sarcasm or to convey feeling to a tweet.

However you choose to use hashtags in your online marketing, remember they are meant to organize tweets while the conversation is happening.

Hashtag Etiquette

  1. Don’t Overuse Them.
    Some people tend to go crazy when it comes to using hashtags. When using hashtags, only use a maximum of 2 hashtags. Any more than that, you could lose followers, be suspended from digital platforms, and get a bad reputation in social media communities.
  2. Think KISS.
    Keep it short and simple. In most cases, it is recommended to keep them to one word, maybe 2 or 3 words (tops!) but definitely avoid the sentence. #TheyJustGetVeryAnnoyingAndAreHardToRead
  3. Relevance.
    Hashtags that are not relevant to your content are considered spam. Do some research to discover which keywords or phrases will boost your brand and bring value to your tweets. An example, #You is generic and doesn’t add value, whereas #ThrowBackThursday (or #TBT) ignites a following of fun moments from the past.

 

I can’t stress how important research is. With so many conversations going on across social media, you want to verify the hashtag you are linking with your business is appropriate and not trending elsewhere. A great example of a business who didn’t do their research is DiGiorno Pizza. Their hashtag faux paus hit a serious backlash when they carelessly used the hashtag, #WhyIStayed to promote their brand.

Regardless if you love or hate them, hashtags are here to stay and as long as you remember to keep them simple they have a lot of marketing potential. Hashtags have the power to connect people and drive a conversation.

Danielle Schwager
SEO/Social Media Specialist at Big Leap
Danielle is an Online Marketing Specialist at Big Leap. She specializes in content writing and outreach. In her spare time, she enjoys British television, creative writing, and celebrating obscure holidays.