How to Use Hashtags

instagram

Let's bring it back to lesson one, guys.

I don't get bothered by much at all, but if I had to pick a pet peeve, improper hashtag usage would definitely be way up there. It's not that I hate hashtags - I actually quite like them! But I like seeing hashtags that are doing their job, not adding pointless clutter or spam to an already jam packed conversation... Which is how many people use them, it seems. So, if you're wondering how to use a hashtag to earn you valuable connections instead of noise, I've got you. Keep reading!

Don't Just Make Them Up

Here's the thing: Hashtags are meant to help you tell your story and to connect with people. I can't lie and pretend that I've #NeverMadeUpASillyHashtagBefore, but if you're actually trying to post a relevant tweet (and not one that's sarcastic or tongue-in-cheek), it's best to use a hashtag that already exists. Hashtags are essentially small subpockets of whatever platform you're on, and they typically come with an active user base, engaged followers, and tons of activity. Think of them as a little cocktail party just waiting for you to walk in and introduce yourself.

Why would you start your own party with a handful of guests when there's a rager going on next door?

Research Existing Hashtags

Going along with that, don't just assume that because a hashtag exists means that it's appropriate for you to use. Lest we forget, Digiornio Pizza's major fail last week with #WhyIStayed... They recovered, but it was a perfect reminder that the Internet is a sometimes serious (and scary) place. There are countless hashtag tools on the web for you to check out on your own, but honestly, nothing beats just... you know, clicking on it. When I click on a hashtag I'm considering using myself, I look for the following things:

1. Is it appropriate? (i.e. not taken over by graphic violence, nudity, or spam.)

2. Is it active? Switch to a chronological view and look at the dates and times the last posts were added. If it's been days, or worse - weeks... try another. Some hashtags will move slower than others and that's fine, but try to choose ones that are active.

3. Is it relevant to my brand? Just because #LB is active and (usually) appropriate when placed underneath Kylie Jenner's Instagram photos, it doesn't mean I should add it to my own. The same goes for one of my favorite default tags, #VSCOcam. I'm a firm believer that if you didn't edit the image in VSCO, you shouldn't add the hashtag. That's that.

Don't Spam

Please, I beg you... No matter which platform you're on, please keep hashtags to a minimum! For Tweets, I don't like to add more than 2 (or 3 TOPS) to a post. Let this be a friendly reminder that if you can't pick the top three hashtags, you're doing it wrong to begin with. I stick to 1-2 hashtags on Facebook if I add one at all, and I'll let you in on a little secret for Instagram:

I've been testing something new. I used to follow a pretty similar "less is more" rule until I discovered you can hide your hashtags... Sort of.

Lately, I've been testing using up to the maximum of 30 and I have to admit, I've seen good results. Here's the thing though: All 30 are relevant. They're also active and appropriate. Want to know how to hide your hashtags on Instagram? You're welcome.

So what do you think? Are you in violation of improper hashtag usage or am I preaching to the choir? Let me know in the comments and have fun 'tagging!

P.S. Have you heard the news? My social media manager e-course is open for pre-enrollment. Get on the list for email updates or pay a discounted rate now to join the class when it opens later this fall. See ya there!