Something about seeing the pound sign in front of a word can make the smartest of us feel a little stupid. Is this something I should know? Is this another language?
Hashtags help us organize information. Nothing more and nothing less.
Let’s say you posted a picture of kittens on Facebook you want to help find homes for. Now in the caption you could say “These Maine coon cat kittens were born in January. They have arrived at the Hancock County SPCA animal shelter very recently. If you know of someone looking for a kitten, send them over!”
While this is a fine caption (and you probably tagged the animal shelter’s Facebook page so people could easily get in touch), how will this picture be found on Facebook by potential adopters? Also some people may be saying ‘maine coon cat’, ‘maine coon’, ‘coon cat’ or some variation.
Searching for ‘maine coon cat’ will bring up any post with those words in it. It will not necessarily bring up pictures of coon cats looking for homes. By putting #mainecoon and #adoptme into the search, I am suddenly getting much more relevant results.
So hashtags aren’t meant to be confusing or exclusive but the opposite of that. In particular, hashtags help with organizing groups of information in what is often limited space.
The pet thing is one application of hashtags but no doubt in your industry or interests, you can think of ways a hashtag would help you either get your information in front of the right set of eyeballs or curate useful information.
Alright, so I’ve convinced you to use a hashtag (or several). How do you know which ones to use? You have some options.
Option 1: Make Up Your Own
We’ve heard about this going badly but don’t let this stop you from starting your own hashtags! Just 1) do your research to make sure your hashtag doesn’t have a previous history and 2) make sure you communicate this new hashtag to the people you want to use it.
The way I’ve seen this be really successful is at conferences. Joomla Day UK is coming up soon and people are already tweeting about it:
Once the conference is in full swing, attendees and interested people will be able to follow what’s going on in an organized way.
Option 2: Ride The Trends
Most social networks that support hashtags will have a list of what’s trending on that network. Here’s an example from Twitter (well, the day I took this screenshot anyway):
Now if you don’t necessarily want to talk about something trending but want to talk about a popular hashtag in your niche, you can use a resource like Hastagify.me to look up the popularness of certain hashtags:
As you see, #mainecoon is the most popular hashtag so if we were limited on space, we’d want to pick that one and ride that popularity trend.
Option 3: Go Tried And True
This is the internet equivalent of buying a classic pair of dark jeans or a crisp white shirt.
Hashtags for days of the week (ex #WCW for ‘woman crush Wednesday’)
Hashtags for (some) industries (you can look yours up on the Google)
Hashtags by geographic area (You can see, stage right, some popular hashtags in my corner of the world when I took this screenshot.)
If you want to completely overwhelm yourself or really geek out researching popular hashtags, this post is for you: https://www.marketingtechblog.com/hashtag-research-tools/
Is it important to get hashtags exactly right? Probably not. But as you start using them and getting more confident, you’ll see which ones work well over time. #seeyouonline #social #marketing #goyou
(Pro Tip from my Instagram enthusiast husband: Have a note on your phone with all the hashtags you use in it… then you can copy and paste the whole thing into Instagram and just delete the ones you don’t need.)