The hashtag is actually quite powerful. It is the pound symbol on your keyboard. It’s also called an octothorpe, and it was initially used to mark numbers. It was first used as a hashtag in the summer of 2007 by someone called Chris Messina, and it was put forward as a way to index the growing amount of content that was flowing into Twitter without any kind of catalog system. It was then that Chris Messina went into Twitter’s office and proposed the use of the pound symbol. It’s a generally available symbol, and in America, this octothorpe is on the phone as well as a pound sign. Because Twitter only allows a certain number of characters, instead of asking people to give some kind of explanation or introduction, this is a shortcut to create an index for people that are looking to post information to let others know, if you like, which filing area it should be, and also for people following certain topics to sort through more easily the vast volume of content on the internet.
Hashtags can be seen as a way to connect to the growing volume of content with specific topics, people, themes, or conversations, and of course, hashtags are no longer only on Twitter. They’re being used across Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn since 2018, and YouTube, because the simplicity of the pound symbol means that it can be used across languages and platforms. It’s good for both desktop and mobile. Now, the hashtag needs to have the hashtag symbol and then the topic or the word (or words) without a space in between them. Social media accounts have to be public in order for the content with the hashtags to be seen by others. The best hashtags are those that are relatively short and easy to remember as well as relevant. If a hashtag is too general, then the content is going into a very large pool of information. If it’s too specific or too custom, then there isn’t anybody following it, and therefore, it’s not going to appear on anybody’s feed. The goal is to try and find this compromise, and there are tools for doing that.
Hashtags can be used to connect an issue that is beyond a brand. It could be a way to bring people together. A perfect example of that is the recent #BlackLivesMatter, which has transcended platforms and geographies to unite people around one social cause. There was also the #CovidHeroes campaign by Zilliqa that served as a rallying call for raising money for the Red Cross in Singapore, and it worked very effectively. Clearly, the hashtag can be a very effective yet simple way of validating and contextualizing information, and that information could be in any form: video, infographic, text, long-form content, or a podcast.
How to find the perfect hashtag
The most popular hashtag of all time is #love with 1.7 billion posts attached to it. If you use #love, there’s so much content out there that yours would be one of 1.7 billion posts, so find hashtags that are relevant enough to your topic but broad enough to be relevant to an audience, and this is part of the knack of it. RiteTag is one of a number of platforms that can identify just how powerful a hashtag will be. It costs $54 a month. There’s another one called Hashtagify, and that’s $29 a month for a personal account, $86 for a business account, and $311 for an enterprise account. That sounds like quite a lot lot of money, but keep in mind that these services are tracking trending hashtags. They’re tracking what influencers are posting with certain hashtags, and they’re making recommendations based on these trends and your own content for your own hashtags.
These platforms have got trackers, and they do it by the number of data points, so the more expensive programs are tracking more data points. The basic one is tracking 5,000 data points, and they analyze data on Twitter, for example, for a particular given hashtag. For the people that are using those hashtags, they’re able to analyze different interactions as well with that hashtag, so you can see not only which hashtag is trending, but which ones are retweeted. A hashtag generator can help identify certain trends and currents of information, and with the right hashtag, one can perfectly position content within the current conversation taking place online. That’s why social listening tools like Hootsuite help understand the narrative that’s taking place online to guide the creation of content.
LinkedIn recently allowed hashtags in 2018. They weren’t doing that before, nor was Facebook. Today, the number one hashtag on LinkedIn is #innovation with 38,600,000 uses, followed by #management with 36 million, and #digitalmarketing with 27.5 million. To make sure your hashtags and posts stand out, find one or two hashtags that resonate with a business, industry, or a particular trend. One to two hashtags on Twitter are sufficient, while five to ten are recommended on Instagram. Note that constantly changing hashtags means the content itself is not being indexed, so it would be best to stick to a few hashtags. If we think about hashtags as a way to both index content and have be found by people who are doing social listening, it’s important to analyze using these tools like Hashtagify and another one called Flick.
If it all sounds like too much work, there’s always an option to not put any hashtags, but similar to the Dewey Decimal System in libraries, hashtags help to make sense of a great volume of information. Just as it would be easier to find a book with a Dewey Decimal number, posts with hashtags will be more easily found. This is important, because content creation is only part of the job. One statistic suggests that content marketing is 20% content generation and 80% marketing, and hashtags definitely fall within that 80%. While hashtags are a relatively simple topic, it’s one that becomes complex, and using relevant and appropriate hashtags can do wonders in helping businesses get noticed online.
Cover Photo from Self Hotel