Why Are #Hashtags So Darn Important?

By • June 12, 2015

You’ve all seen the ubiquitous # (hashtag) sign in front of social media posts, but do you really know what that symbol does—or could do for you? In case you’re reluctant to raise your hand in front of friends, co-workers or conference attendees, here’s a quick primer about the hashtag.

What is a Hashtag?

A hashtag is a label used on social media sites that makes it easier to find posts or information with a theme or contains specific content. It is created by including the symbol “#” in front of a word or words without spaces.

  • A hashtag is a label used on social media sites that makes it easier to find information with a theme or specific content. RealLilTweetables
  • Hashtags encourage social media users to explore content that catches their eye. RealLilTweetables
  • Associations can use hashtags to reach their target audience and to help members filter information. RealLilTweetables

Do Hashtags Serve a Purpose?

Of course they do! In today’s world of social media, users can quickly get bogged down by information overload. Using hashtags makes it easy to cut through digital clutter focus only on the information we really want. Hashtags are typically used on social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google+ and Pinterest.

Hashtag Comic
Copyright John L. Hart, FLP

Four Reasons to Use Hashtags:

  1. Hashtags simplify the process–Searching a hashtag pulls results for each post using that hashtag. Using a hashtag helps you reach your target audience, and likewise makes it easier for others to find your information.
  2. They compel an action–When a user sees a post that is of interest, they will likely spend time looking through content brought up by the hashtag.
  3. Hashtags evolve–Hashtags are being used by more and more platforms, impacting the amount of information put directly in front of social media users.
  4. They reward the distinctive–Hashtags make finding information easier for social media users. A unique hashtag makes your message stand out to the users who find the hashtag valuable.

What Makes a Good Hashtag?

An industry-related hashtag will help you reach your target audience and connect you with your industry. Hashtags can be used to identify your products, services or communications.

Hashtags can be generalized or very specific. The best practice is to experiment and be consistent with your social media usage. The more you use a specific hashtag, the greater your chances are to grow an audience. If a certain hashtag isn’t working (i.e., it’s not catching on and your customers aren’t receptive to it), change it. But, be patient and give your hashtag time to catch on. Don’t change your hashtag every week. Consistency is key.

When creating a social media post, do not overuse hashtags. Posts should be concise, and using too many hashtags can make your message seem cluttered and unprofessional. Including one to three hashtags per post is sufficient.

Important: Don’t forget to check your analytics. It’s crucial to know what’s working—or hurting—your social media campaign. You don’t want to continue using a hashtag that no one is following.

How Do I Identify Industry Hashtags?

Start by searching Twitter. Check replies to your association’s tweets and the accounts of other leading industry organizations to learn what hashtags they are using. You can also search common industry terms. Compare hashtags by using Topsy (topsy.com/analytics). This site keeps you up to date with what’s trending and what people are following.

Are Hashtags Effective?

Yes! Using hashtags puts pertinent information at your fingertips, allowing you to spend less time searching for information.. Spend just a few minutes researching popular hashtags and you’re sure to find what works for you. Here are some examples of when including a hashtag can be effective:

  • Digital publication announcements

Communications Tweet

  • Media kits and special offers
  • Tradeshow/event information and images

Trade Show Tweet

  • Retweet, favorite and reply to your association
  • Trending industry articles, topics or events

Event Tweet

  • Ask questions
  • Congratulatory/celebratory tweets

Congrats Tweet

  • Personal thoughts, achievements, updates, marketing industry topics

Remember not to use special characters or spaces in your in your hashtags. Hashtags only recognize letters and numbers.

What’s the Most Important Thing about Hashtags?

That they’re easy to use! Remember, hashtags not only help users find posts about specific content, they help you reach more people who are interested in what your content. Compose hashtags that fit your industry by using common industry-related terms. Hashtags are the simplest way to organize the endless amount of information posted to social media so that you’re only seeing what you find relevant. Less is more when it comes to hashtags. Keep their use to three or fewer per post/tweet when you can, and when you find one that works, keep using it.

About The Author

Nancy Taylor is a marketing account specialist for Naylor Association Solutions, with extensive experience using creative hashtags.