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Hashtags: What is the Buzz About?

ImageFacebook is the latest social networking site to allow the use of hashtag. A trendsetter in true sense, hashtag is a rage among users and has revolutionized user engagement levels. Hashtag started off with Twitter and several other networking and social media sites such as Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Vine have followed the trend.

I am frequently asked questions about hashtags by newbie marketers and companies who are striving hard to explore the full potential of social media. They often ask what the heck are hashtags and why are hashtags so important? Does "hashtag" guarantee instant access to users? Should I hashtag every word? Do long hashtags work? Do more than three hashtags in a tweet get marked as spam by Twitter? The list of questions goes on and on. In this article, I will provide certain pointers which will help you use hashtags effectively.

What is hashtag?

A hashtag is a word or a phrase prefixed with the symbol # with no spaces or punctuation used to categorize messages. It is seen as a very powerful marketing tool by businesses. The hashtag plays an instrumental role in categorizing and displaying all ideas under one thread to provide you a more targeted user experience, instead of just going through and trying to weed thousands of random tweets. Here are some very popular sites using hashtags.

Twitter Hashtags: Twitter started the hashtag movement and is undoubtedly champion of the hashtag cause. You will find hashtags everywhere in Twitter mainly in trending topics. Hashtags denote keywords or topics in Tweets and are made up of a single word or phrase starting with a "#" with no spaces or characters.

Google+ Hashtags: Google+ allows hashtag feature that helps people to identity and join conversation about a topic. Clicking on a hashtag will show related content. Hashtags you use in Google+ posts may appear at the top of post as related hashtags. Clicking on a hashtag will let you further explore related posts.

Facebook Hashtags: Facebook is the new kid on the block as far as hashtag is concerned. Facebook hashtags turn into clickable links in posts on timeline or Page. However, user can control who will view posts as Facebook has strict privacy settings in place.

When to use a hashtag?

You can introduce a hashtag if you want to start a new conversation or search for hashtags already used and ultimately join a conversation. Tweeting with the right hashtag on a particular topic/event allows you to instantly connect with not just your followers, but with everyone tuned to the event. # phenomena is not just limited to individuals. It is increasingly used by companies to reach out to target audience, build brand recognition, and increase customer loyalty. Whether you are promoting an upcoming event, launching a political campaign, or advertising for a TV show, hashtags offers virtually limitless possibilities to go viral.

Hashtag mistakes to avoid

Although there are no formal guidelines about using hashtag, there are few unwritten rules about hashtags which need to followed for maximum returns. This is very important since hashtags are now not limited to Twitter and are rapidly moving to other mediums.

Avoid Overuse:If each and every of your tweet is a hashtag, you undermine the benefits of hashtags. It is important that you don't bombard tweets with hashtags. Many people will keep safe distance from you because you/your organization will look spammy.

On the other hand, including more than two hashtags in a Tweet will probably overkill. You only need to tag the most important word that represents the theme of your Tweet.

Irrelevant hashtags don't work: If you are making a hashtag, it is very important to provide quick explanation in your tweets and make it very clear what you are talking about. These should guide online users and immediately let them know what the conversation is about. In order to make your hashtag effective, user must understand the context of your hashtag. Make sure that hashtag adds value for yourself and your followers and is not just a gimmick to get attention.

Keep it simple and crisp: When coming up with a topic, think words that are very easy to relate and remember—ideally words should be self-explanatory. Never use too many keywords in hashtag making it very difficult to read and understand. Long hashtags not only defeat the objective of having a concise tweet, but also annoy users. Also bear in mind that hashtag will use up your 140-character limit. So think short and simple.

Duplication hurts: Creating a hashtag that already exists can cause much confusion. Before you create a hashtag check its availability and save yourself from potential embarrassment of trying to duplicate hashtags.

Never use offensive keywords in your hashtags: This is the golden rule for using hashtags. Never annoy sentiments or use offensive language. While Twitter is a social platform giving its users complete freedom, it is important that your don't abuse the power to get quick attention. You will fall in the eyes of users and ruin your reputation.


Hashtag has become ubiquitous given its ability to instantly contact with like-minded people as well as in brand building activity. Hashtags are considered most preferred tools for companies to promote brand awareness and take user engagement to next level through social media. And some businesses go viral with hashtags, getting nation-wide attention. Go ahead and start hashtagging.

image: hashtags/shutterstock

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