#Hashtag101: The Do’s and Don’ts of Hashtag Usage

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Hashtags made their social media debut when they were popularized by Twitter as a way to aggregate conversations around a particular topic. Want to find out the latest news in social media marketing? Type the hashtag (#smm) into the Twitter search bar and every tweet that incorporates that hashtag will appear!

Hashtags have now expanded to Instagram, Facebook, Google +, Tumblr, YouTube, Pinterest. Even apps such as tagboard allow you to view hashtags across multiple platforms.

Although Hashtags may seem like the trendy thing to do, they can quickly lead a marketer down the path to social media destruction. No need to fear, we’ve have created a list of hashtag do’s and dont’s that will save you the hashtag headache.

#HashtagsEverywhere

Now that hashtags have spread across the majority of social platforms, there’s a bit of curiosity behind the best practices of hashtag etiquette. While hashtags are widely used on Instagram and Twitter, they haven’t taken off quite as successfully on Facebook. Plus, LinkedIn’s reaction to hashtag usage is like…

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Social media marketing norms would caution you against using too many hashtags on Facebook and not enough on Instagram. The research shows that hashtags perform differently depending on the social network as discussed in this post by Buffer. The Buffer article explains, “Tweets with one or more hashtag are 55 percent more likely to be retweeted” and posts on Instagram with 11 hashtags or more receive the most interactions. On the flip side, the article also points out that using too many hashtags will decrease the amount of interactions your brand receives:

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We’ve all seen examples of hashtag overkill that will make a social media manager cringe like. Moral of the Story…it’s not the number of hashtags you use that make a post successful, it’s the strategy and execution behind the hashtag use. Before you decide to utilize a hashtag ask yourself these questions:

1. Is this hashtag frequently used by an audience that would resonate with this message?
2. What conversations will this associate my brand with?
3. Are industry influencers using this hashtag?
4. Does the hashtag match what your message or photo is promoting?

#Trending

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One way to effectively harness the power of a hashtag is to take a look at what is trending that day and create a post that can insert your brand into the conversation. However, be sure that your message relates to the brand. If you come out of nowhere with a post completely unrelated to you brand and hashtag just for the sake of hoping someone sees your post, your brand is going to look desperate for attention. Here are a few great examples of brands who have excelled in trend-jacking:

Tide stole the show during the infamous “is the dress black and blue or white and gold” controversy with this creative branded tribute to #DressGate:

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#Proofread

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As a rule of thumb, ALWAYS remember to proofread a hashtag before sending it to the public, re-read it and make sure it doesn’t spell anything inappropriate or incorrect like these embarrassing hashtag catastrophes as documented by Buzzfeed:

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Branded Hashtags

Using hashtags on social media is one thing, but when branding a hashtag, it needs to be backed by plenty of strategy, planning, and promotion. Here are a few ways to get started with a branded hashtag:

#KISS-Keep It Simple Stupid

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Don’t over complicate your hashtags, make it easy to remember and easy to replicate. If the hashtag is too long or hard to remember people will be less likely to use it in their social media posts.

#Promotion

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One great way to launch a branded hashtag is to host a hashtag promotion, this will entice users/fans to use your hashtag and generate more awareness for your contest. Thousands of brands host contests where users submit their own content with a designated hashtag to be entered to win. This strategy helps aggregate content like this example from ECHO USA.

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#Context

When considering a branded hashtag, it’s vital to be the devil’s advocate and think of all the possible conversations that can be generated around that topic. McDonalds learned this the hard way.

McDonald’s launched the hashtag #McDstories to share McDonalds supplier’s stories. That hashtag took a turn for the worst when people started sharing their bad experiences with McDonald’s food instead:

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#RealTime

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Once you release your hashtag into the wild, try to stay involved in the conversation and engage in real time to help keep the hashtag alive. Engage with the people using your hashtag. Be sure to reply to their comments, questions, and entries. More importantly, try to do this in a creative manner. Don’t respond to everyone who uses your hashtag with the same generic message. CHEEZ-IT does a phenomenal job of not only responding to those that have been hashtagging their love for CHEEZ-IT’s new “Extra Toasty” flavor, but they will even send their social fans CHEEZ-IT swag to show their appreciation:

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#ATimeandPlace

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All in all, there’s a time, a place, and a strategy behind every thriving hashtag. As long as you do your hashtag research, execute timely and accurate delivery, and keep your audience and message in mind you’ll be on your way to hashtag glory, or simply let the social media team at Customer Magnetism take the hashtag worry off your hands.

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Rio Ziegler

Social Media Manager at Customer Magnetism
When Rio is not whipping up social media content, managing social ads, and analyzing social data, you can find her living in her local gym, pursuing a plethora of random hobbies, and feeding her addiction to salt water as CM’s resident mermaid.