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The Dos and Don’ts of Hashtags

If you’ve been on Twitter or anywhere in the social space, you may have come across something called a “hashtag” with or without knowing what it was. To put it simply, a hashtag is a way for people to organize their thoughts around a common topic, subject, or conversation. For example if you were to search on #pope within the Twitter space, you’d get several news articles and tweets about the latest pope, the selection process, and the installation.

There are several rumors about where hashtags actually originated. Some believe they started in chat rooms, most notably IRC (remember that?). However, the first instance of a hashtags was actually seen on Twitter and an idea proposed by Chris Messina when he tweeted in 2007 that Twitter should introduce hashtags however the idea didn’t go viral until the 2007 San Diego fire when resident Nate Ritter started #sandiegofire and in 2009, Twitter decided to start hyper-linking all hashtags which then set the stage for “trending topics.”

Now, hashtags have expanded outside of the Twitter world and can be seen on just about any social network – Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr, Google+, and most recently Facebook announced plans to add them to their mix to enhance their graph search.

Now that you know a little history about hashtags, it’s also important that you know how to use them since they’ll soon be just about everywhere. So let’s get started with the hashtag do’s and don’ts.

DO:

Use hashtags to keep track of communities: if you’re interested in something, chances are there’s someone on Twitter talking about it. There’s probably a community, a brand, or a group of individuals discussing the book you’re reading, your most recent knitting project, or the Halo game you’re obsessed with. This is a great way to meet new people, find new followers, and make new friends. It’s also a great resource for brands of these products to follow the discussion and see what is being talked about and how to apply it.

Use hashtags to encourage topic participation: want to be heard in the Twitter space or anywhere you’re at? Add some important keywords to your tweet. Looking for a job? Add tags like #HireMe and anything else that might describe your online resume. Tweeting out a blog post? What’s it about? Pick the key topics and add those hashtags so that others can find it, read it, and share it. Key hashtags get you found and get your content spread to the masses.

Use hashtags to join a Twitter chat: did you know we run a #MetricsChat every Tuesday at 5PM? We discuss topics surrounding marketing, analytics, and rising trends in social media. All you need to join is your computer (or your mobile phone), Twitter, and be following #MetricsChat. Aside from #MetricsChat, there are also other chats based on other interests. All it takes is a search on Twitter to find the right one.

DON’T:

#hashtag #every #word #in #your #tweet: I think we’ve all seen this one. Someone gets a little too hashtag happy and we all suffer. Remember, hashtags are to be used wisely. Think of keywords you want to highlight so that people find your tweet.

#uselonghashtagstodescribeyourtweets: I bet it took you a little while to figure out what I just wrote there. Exactly. This might be funny once. Once. Think succinct and brief when you’re thinking of hashtags.

#YOLO #TWSS #LOLOLOL: OK, these are only fun once.  They don’t apply to everything. And don’t follow or tweet along with trending topics like #100RandomFactsAboutMe. Not only does this violate several hashtags don’ts. No one really wants to read 100 random facts about you. No one.

Hashtags are a great way to participate in a conversation, start a conversation, and find new friends and followers on any social network so use them wisely. Viralheat can also help you monitor hashtags to identify the reach, impact, and total usage of the hashtag. So if you’re a brand running a hashtag campaign be prepared to set up some performance metrics and goals to try to attain.

We’d love to hear if you have any other examples of hashtags do’s and don’ts? Share in the comments.

 

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