5 Tips for Proper Hashtag Usage

March 20th, 2013 by Search Influence Alumni

I love social media. I also love staying organized. The great thing about hashtags is they bring the two together. For those who don’t know, hashtags are a way to categorize a post on social media platforms, like Twitter and Instagram, by tagging it with descriptive words or phrases. Hashtags are also helpful for businesses running specific campaigns to monitor what followers are saying about their company. Although we all love reading about the latest social media blunders, we never want to fall victim to them ourselves. That is why I’ve compiled a list of questions to ask yourself when choosing a hashtag.

1. Is this hashtag trending?

Trending hashtags are a great way to get your message out there, and even help you brainstorm interesting, relevant tweets. If you can seamlessly incorporate your message with a trending topic, others will be able to see your post when browsing that hashtag. Although trending topics are a great first step in choosing a good hashtag, you should be careful to understand why the hashtag is trending. This takes me to the next question…

2. How is this hashtag currently being used?

Before hitting the submit button, you absolutely want to see how the hashtag is being used. Learn a lesson from Entenmann’s. Back in 2011 when Casey Anthony’s trial ended with a verdict of “not guilty,” Entenmann’s tweeted the following using a trending hashtag:

Angry, Entenmann’s followers made their disapproval known causing the company to delete the message and issue an apology.
3. Is this hashtag concise, yet descriptive

You want to make sure your audience can read and understand the hashtag, whether you are posting for a business or your own personal account. This is important if you are a business trying to start a hashtag campaign, like Dominos or Edge shave gel, or simply telling friends about your new shoes. While it may seem funny to have a long hashtag (example: “Gabrielle stole my favorite sweater AGAIN #mysisterdrivesmecrazy”) it is not easily read at first sight. One way to make hashtags easier to read it to capitalize the first letter of each word in the hashtag. However, if you find your hashtag looking something like an excerpt from a Charles Dickens novel, you should probably just shorten the whole thing altogether. If your hashtag is easily read by your audience, it has a greater chance at being effective.

4. Is this hashtag too broad?

While it may be topical to your message, broad hashtags are generally not searched. If you are a business, ideally you would like your hashtags to be interesting and search-worthy, as this could bring new eyes to your message. If your hashtag is not searched, it will not help you reach new audiences. Another problem with broad hashtags, for both business and personal profiles, is that they do not add additional value to your message.

In this example, the hashtag #hat does not offer any additional insight, and causes the tweet to become repetitive.

5. Does the place I am posting to recognize hashtags?

As funny as it may seem, it is important to know that the hashtag you send your friend via text is not recognized online. That being said, here is a list of a few places that do and do not recognize hashtags.

These places DO recognize hashtags

These places DO NOT recognize hashtags
-Text messages
-Facebook (although they are working on incorporating hashtags now)



Whether your posts are seen by millions of viewers or just your closest friends, the important idea here is to think before you post. Let’s make 2013 a year with no social media mistakes!