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Cosmic's top tips for using hashtags

6th January 2016

Many people don’t understand either what a hashtag is, or don’t understand how they can use them within their social media activity. There is a lot of confusion from twitter beginners to the difference between @ and #, what they do, why they are used and what you can learn from them. So we thought it may be best if we started from the beginning with regards to hashtags and give you some tips for using them.

When was a hashtag first used?

Well, this was a new one for me as I wasn’t 100% sure on the origin of the hashtag, but it seems that it first appeared in a tweet from Chris Messina when he was tweeting about using an icon to distinguish groups on Twitter. However, the icon itself wasn’t used in the way it is now until October 23 2007 when it was used to report a fire in San Diego. The hashtag was used by Nate Ritter and others got hold of it and it became part of what we know nowadays.

What is a hashtag?

In basic terms, a hashtag is a symbol that is put at the beginning of a word or phrase that, when clicked on, takes the user to discover a whole list of others who have used the same symbol within their tweet. Many people use the hashtag symbol within their tweets so that they are more searchable. You can be involved in networking conversations, events, conferences, following breaking news, or to discover other people talking about the same interests as you. You may have seen many of our favourite tv programmes have their own hashtags now. By clicking on this allotted hashtag you can discover what others are talking about all over the world.

Hashtags are therefore incredibly powerful when used correctly as a marketing tool. By becoming involved in industry conversations using an allotted hashtag, you can start projecting yourself as an expert in your field. It all takes practice though as it's tricky to understand straight away. Try using hashtagify.me to find out what other hashtags are being used, you may be able to encourage more engagement that way. 

But before you start, here are a few tips to make sure you use your hashtags in the right way…

What to do with your hastags

  • Keep them short. Your tweets are restricted to 140 characters and so you don’t want to fill your tweet up with unnecessary text.
  • Keep them relevant and in context. By searching for that hashtag, people want to be taken to the right place.
  • Engage with others using the same hashtag.
  • Check hashtags before you use them, in case they have been used before in a way that you don’t want to be associated with.
  • Also spell check to see if your hashtag says something that you don’t want it to – see ‘SusanAlbumParty’ for an example…

What not to do with your hashtags

  • Use any punctuation or spaces within your hashtags.
  • #Hashtag #every #word #in #your #tweet #separately – it looks unprofessional and it’s not relevant.
  • Hijack hashtag conversations just to promote your brand – especially if it isn’t in context to the discussion.
  • Overuse hashtags – there is evidence to show that after two hashtags within a tweet your engagement goes down. Plus, they get irritating if you use too many!

As an addition – Facebook is now using hashtags but through our research here and listening to what the experts are saying, there is a real divide as to whether this is a good thing or not. We would say err on the side of caution, and if you are using them on Facebook, just use the one or two and make sure they are relevant to your post!

If you would like any further information about the use of hashtags, or social media in general please do not hesitate to get in touch.