We all know what #hashtags are, but why do people use them? More importantly, should YOU be using them?
The first person to use a hashtag was Chris Messina, a former Google employee. This was his tweet from 2007: “How do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp msg?” And so, hashtags were born.
Chris’ suggestion to use hashtags to group words is their essential purpose today. Hashtags categorize content online, usually on social media platforms. For example, you can search for the hashtag #apple on Twitter. A search result list of tweets that include the hashtag #apple would come up. If you or your business chose to use #apple in a social media post, that post could come up in a search results list. So, hashtags are used to categorize content, but more strategically they’re used to extend the reach of your social media post, because your post will show up when people search for that word you’ve hash-tagged. Paying attention to trending hashtags and including branded hashtags in your marketing campaigns can also help extend your reach.
Hashtags are most useful when they’re specific and are targeted to people interested in a specific niche. If you use the hashtag #braid, hairdressers and those interested in hair styling are probably looking up that hashtag and may find your post.
On Instagram, users can “follow” a hashtag and get updates when other users include that hashtag in their posts. Studies show that using more hashtags on Instagram means more engagement. But use 10 or more hashtags, and engagement drops off. Tweets or Facebook posts using more than two hashtags see a significant drop in engagement. Most personal users on Facebook don’t use hashtags because their profiles are set to private and therefore the hashtags in their posts aren’t searchable. That’s why hashtags are more popular on Twitter and Instagram.
To hashtag or not to hashtag? If you choose to include hashtags, make them #specific and don’t use too #many.