By Adam Root, an Overdrive contributor
For those who have been living under a rock for several years, hashtags are no longer just the pound sign on your old touch-tone phone. Hashtags are a new way to identify and start trending topics on social media. They enable people and businesses to access a global community that promotes, joins, and fosters interaction with your product or service.
According to USA Today, hashtags act as a “force multiplier” for television and Internet advertisement revenue. A well-placed hashtag can lead to a huge increase in web traffic and tap into new sources of global revenue. If you haven’t educated yourself about the hashtag revolution, now is the time to start.
Mastering the Hashtag Like a Social Media Pro
In an effort to help those who are unsure how to use hashtags correctly, I’ve created a short best practices guide to help you find the best hashtags to engage with your audience.
• Know the basics. Hashtags don’t have spaces or special characters, so it’s important to type in camel case by capitalizing the beginning of each word. Failing to do so could be a disaster. Consider a hashtag about an album release party, #SusanAlbumParty. When you fail to capitalize each word, you get #susanalbumparty — not the message you’re trying to send.
• Check your spelling. One of the biggest hashtag faux pas is misspelling your hashtag. To avoid this embarrassment, proofread your hashtag, then check it one more time for good measure.
• Examine your acronyms. Social media outlets often have their own vocabulary of acronyms. Before choosing an acronym, investigate to determine whether it already exists within the community or in another context. Blackberry ran into this problem when trying to promote its Research in Motion Limited jobs campaign with #RIMJobs. Obviously, Blackberry failed to do adequate research and became the victim of many sarcastic retweets.
• Know your platform. Not all social media platforms support hashtags. Do your research to avoid looking like an Internet rookie. Currently, hashtags are only supported on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr, Vine, and Pinterest.
• Pair your hashtags. If you’re creating a hashtag for your involvement with a large venue such as Comic-Con or South by Southwest, take advantage of trending hashtags from that event. Pair your unique hashtag with one that’s more broadly associated with the venue to establish a direct connection and appeal to a larger audience.
• Don’t overuse hashtags. Limit your hashtags to no more than two per post. Studies have shown that using more than two hashtags will drop engagement by 17 percent.
• Be concise. No one wants to decode a hashtag that’s more than 100 characters long, and long hashtags are a waste of valuable Twitter real estate.
• Give context. Make sure your audience knows why you are using a hashtag. Even though you may be #happy, your audience should know why you are happy (e.g., #HappyForTheSunrise).
• Track your progress. Many great resources can help you benchmark or even improve your hashtag efficiency. Some of my favorites are Hashtags.org, Twitalyzer, RiteTag, Tagboard, and Trendsmap. Getting feedback on your hashtags can help you become more proficient and successful.
If you’re not already using hashtags, you should be. Once you learn the basics, it’s relatively easy to create fun, clean hashtags that will draw social media users and help you connect with a broader audience. You can promote your events, keep your brand relevant, and become a trendsetter. If you follow these tips, you’ll be well on your way to introducing your brand to the global community of hashtag users.
Former web developer Adam Root has worked in interactive development and design for Fortune 500 companies, midsize agencies, and startups. Adam is now the founder and CTO of HipLogiq, the developer of social media marketing tools SocialCentiv and SocialCompass.