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Five Tips on Using Hashtags Effectively in Social Media

By on Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cramming your social media updates with hashtags may make you feel like you are in the know, but does it make your social media content more discoverable? I was on Twitter this evening and checking the hashtag for the town I live in outside DC, and found a realtor had posted seven listings in a twenty minute period for a rental property he is trying to show. While there was a little variety, three of the tweets were identical. The tweets sounded almost desperate, as if he was hoping that by volleying this vacant property into Twitter a lot, he might find a renter.

There are many ways to use hashtags and Twitter effectively in the real estate industry (see SproutSocial’s thoughts and Realtor.org’s field guide), but slinging machine gun timed tweets onto a hashtag is not one of them. To be fair to the realtor, some of what he was doing, completely matched what SproutSocial suggested, other than the timing with so many tweets in such a short period of time.

Here are some tips to help you improve your use of hashtags on your social media accounts.

Research the hashtags you want to tweet on. It pays to take time to research the hashtags for your industry and to understand the conversations that happen on them. Look at what conversations are already there and try to go along with them.

Know how hashtags are used on the social platforms you frequent. This excellent post by Ann Smarty on The Moz Blog provides a great summary of the differences and commonalities in how hashtags are used across Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus, Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr and FlickR. While she thinks hashtags on Twitter are mainly useful for live-tweeting events or twitter chats, I do find them helpful for curating content in certain fields.

Create a hashtag for your organization or for a campaign you are doing. I’ve seen many organizations and businesses create hashtags either around a short slogan (my current favorite is #LikeAGirl and I was active on promoting the #ClayHunt hashtag to support veteran suicide prevention recently) or by using their name and the year. This enables your campaign followers or organization supporters to click on the hashtag and easily get updates. The use of a hashtag for an awareness campaign or special project also means you won’t have to create individual social media accounts for a campaign (my weary nonprofit communications director hat is coming out). Instead, the hashtag will steer all of the traffic for the campaign, but keep the brand value and followers on your official organization twitter feed.

Follow trends or current events through hashtags if appropriate. I had a nonprofit client use a custom hashtag and a secondary hashtag for the Super Bowl for an awareness campaign in 2014, and the response was tremendous (see our portfolio for more on this campaign). Hitching your wagon to a more popular hashtag can help you add new followers and expose your content to people you don’t know yet.

Don’t use too many hashtags. On most social platforms, too many hashtags become annoying. Instagram users seem to be the most forgiving of multiple hashtags, but on Twitter more than two hashtags seems to be too much. Remember that hashtags are there to help others find and curate content – whether that’s in the moment or over time. They are not the essence of content. Hashtags should not get in the way of the message you want to deliver – they should enhance it.

Talk to Us: What are your favorite hashtags to use for your organization and why? Do you have any additional tips on using hashtags effectively? Share below.

Featured image courtesy of Maria Elena and licensed via Creative Commons on FlickR.

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media and work-family balance. She also reviews books on her blog. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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