Update: With the passing of Margaret Thatcher, one organization caused "#nowthatcherisdead" to trend on Twitter. The problem? The Twitterverse read it as "Now that Cher is dead" instead of "Now Thatcher is dead". Queue the "If only we could turn back time. I believe in love after love. RIP Cher #nowthatcherisdead" tweets. Read over your hashtags before posting them; you never know what viral misunderstanding you could cause.
Let's start at the beginning. Rather than re-write history, Twitter gives a good description of the hashtag in their very useful article: Using Hashtags on Twitter.
Definition: The "#" symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.
When used properly, hashtags can be a huge benefit on Twitter. They categorize your tweets, making it so that your tweets are found more easily in searches. It also helps others find your tweets and your brand page, which might lead to gaining a follower or at least gaining interaction.
Although they can quickly and easily boost your online visibility, it's easy to make a hashtag blunder. Don't worry, we've got your back! We've put together what we believe are the top 5 hashtag mistakes and how they can easily be fixed or avoided.
Oh hai, this is the interweb: no spaces and punctuation in a hashtag.
Wrong: #local food. Right: #localfood. Don’t use spaces or punctuation in your hashtags. It will end the hashtag at the exact spot you use them. Most likely, this will result in your hashtag not making sense, or not saying what you want it to say. To other Twitter users, your brand will be seen as somewhat inept in the Twitterverse.
To @ or #, that is the question: don't hashtag a brand.
They most likely have a twitter handle - @ reference them instead. They are most likely to see it this way since they are notified when an @ reference is made. You might even have a side-benefit of receiving interaction from the brand or person you're trying to talk to.
Jump on the bandwagon: don't just use trending hashtags because they're trending.
If they don’t relate to your business, they are best left unused as they'll only detract from what your brand's message is. Ex: #iHateHowPeople will probably never work in the context of a restaurant or a local business.
I want to understand you: don't use all lowercase letters.
"Do hashtags have capital letters?" No. You want people to be able to read your hashtag. #ImAProHashtagger is much easier to read than #imaprohashtagger, so use capital letters to break up the words in your hashtag.
Having said that, if your hashtag is just one word or relatively short, then all lower-case is more acceptable.
This comes down to readability and common sense. Remember that twitter doesn't distinguish between cases in search. For example, searching for #ILoveTwitter and #ilovetwitter will return the same results.
Easy tiger: don't use too many hashtags.
Your characters are limited! Using actual words will be able to get a message across more than 10 hashtags.
For example, if you are posting a tweet about this new coffee you have don’t post something like this: “New coffee #coffee #ground #java #fairtrade #new #feature.”
Instead, using your words and hashtag, describe one important element of the new product For example, “Today we are unveiling our new fair trade Sumatran dark roast coffee #FairTrade”
The science behind hashtags is pretty simple.
While the hashtag has become a pop culture phenomenon, it was developed originally to help organize posts for the early days of Twitter search (which wasn't all that clever at the time) and get it seen by those interested in the topic, who may not have seen it otherwise.
Here are some other great hashtag tips from the fine folks at Twitter:
Using hashtags correctly:
- If you Tweet with a hashtag on a public account, anyone who does a search for that hashtag may find your Tweet
- Don't #spam #with #hashtags. Don't over-tag a single Tweet. (Best practices recommend using no more than 2 hashtags per Tweet.)
- Use hashtags only on Tweets relevant to the topic.
- Keep an eye on how things are progressing by going to http://search.twitter.com or using http://socialmention.com to keep an eye out for your hashtag performance. Don't be afraid to adjust appropriately.
- Don't get down if people aren't instantly loving your hashtag and you're not internet famous the instant you add your first hashtag; it takes time!
Hopefully these simple tips will help you make smart hashtag decisions!
Check out our blog for more tips to master your social media.