Intro to Hashtag Etiquette

Today, more people are naturally adding the pound sign to words (now known as a # or hashtag) in their posts so they can join in on a larger conversation. And while people acknowledge the hashtag’s benefits, they are also sometimes blinded by it’s simplicity.

The hashtag is a powerful tool...if used correctly. And I stress ‘correctly’.

Here are the cardinal ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ I stand by for using the hashtag, effectively and responsibly.

Don’t Overuse it.

I’ve mostly noticed this on photo based platforms such as Instagram. Where users seem to be inclined to add every single hashtag known to man. The hashtag is still a turn off for some people so for every ‘extra’ hashtag you add, the less inclined others are to read your post.

One to three hashtags is the range I advise; and three is really pushing it but because there may be more than one hashtag surrounding a specific topic (eg. campaigns or at events) it makes sense to add the ones that apply. Example: #AppleLive, #AppleWatch and #Apple

And #for #every #user #trying #to #make #a #point #by #hashtagging #every #word #in #a #post, it's unnecessary. We get it, they’re overused so stop overusing them.

Dont Misuse Or Abuse it.

Misuse and abuse of hashtags intersect because they both seem to do one thing effectively; distress a brand, company, event or individual. An example of abusing hashtags is sometimes referred to as hashtag hijacking. This usually occurs when a brand introduces a new hashtag for marketing purposes and an individual decides to use that hashtag to add non-constructive comments on the topic or in some cases to post negative things about the brand itself.

Case of an abused tag:  #myNYPD

Another example of misusing hashtags could also include the case above but it’s not usually as harmful or intentional.

However, a misuse case could be made when an individual or brand takes advantage of a trending hashtag and posts irrelevant content with that tag simply to gain the attention of more users. This is where the hashtag shines and is also most vulnerable. It allows you to get your content in front of a wider audience. Unfortunately, it also can’t detect when the content isn’t TRULY relevant to the hashtag.

Do Your Research

For those who care to take part in a bigger conversation, the best way to make sure you are using the correct or official hashtag is to do a little research. Check out the brand or company with whom the hashtag is affiliated and review the current conversations around each of the tags you are considering. It takes a little more time but depending on your intentions, it will pay off in the end. Example, #smwnyc which was the tag for Social Media Week NYC.

Review & Refine

If you want your post to be relevant and have some significance in the conversation, then it doesn’t hurt to review your hashtags before you submit your post. This will help prevent overtagging and it will add more meaning and context to your posts. I won't get too much into the creation of multiple word tags but for those that use them, #CamelCase them. It's not always necessary but it increases the legibility of your tags.

There you have it, a quick intro to hashtag etiquette. What other practices do you employ when using hashtags in your posts?

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