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What the $%&! Are Hashtags?

#These #Are #Hashtags. But that’s not how to properly use them. If you have been hiding under a rock for the past few years, hashtags use the “pound” or “number” symbol (#) to help categorize social media content, making it easier for users to find related content. Hashtags allows web search engines to categorize messages, keywords, and pictures. When hashtags are used correctly, they can help increase the visibility of your content and boost your social shares. According to a study conducted by Simply Measured, a social media analytic site, an Instagram hashtag averaged 12.6% more engagement than posts without one. But when hashtags are used inappropriately, you just look #incredible, #obnoxious, and #stupid.

Before you’re ready to learn some hashtag etiquette, let’s talk hashtag history. Twitter first introduced hashtags to the social media world in 2007. And ever since, they’ve been confusing us. Why? Because even though the hashtag consists of four simple lines, we’ve managed to screw it up. There’s no rulebook, but there definitely should be one. It’s 2017 and it’s time to learn how to properly use a hashtag.

Hashtag Formula
There are no spaces allowed in hashtags. All letters and numbers must run together without any punctuation or symbols. Numbers are acceptable but the entire hashtag cannot consist entirely of numbers. All you need is a “#” symbol to start off your word or phrase and you’ve got yourself a hashtag friends.

Creating Your Own Hashtag
To create your own hashtags, you need to register it to the National Hashtag Corporation. Just kidding, anyone can create one. You just need a little bit of imagination and Wi-Fi to make it live. When making a hashtag of your own, be unique with it, because odds are, you’re not the first one to use it. But hey, there’s no hashtag police so there’s nothing stopping you from using a hashtag already in use. If you do hijack a hashtag, make sure you know what it means. My advice? Go back to the drawing board and create hashtags of your own that are catchy, easily understood and representative of your brand.

Hashtag No-No’s
Creating and using hashtags is an art. But if you follow these simple rules, you can’t screw it up (that badly).
1. Don’t only use lower case letters unless it’s a single word because #itshardtoread, instead, use an upper case letter in every word. The correct version of #itshardtoread is #ItsHardToRead.
2. Don’t write long hashtags, keep it short and catchy because #NoOneHasTimeForLongHashtags.
3. Don’t use acronyms that nobody knows about, nobody will bother to decipher what it means.
4. Don’t #hashtag every #other word, it makes you look like an amateur hashtagger.
5. Don’t over think it, hashtags should capture the essence of the business, brand or campaign and not tell your life story.

Number of Hashtags to Use Per Platform
Don’t throw hashtags everywhere unless you want to be annoying. There’s a reason why you can use up to 30 hashtags on a single Instagram post. However, you can hashtag every single social post, but remember to K.I.S.S., as in, keep it simple stupid. Make sure it’s also relevant and important. Less is definitely more when it comes to hashtags. The best number of hashtags to use depends on the social media platform are:
Facebook: ## (max 2)
● Twitter: ## (max 2)
● Instagram: ########## (max 10)
● Pinterest: ### (max 3)
● Google+: ### (max 3)
Optimizing Hashtag Usage
In order to be successful with hashtags, it’s important to be strategic. The most popular hashtag may be #love with over 1 billion posts, but the chances are, it’s not really relevant to your content. Instead of using what will get you short-term likes, strive for developing followers by engaging them through applicable hashtags. The best way to find these narrowly scoped hashtags that work for you is by researching what hashtags your audience, competitors and industry leaders are already using. Found one? Good. Now consider related hashtags too. It’s ok to hop on the bandwagon.

Trick: Hide Your Hashtags
If you don’t want to clutter your captions with hashtags, there are options to bury them so they retain their magical social engagement powers but makes your post look cleaner. You can hide hashtags by including them in the comment section below the post. Once other people have left a few comments, the hashtags won’t be viewable unless the “see all” option is selected. Alternatively, you can separate your hashtags from the caption by burying them beneath dots or line breaks. In the caption or comment box, click return and enter a period. Repeat those steps at least five times. Instagram caps off captions after three lines so the hashtags won’t be viewable to users.

You’re just a few hashtags away from getting your business onto the #HashtagBandwagon. It’s never too late. Just be smart with it. When you use the right hashtag, or combination of hashtags, it can help you expose your brand to your audience. Hashtags increase your chance of attracting new followers, getting more likes, and increasing engagement. This little symbol “#” organizes content which aids the process of content discovery and optimization. It’s a great way to develop your business’ social culture and engage with clients on social media! Now get out there and #HashtagItUp (without overdoing it).

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