Getting to Grips with Hashtags – Your Concise Best Practice Guide

Posted on: in Social Media Marketing The Formula Digital Marketing

Very helpful and incredibly useful, but also potentially, very annoying. Hashtags are now used in abundance across the top social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest. You’re seeing them virtually everywhere and probably wondering how to incorporate hash tags into your own social media posts and campaigns.

But what’s the big deal about hashtags anyway?

The hashtag serves two key purposes. One is based on convenience and efficiency and the other upon SEO.

Convenience/Efficiency: Attributed to Chris Messina, the pound sign, or ‘#’ hashtag was originally incorporated to more accurately categorise subject matter on Twitter so that topics would be easier to find. The concept became incredibly popular and widely used and today, using the search function on almost every social media platform, users are able to easily find related content and join conversations with other users and online communities.

SEO: With Google’s latest Hummingbird Algorithm, Google will be recognising the use of a well-placed hashtag in blog article titles and social media posts. When users submit a hash-tagged word in the usual Google search bar, they will see the regular results appear, as well as live scrolling results from Google+ in a column to the right of the screen. The results will not be limited to Google+, but will also feature results from the other social media platforms. If you as a marketer have used the correct approach when incorporating hashtags in your marketing, this could help to ensure that your content is featured during search. Note: This feature is currently available in only the US and Canada – but we recommend that you gear up for it now!

Your 6 Key Considerations for Hashtag Best Practice

As with anything reasonably new, there are many marketers who are jumping on the hashtag bandwagon. To avoid becoming one of those companies which thinks that to #HashTagEverything is an effective strategy, the following ‘best practices’ will help you to be selective about which hashtags you use, as well as where and how you use them.

A Laugh Aside: Watch Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake take the mickey out of the #HashTagEverything concept.

When it comes to using hashtags, being selective will ensure that you stay relevant and engage, rather than irritate or confuse your clients and prospects.

1.       Think Customer Benefit: When incorporating hashtags into your social media posts, think of how each hashtag will benefit your client or prospect, rather than solely thinking of how you can increase brand awareness. Remember that hashtags are used by people to find information. Use hashtags to help your clients and prospects find the content you distribute which will benefit them. Think logically about which search words they would use.

2.       Location, Location, Location: As a general rule, hashtags should preferably be placed toward the end of a post. This enables the reader to read and comprehend your message without distraction and click on the hashtag if they want, while it serves its SEO purposes without being in the way.
3.       Less is more: Pick one or two hashtags that are highly relevant to your post. See which hashtags other companies in your field are using and incorporate the popular ones that your target market would likely use to locate your products or services. If you go the #HashTagEverything route, your posts will end up being considered as spam and will be very difficult to read – which is obviously something to be avoided like the plague.

4.       Keep it Simple: Although people in their personal capacity tend to use long hashtags, it is not good practice to do so in a commercial capacity. Shorter hashtags are easier to read and less obtrusive. You are ultimately wanting to convey your core message and use a hashtag to help categorise that message with other relevant messages, so using long or multiple hashtags defeats this object. For example #Artscapetheatre will draw results, but it would be simpler to just use #Artscape.

5.       Keep it together: Hashtag terms which comprise numerous words should be tacked together to form a continuous word. For example #social media is wrong while #socialmedia is correct. To make multiple words easier to read you can also capitalise each word – #SocialMedia.

6.       Be Specific: When deciding upon which hashtags to use, ensure that they are specifically aligned to your post and to your services or products. For example #protest is not a specific term if you are looking to align to opinion on the controversial October 2013 rampage that took place in Cape Town. The hashtag #CapeProtest is however highly specific to this incident.

Use the Tools of the Trade

Getting to grips with how to incorporate hashtags into your posts is the first step to hashtag awesomeness. Your next step is to find the best hashtags to use.

Align to your industry: To identify relevant hashtags, visit the website. This site provides a free search tool to help you identify which hashtags are trending right now, as well as which ones are used in general. Here you will also be able to check the sort of conversations which are happening around your intended hashtags and you can even create your own ‘tagboard’ to share with your audience! This is one great, free tool to help boost not only your hashtag usage, but your overall content marketing as well.

Start a trend: Using our best practice advice as your foundation, you can also consider creating your own hashtags for specific products, services and events. Remember to keep the term as short and simple as possible to make it easy for the term to become easy to use for others.

Hashtags are ultimately about conversations and community. By incorporating them into your social media marketing campaigns and content marketing strategies, you will be engaging with your audience in a far more meaningful way. By getting into the habit of using hashtags correctly now, you will also be preparing your online professional presence for the inevitable future of the internet – relevant conversations and close knit communities.

Do you need help with developing a strategy or managing your Social Media Marketing?  Give Garth Dahl or Shiraz Khatib a call on 021 556 5661 or email us: – our consultations are free and we look forward to keeping your company abreast of the latest trends in marketing!


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