Hashtag Etiquette: When to Use Them, When to Lose Them

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By Amanda DiAntonio

From ancient Rome to Instagram — the octothorpe, more commonly known as the hash symbol, has been given many names and purposes throughout the years. In the social media marketing world, we use it to group specific content into relevant conversations. In a way, the hashtag has also become an extension of social media copy and conversation. 

Sadly, with the emergence of hashtags has come the abuse of hashtags, which is why a quick lesson in hashtag etiquette is long overdue. Read on to learn some general rules of thumb when it comes to hashtags and social networks.

Twitter

Home of the hashtag. Twitter is the birthplace of the hashtag as we know it today, so it is no surprise that they’re widely used on the network. In fact, tweets with hashtags get 2x more engagement than tweets without them, according to research by Buddy Media. However, diving deeper into the data, I found that using more than two hashtags lowered average engagement. Aside from the number of hashtags to use, the most important consideration is making sure to use relevant hashtags. Adding a trending hashtag to a tweet about a topic that is completely different, may get you noticed, but not necessarily in a good way.

Instagram

Hashtag hotspot. Like Twitter, hashtags have become a staple on Instagram. Instagrammers love them so much that interactions are higher on posts with 11+ hashtags (according to Buddy Media). Although, when it comes to brands, many experts recommend no more than 3-5 — any more, they warn, may cause them to come across as “blatant and desperate marketers.” If you choose to post your hashtags in the comments of your post, as some brands do, make sure they are added immediately after posting — inserting hashtags into a post later on will not make an image appear as a more recent post. Instagram allows you a little bit more freedom than Twitter when it comes to related hashtags, but keeping them relevant is still important.

Facebook

Use sparingly. Facebook’s hashtag capability has been available for just under three years now, but unlike Twitter and Instagram, hashtags haven’t become quite as popular on the site. When you click on or search a hashtag on Facebook, you will typically find a rather eclectic mix of posts — mainly because many people still find them foreign to the interface and are reluctant to use them regularly. Facebook users are also known to be a bit more private and since Facebook’s privacy settings also apply to hashtags, it is difficult to see what everyone is sharing on the subject. Basically, using them can’t really hurt you, but they won’t really help you either. 

Pinterest

No. Please. Don’t. Yes, hashtags are great to use on certain social networks, but they do not belong on Pinterest. There has admittedly been some confusion about hashtags on Pinterest for some time now because, originally, hashtags were supported on the network. During their redesign in 2013, Pinterest removed the hashtag feature from their site. One reason for this could be the fact that when you have a site that prides itself on aesthetics, having endless hashtags appearing in a feed sure is ugly. You can still search Pinterest using a hashtag, but the search will pull in content with the same terms even if the words are not in the hashtag format. 

Etiquette 101

  1. #dontcreaterunonhashtags
    Hashtags should be short and sweet, not long and hard to read. Hashtags that include multiple words strung together or an entire thought are not effective and lack readability.
  2. #Please #Do #Not #Hashtag #Every #Single #Word #In #Your #Post
    Similar to the first don’t, hashtagging every word in a post looks sloppy and can be annoying for users to read. The point of using a hashtag is to tag your post with a particular thought or topic – by hashtagging every word in your tweet, you aren’t effectively joining conversations, and your posts look unprofessional.
  3. #Hashtag Breaking #So…2011
    Just a general rule of thumb, if you want to hashtag two or more words together, do not put a space between them, this will result in only tagging the first word in your post. Also, adding a symbol to a hashtag will break it apart (numbers are okay though).
  4. #Proofread
    That moment when a seemingly innocent string of words takes a turn for the worst. Though a phrase may seem normal, things can change when the spaces are removed and new words are created from the same phrase. As with any copy, proofread hashtags before posting them.

Have strong feelings about hashtags? Share them with the Likeable Media team in the comments below!