Hashtags: Friend or foe?

Hashtags: Friend or foe?

We hash out the pros and cons of this enigmatic tool

The hashtag has been in common use as a theming and categorisation tool for conversations since 2007 and made its debut in the Oxford Dictionary in 2014.

have been almost a decade in play and they continue to evolve. They can be a powerful tool for social media promotion, particularly in light of the fact that they are now useable across so many platforms.

However it is easy to commit a social media faux pas when selecting and sharing your hashtags. There is a culture, an etiquette, even a secret code that has established itself around this little criss-crossed symbol. Good use of hashtags can raise retweets by 40%, engagement by 21% and help you reach the right audience, but they are also fraught with pitfalls.

Here are some handy tips to avoid hashing it up.

#Foe Avoid overusing hashtags – using more than two hashtags will drop engagement by 17%

#Friend Use common catchphrases, humour and ultimately keep it simple

#Foe Current research suggests that hashtags used on Facebook are unnecessary and smack of desperation. Unless you’re using them ironically they are best avoided completely

#Foe Avoid your own invented hashtags unless you are confident you can get people to join your conversation (an incentive such as a competition can help to drive this), it can be embarrassing if you’re the only one in on your conversation

#Friend Look on your feed at what the hashtag you want to use brings up and see if it really fits your purpose

#Foe Use your brand in your hashtag, they tend to be perceived as pure self-promotion and thus ignored

#Friend Employ hashtag tracking tools and assessment analytics like RiteTag or Buzzsumo to show you what to avoid and how to get into key discussions

#Friend If anyone does make use of your hashtag, be sure to actively engage with them and make them feel part of something worthwhile

#Foe Be aware that using very broad or vague hashtags can mean your conversation is hard to manage and that posts get lost amongst the masses

Melissa Valente is an Account Manager at Formative Content and specialises in PR, corporate communications and journalism.

Formative Content is a UK based content marketing agency producing high quality content, live event coverage and strategic communications support for clients around the world.


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