Has hashtag mania hit its peak? Not by a longshot… American Express just launched a way to PAY for a product by responding to a hashtagged tweet.
History of the Hashtag
Hashtags are used throughout social media platforms as a means for users to locate specific topics based on the use of a “#”.
The phrase was coined by Google developer Chris Messina in 2007, with this tweet:
His techie colleagues shunned the idea at first. Said it would never work.
Then came a fire in San Diego in 2008. The term “hashtag” gave victims, firefighters and onlookers a live glimpse at what was happening in real time.
A few years later, it was added to the dictionary, along with another cultural revolution, the “selfie”. We’ll tackle that some other time...
Hashtags became a social media avalanche for users to browse messages and tweets by precise events, ideas or subject matter. The precise term is called “meta blogging”.
Use it for comedy, sarcasm, or to be serious. They are a fun way to showcase your personality in milliseconds.
Today, Twitter reports news … faster than the news does! Hashtags are a primary reason for that.
Remember when Seal Team Six caught Osama Bin Laden? That infamous tweet about a helicopter circling by.
When a significant event occurs, Twitter is the first to know about it.
Every local news station this side of Bozeman, Montana have their own hashtag. It allows them to connect and engage with nearby audiences. It also allows people to contribute to stories.
Global hashtags, like #jesuischarlie after the Paris attacks, become a way for people to unite against a cause.
They offer lighter, more humorous reasons too. #Harambe.
Some people like it. Others don’t. I find it funny that my 97-year old great grandma knows what a hashtag is. So does my 6-year old niece.
Do the math. That is a 91-year gap! The “hashtag campaign” can be seen as wildly successful.
But is it nearing an end? As the social media giant's (Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) change their algorithms, will hashtags be overlooked?
Let’s take a look at how each platform uses hashtags:
Instagram maxes out at 30 hashtags. Studies show that the use of 7 hashtags gets the most engagement.
Twitter recommends using no more than 2 hashtags per tweet.
Facebook recommends not using hashtags at all! Studies show posts containing zero hashtags get almost twice the engagement as ones that do. Zuck has steered clear of the social phenomena.
LinkedIn recently starting using hashtags again. Keywords are a higher priority to them.
Here are the social media best hashtag practices per DialogFeed.
You can use apps like Sprout Social or Simply Measured to track various hashtags. They have basic or in-depth reports on single and multiple hashtags. They also offer an extremely useful tool that suggests what time of day to post when using certain hashtags.
Just like in SEO, research and use relevant keywords and convert them to hashtags in your post.
Keep up to date with social media algorithm changes. Everyone is subject to them. Don’t get left in the dust! For example, Instagram banned #photography for being “too boring”.
But, the days of slamming 20 hashtags per post are long gone. The platforms see this as spam. Be efficient, relevant, creative and economical with them. Experiment with different ones to see how they perform.
Add CTAs to posts. But don’t come off sounding like a TV ad. Users will not appreciate it and neither will Instagram.
Instagram and Twitter (forget Facebook, they don’t even use them!) used to have a chronological order with hashtags. They have made a change to show the top results of the “most popular”. So your clever tweet about the newest episode of the Bachelor will be overshadowed by Kim Kardashian’s. Don’t blame me!
Brands must be careful. Not every hashtag campaign ends in internet glory. They are uncontrollable and can have a mind of their own so to speak.
Look what happened when McDonald’s launched #McDStories…