The How’s and Why’s of Using Hashtags on Twitter

Originally published on 3BL Media


Hopefully there is someone on your team in charge of writing tweets to talk about your organization’s corporate social responsibility efforts. Ideally, this person also is well aware of hashtags and this post will give them a few ideas to keep striving for the perfect tweet. I stress the word striving here because social media is like a living creature, just when you think you have it figured out, it changes on you and adjustments will need to be made. If hashtags are still a foreign concept, this post will help with the translation.

Many communication pros still struggle with the hashtag or, rather, that “#” sign followed by a word or combination of words. The original intent of the hashtag was a way for users to categorize tweets. At a high-level, this is still the case, but hashtags have become far more powerful that anyone, even Twitter, even imagined.

What can hashtags do for a tweet? Anyone who is a follower of your account will be able to see your tweet. If they retweet it, that increases the number of potential others who could see your post as well. But what about the Twitter user who doesn’t follow you but would find value in and engage with your content? Hashtags are how Twitter users search for content that they find valuable, jump in a conversation that is of interest and engage with posts on the platform.

According to a few studies, hashtags have a powerful impact as to how your content performs on Twitter. According to a study by Buddy Media in 2013:

  • Tweets with hashtags receive 2X more engagement than those without hashtags
  • Only 24% of the measured tweets contained hashtags
  • Tweets with one or two hashtags have 21% higher engagement than those with more
  • Tweets that use more than two hashtags show a 17% drop in engagement

Twitter itself has also studied the hashtag. The success of the hashtag has been impressive as other social networks have adapted it over the years – including Facebook, Google+ and Instagram. According to Twitter’s study, “Tweets with hashtags can increase engagement almost 50% (1.5x) for brands.” When it comes to Twitter, we must always think long-term as well, not just about tweet performance, but also about an entire Twitter presence, “when you include hashtags in your Tweets, your Tweets become more visible, and over time you gather more Twitter followers.”

I find these stats powerful and encourage our clients to make sure they are using hashtags. I’ve been a big fan of the “no more than three” rule but more recently, I’ve pushing for no more than two. It is HARD sometimes to find that perfect hashtag so I hope this helps some of you find confidence in the world of hashtagging.

A few quick notes about hashtags:

  • Length. Keep them short and sweet but relevant. Hashtags #ShouldNotButSuperLongBecauseTheyTakeUpPartOfThe140Characters and lose their effectiveness – who else will actually search for that? Instead, spend a minute or two researching hashtags that fit your content and are appropriate in length.
  • No Special Characters. Remember, spaces and special characters break a hashtag. Think #Clean Energy vs. #CleanEnergy – that first hashtag links the tweet to #Clean, NOT “clean energy”. Short dashes (or hyphens) seem to be the exception to the rule such as #eco-friendly.
  • Make it easy to read. If a hashtag contains multiple words, capitalize the first letter of each word to help users understand #WhatYouAreTryingToSay.
  • Use dedicated hashtags for events. Most events, conference, etc., also have dedicated hashtags that have been created to link attendees and generate buzz.
    • Cause Marketing Forum used #CMF2015
    • Sustainable Brands event in San Diego had #SB15SD

Now that I’ve shared some not-to-be-ignored facts and tips about Twitter, make sure every tweet you create moving forward includes at lease one hashtag. If that tweet doesn’t get more attention, see if there is another hashtag that might suit your content better. Tweet again with this new hashtag (or two).

I’m hardly the first person to write about hashtags and I’d like to share some of my favorite articles to help continue to inspire your hashtag growth:

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