Should I Be Using Hashtags? #hashtagquestions

Hashtags – use ’em or lose ’em? They’ve been around since the dawn of Twitter back in 2006 – but they’re now catching on to other social media sites like Instagram, Google+ and Facebook. I think a lot of people still don’t really understand what they were created for – and it seems like people are firmly on one side of the hashtag fence or the other. You’ve absolutely got to watch this video of Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon talking with hashtags – it starts out right and quickly turns downhill :)

For the rest of us, the best advice I can give on whether or not to use hashtags is: it depends.

To learn about using hashtags on a specific social media site, click the name of the site below. Or, keep reading for the full post! Admittedly, it’s long, but worth it in my opinion ;)

Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+

Twitter is the champion of hashtags. You can join in community discussions, figure out how to get your tweets seen based on what’s trending, and find current events in a fast and efficient way. I’ve loved the hashtag feature since I started using Twitter back in the day – I even presented at a juried honors exhibition about the way that groupthink works on Twitter and some of the hashtags I researched were absolutely to-die-for hilarious; I digress. The point is, Twitter was made for hashtags. So yes, use them! But use them wisely. When you’re creating your own hashtags on twitter they should be single words, or specific campaigns you’re running or participating in. Think #exercise or #McCartneyOnKimmel. If you want to get involved with the trending topics, you can use the longer phrases that you’ll see in the trending topics bar on the side.

Photo-blogging platform Instagram is also a hashtag-heavy medium. You’ve got a little more leeway here, where they don’t have to be specific words or phrases – they certainly can be, and of course you can use several. You can also have a little fun with them #havefunhashtagging is okay – just don’t make it too long, or else it becomes hard to read and detracts from your content. Another thing to be cautious of here is cramming a zillion hashtags into your post. It’s annoying, to put it bluntly. It absolutely makes it less interesting to read your description under your photos – just don’t do it! Keep it sweet and simple. Also keep an eye on the popular page as well as the “insta-anything” hashtags. For example, things that will make you smile can be #instagood, pics of your dinner are #instafood, and the ever-annoying plea for followers (skip this one) is #instafollow. Use these types of #instatags where they make sense!

As far as Facebook, it’s been shown that posts with hashtags tend not to perform as well as posts sans hashtag. If you are calling the shots on what to post based purely on analytics (which you shouldn’t always) then you might want to hold of on the hashtaggin’. However, I will say that since it’s such a new feature, I don’t think that the Facebook community has fully realized or utilized its power. Being able to find more stories based on a topic in a hashtag is a valuable tool, and as Facebook moves more towards becoming a digital newsline, I think that hashtags will pick up more steam. #nope #unlessyouwanna

As far as Google+ goes, the hashtag feature is actually pretty great. Any hashtag you add yourself will be grey. Google+ adds blue hashtags where it sees fit based on other content that is relevant to your post. This can help people identify posts they may find useful or interesting, as well as interest readers from another hashtag’s content. You can always turn off the related hashtags feature (though I recommend keeping it unless you are trying to be extremely specific about your content/messaging) by going to your Google+ Settings and unchecking the box labeled “Add related hashtags from Google on my newly created posts” in the Hashtags section. This is another platform where you should stick to one-word hashtags so that people can find your posts more easily and they’ll be less likely to skip over them. #useful #socialmedia #hashtag

If you learn nothing else from this post, just know this. Hashtags can be a powerful tool. Use them carefully – it’s like Uncle Ben said – with great power comes great responsibility.

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