The Almighty Hashtag: Tips for Effective Use

Pillar 6: Social Media
Hashtags are an integral part of contemporary tech culture; it seems that everyone is using them. In 2010, even the Oxford Dictionary acknowledged the almighty hashtag, affirming its cultural standing.  However, not many people truly understand how hashtags work.

Hashtags are by far the most recognized way to categorize content in social media. They help users find relevant content across all platforms (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.).


But there are two main mistakes people make when using #s:

1)  Over hashtagging content

Depending on the platform, excessively hashtagging content can lead to increased followers who are either spammers or individuals trolling for reciprocal followers. In addition, over hashtagging dilutes the underlying message while conveying a sense of irrelevance and desperation. For example, recent data indicates that Facebook posts containing hashtags produce a reach of 0.80% median viral per fan while hashtag-less posts produce a 1.30% reach.


That being said, the over hashtagging theory does not hold true across ALL social platforms.  For instance, Instagram posts that included 11 hashtags produced over 4 times as much interaction per 1K followers than posts with none, according to recent research. Why? On Instagram, hashtags are most of the message while on Facebook, text is often more sophisticated, causing hashtags to undermine the comment. The infographic developed by Neil Patel further supports this notion (see below).


2) Using very long hashtags

People typically use very long hashtags in posts with the hope of fostering audience interest and engagement. The purpose of the hashtag, however, is to be simple so that your content is discovered by a wide audience. If #supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is the kind of hashtag you propose for your posts, think again! The genius of a tweet stems from its simplicity and brevity. The hashtag should be no different.

The takeaway: hashtags are good in small doses!