Hashtagging In Social Networking – A Guide To Using Them Right

Chris Messina started the hashtag revolution with his infamous tweet “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?” in August 2007. An idea inspired from the IRC, the hashtag system was then met with criticism that it was too technical for the masses to catch on.

But that was then. Now that it is 2014, the world wide web, and social network sites in particular, is rife with hashtags. Nearly every social media site has implemented the use of hashtags. Instagram, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr. In this post we are going to look at how the hashtag is used (and abused) in these sites, and what you can do about it.

What went wrong with the hashtag

First of all, we need to talk about the hashtag, more importantly, what went wrong with the hashtag. Messina had intended for the hashtag to help groups of people have conversations.The hashtag is meant to group and help keep track of similar information around a particular subject.

One very fine example of a good use of hashtags is in the recent tragedy of MH370. On Twitter, users can read and find information regarding the search and rescue efforts of the lost aircraft simply by tracking #MH370.


But if you take a step back, you’ll notice how the Internet is saturated with hashtags that are mostly inane and irrelevant to a post. Selfies on Instagram can be tagged with not only #selfie #selca but also #asian #asiangirl #duckface. Then you have people who #hashtag #every #single #word.

Hashtagging like #thisisnobetterasitsreallyhardtoreadanditswaytoolong. But the biggest offender of them all is the hashtag hijacker, who inserts hashtags that have no relevance to his or her post in order to gain traffic views.

Let’s take a look at this phenomenon in social network sites, starting with…

Twitter: #News

Before hashtagging was widely used everywhere, hashtags made up the Twitterverse. It is very easy to find out what the world is talking about simply by tracking the “trend” feed which lists out popular hashtags and the most-talked-about subjects.

This makes Twitter ideal to transmit and gather news as trends can be adjusted to suit your interests.


How It’s Supposed To Be Used

Besides keeping track of information, Twitter’s 140-character limit is great for using hashtags for fun or for commentary. Using #likeaboss or #fail when the situation calls for it packs a punch to a sometimes too short for comfort status.

Hashtags can also be used to advertise an event or to draw attention to a movement such as #OccupyWallstreet. If the hashtag is catchy and relevant enough, it will generate more discussion and tweets. The more people tweet with these hashtags, the more likely it’ll make the trending list.

Tips On How To Use Hashtags Here

  1. If you don’t want your tweets to be rendered useless and uninformative, don’t use more than 3 hashtags.
  2. Hijacking tweets is also a big no as it disrupts the trend stream when people are searching for information.
  3. As for using random words, no one is actively looking for #lol.
  4. And lastly, hashtagging #every #word #in #a #sentence is not necessary. #justsaying

Instagram: #MoreIsBetter

This photo-sharing app may well be in second place in terms of hashtag usage. Here, hashtags are basically used to group similar pictures of objects or events. If your profile is public, your post will appear on the public feed when you hashtag it with #cat or #Krabi.


How It’s Supposed To Be Used

Paragraphs of hashtags are rife here as it’s in Instagram’s policy to allow for 30 tags in a post. This is good news for chronic hashtaggers, not so good for the rest of us. The basic premise may be that the more tags you have, the more reach your photo will get but like in the case with Twitter, you’d still be messing with the stream of photos.

Tips On How To Use Hashtags Here

  1. In a bid to streamline the hashtag system, Instagram has a banned list of hashtags; do try to follow it.
  2. Instagram also has a function to choose from a set of available hashtags which you should use for your post; select well.
  3. Unique hashtags are especially useful for photo-taking contest as well as brands.
  4. However, it’s just bad manners to use a hashtag of a brand name just to increase views of your unrelated photo(s).
  5. Lastly, have fun with the various memes on Instagram like #throwbackthursday.

Facebook: #URLs

Some users were already using hashtags even before Facebook officially enabled them. All those jokes about how hashtags don’t work on Facebook got buried when Facebook made hashtag a thing. The good news is in addition to using the hashtag to categorize certain topics and for easier searches, clicking on a hashtag may also redirect you to the original post from a different social media like Instagram.

Note that Facebook privacy settings may somehow render hashtags useless unless your posts are public. It probably explains why the hashtagging craze didn’t quite catch on with this social media giant.


How It’s Supposed To Work

Facebook turns each hashtag into its own unique URL. It’s best used to drive traffic from other social media sites to that URL to garner more discussion. With this URL feature, you can also use hashtags to start conversations with your group. Each hashtag in the group will have its own status update box, which is great for generating publicity for an event or campaign on top of your standard Facebook event page.

Nonetheless, bringing in hashtagging practices from other social media doesn’t translate well to Facebook.

Tips On How To Use Hashtags Here

  1. I’m sorry, but no one cares if you hashtag your emotions and it is highly unlikely they are searching for similar posts of how #sad someone else is.
  2. Also long hashtags are hard to read. The only thing more annoying is paragraphs of hashtags. It’s clearer without the pound sign anyways.
  3. If you have to have a long hashtag, #CapitalizingEveryWordsFirstLetter helps with readability. Still, it’s best to keep your words to the minimum.

Pinterest: #MakeEmUnique

The hashtag is relatively new on Pinterest having only been implemented last year. For that reason, don’t expect the same extensive search results that you normally get from Twitter.


How It’s Supposed To Work

Hashtags work differently here as in you don’t preface the # sign to your board name.The board will simply not turn up in the search. Broad and vague hashtags will also retrieve pins that have the same word in their description, which unfortunately may not be what you’re looking for, exactly. Hashtags on Pinterest are better utilized to garner business or brand reach, if you know how to use them right.

Tips On How To Use Hashtags Here

  1. Again, paragaphs of hashtags should be avoided.
  2. For search purposes, it is best to put your hashtag in the description of the pin.
  3. Use a unique hashtag for better optimization of groupings or searches.
  4. You can use hashtags for contest entries too.

Google+: #Networking

In Google+, there are two hashtag streams. The first is similar to the Twitter model where you can track similar topics of discussions. The second stream would be the hashtags on your page. Google can also add additional hashtags to your post if it’s relevant to your content. Additionally it differentiates the hashtags you add in grey whereas the ones Google adds are in blue.


How It’s Supposed To Work

Hashtagging on Google+ is very useful for businesses and start-ups. If you have a unique one for your brand, others are more likely to find you. This also makes it easier to find your own posts about a particular topic or a hashtag unique only to you. You can also use unique hashtags to have discussions among your private circles. Google’s privacy settings will ensure that those posts are not seen, even with hashtags used.

Tips On How To Use Hashtags Here

  1. Don’t do an entire post consisting only of hashtags. No one will know what you are talking about and you won’t be gaining any followers nor will you generate any discussion.
  2. Google will auto-tag some of your posts. If you rather Google not add additional hashtags, you can tweak your settings to your preferences.

Tumblr: #FandomFeels

Tumblr thrives on hashtag so much that there are specific rules to how you should hashtag. There are even unofficial rules on what not to hashtag, and what you must.


How It’s Supposed To Work

On Tumblr, besides the normal tracking of information or posts, users comment on post unobtrusively using hashtags via the special hashtag section of a post. You don’t even need to type the # symbol. It allows for spacing in tags like #OMG THIS IS MY NEW OTP. It’s okay if you do this, as commentaries can get longer than a line.

As Tumblr users can track certain hashtags for updates on their fandom, they don’t appreciate coming across your post expressing extreme dislike for Supernatural with the #supernatural tag.

Tips On How To Use Hashtags Here

  1. Refrain from hashtagging your hate towards something, unless you want a hoard of angry fangirls after your blood.
  2. Hashtags can also be used to filter posts. You can blacklist certain posts by using their hashtag with a Tumblr extension.
  3. It’s also polite to tag your post as #NSFW, #spoilers, or #trigger warning appropriately.
  4. When spreading important information on missing people or safety tips, tag #signal boost.

#Hashtag Wisely

Hashtags will probably never cease to be misused in the near future, with all the constant new users coming in. More hashtags will be created as it is as simple as just prefacing the # to words, letters and numbers. Social media policies change constantly as the Internet upgrades and hashtags will definitely be affected.

In the meantime, remember the two golden rules of hashtagging: keep each hashtagging practice within its social media and never, ever use hashtags in real life conversations.

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