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This article was featured on TTOnline.org [Trinidad & Tobago Online].

For the last few years, #hashtags have migrated from Twitter and have spread their colonies across the social media networking world. They are very helpful for social media marketers who run promotions on social networks and it brings the world together in global conversations. However, not everyone is cognisant of how or when to use hashtags, social media marketers included.

I’ll start with what a hashtag is:

A hashtag is a word or an unspaced phrase prefixed with the number sign (“#”). Hashtags make it possible to group such messages, since one can search for the hashtag and get the set of messages that contain it. A hashtag is only connected to a specific medium and can therefore not be linked and connected to pictures or messages from different platforms. [ Source: Wikipedia ]

In short, hashtags allow for everyone to join in on a global conversation about a particular topic, but it’s limited to that particular social network; content with hashtags on Twitter won’t show up on Instagram searches, and vice versa.

This is Twitter’s definition:

The hashtag symbol (#) is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It turns the word into a link and makes it easier to find and follow a conversation about that topic. Twitter users themselves came up with the hashtag as a way to organize and find Tweets by topic.

Hashtags are a way to be a part of a larger conversation with other Twitter users. Use the hashtag symbol (#) before a keyword or phrase to allow that word or phrase to show up in Twitter Search. You may want to find out if the subject you’re tweeting about already has an established hashtag, and then join that existing conversation. Hashtags can show up at the beginning, middle or end of a Tweet.

Click on a word with a hashtag to see all the other Tweets that include that keyword or phrase. You can also stay up to date on topics you’re interested in by searching for keywords or hashtags in Twitter Search.

So how does one use hashtags?

#Too #Many #Hashtags

On Instagram, it is seems to be acceptable for your entire photo caption to have hashtag after hashtag, but it’s not proper etiquette, even on Instagram, and definitely NOT on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Too many hashtags are hard to read. And this leads to my next point…

#Hashtagging Every #Other Word or #Every #Single #Word

#Hashtag #addicted? Don’t be, else you’ll risk looking like someone who only discovered hashtags yesterday and don’t have a clue how to use them. Again, these make your posts harder to read, it breaks up whatever your’re trying to say and it’s really not necessary.


Believe it or not, I know people who do this, and it’s one of those SMH *facepalm* moments. This is how you hashtag: “Had an amazing day at #MaracasBeach. Can’t wait to go back! #Summer2014”

Unrelated Hashtags

If you post a photo of your new pair of Converse, do not hashtag every single brand of shoe. Be more precise. Remember that a hashtag allows your content to pop up in a global conversation and you want it to be relevant, else you’ll be considered a spammer, or worse, an internet idiot.

Overzealous Hashtagging for Competitions

You really want to win that competition, fine, but please keep your friends/followers in mind when you decide to post #CompetitionHashtag every 30 seconds.

Using Hashtags for Promotions and Competitions

Since we’re on the point of winning competitions, better we touch on this now. Social media marketers in every industry know that you can use #hashtags for promotional uses, like telling their communities to upload a photo of [whatever] and having them upload it to their Twitter accounts with the hashtag #whateverpromo. This way, you can follow the trends and create buzz about your brand in a big way.

Facebook Hashtagging vs Twitter and Instagram

Facebook is still new to the hashtag world, and it’s even more important that you use less, more relevent hashtags with your status updates. Twitter and Instagram are more forgiving to posts with more than three hashtags.

Over-long Hashtags

Everyone hates sentences which feel like they’ll never end, so why do the same with hashtags? #Ireallywonderifanyoneelseactuallyhashtagslikethis. I doubt it. Remember the purpose of hashtags.

Saying “Hashtag” IRL (in real life)

Don’t. Just don’t. It’s as bad as saying other internet lingo IRL, IMHO; IKR, LOL, LMAO, *blink blink*, SMH (yes, people say these things IRL).

Using #Hashtags to convey Mood or Tone

I’ve seen people using hashtags not as a part of a global topic, but also as a mood and/or tone indicator. Here are some examples:

  • Just saw someone back up into a post. #ouch #FAIL
  • Where’s the party at? #TGIF

In this case, you’ll also find users hash tagging things which would never really yield any search results but adds some whit to their posts:

  • Scientists are thinking about sending cats into space… #theyarereturningtothemothership #bringontheapocalypse

Hashtag Etiquette from Twitter:

  • Don’t use too many hashtags in a single Tweet. We recommend using not more than two per Tweet. Too many hashtags can be annoying or confusing to followers. Save your hashtag use for when it’s going to add value or context to your message.
  • Only use hashtags that are relevant to the topic of the Tweet.
  • If you use a public account to send a Tweet, anyone who does a search for that hashtag may be able to find your Tweet.

Other points to note:

  • Spaces are a big no-no. It will break your hashtag.
  • Capital letters do not affect the search results, but it sometimes makes it easier to read: #ConfusedCats vs #confused cats
  • Numbers are fair game. #50ShadesofGrey
  • Punctuation marks are not accepted, so no commas, full stops, exclamation marks, question marks, apostrophes, asterisks, ampersands or any other special characters.

We have all been guilty of doing at least one of the above, including myself. But what’s done is done. Let’s strive to make the internet a better place starting with the simple things like proper hashtag use.

Keep it simple.

Add something meaningful to the conversation.

Be specific.

“Hashtags can be a powerful global movement if used properly.”
Me 🙂