Abbreviations have always irked me. Take LOL – is that ‘laugh out loud’ or ‘lots of love’? Misuse of this particular favourite could get you into all kinds of trouble!
From deciphering a teenager’s text message to figuring out the latest trending hashtag… headaches abound! Surely, we’re missing the point if our target audience can’t understand the message? Or is the point that you join the exclusive ‘club’ of a selected hashtag because you know what it means?
By default, identifying, understanding and creating a hashtag gives you access to a captive audience. You are, quite literally, speaking their language.
So here’s a handy summary to help you through the minefield of hashtags. Bear with me, I may have to look up a few myself!
Where should I use hashtags?
A hashtag allows you to join and stream a conversation across the whole Twitter network – the birthplace of the hashtag. Find a specific one using the search function and identify trending hashtags to the side of your Twitter feed. They are generally used at the end of a tweet or within text to save characters.
Facebook doesn’t fare so well in the hashtag conversation because most users have private accounts. A hashtag will only be seen if it’s in a public post.
Instagram has really embraced hashtags. It even suggests relevant ones and shows engagement levels for each to help you optimise your posts. Again, if you have a private account, your post will not be seen publicly, regardless of hashtags.
Pinterest rather bluntly states (in its ‘How To’ spiel) “Do not use hashtags”!
Let’s put them into categories:
‘Evergreens’ – can be used throughout the year. Some descend from text lingo e.g. #LOL. Others have grown followings specific to each social media platform e.g. Twitter’s #MondayMotivation and Instagram’s #OOTD (‘outfit of the day’ – perfect for its army of fashion bloggers).
‘Moments’ – cover a specific event e.g. #Oscars2017; #Brexit; #WorldBookDay or seasonal celebrations e.g. #Christmas2016. These also cover industry trends, movements and other world topics e.g. #LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender); #PokemonGO; #shoplocal.
‘Chats’ – allow users to join a live chat at a specific time e.g. #UKBusinessLunch (weekdays 12-1pm); #surreychat (Saturday 9-10am & Wednesday 8-9pm). Chats are great for raising brand awareness and work well on Twitter.
‘Locators’ – are particularly relevant for small businesses looking to grow their audience within a certain catchment e.g. #Reigate; #Surrey. And coined for certain locations e.g. #LoveLondon. These can also include company names.
There are no fixed rules for using hashtags except they mustn’t contain spaces. Just make sure they add value to your posts.
First, research your market on each of your selected social media feeds and identify which hashtags could be relevant to your business and appeal to your target audience. Then, create a list and use them like ‘brand pillars’ (words you set as guiding principles for your brand).
Why not create your own hashtag? You could promote it through loyalty cards and create incentivised competitions to encourage customers to use it.
Still need a translator?
#tbt Throwback Thursday (archive photos, quotes, etc)
#ss17 Spring Summer 2017 (fashion lines)
#ff Follow Friday (to encourage more followers)
#f4f ‘follow for a follow’. Ask for people you have followed to follow you
#l4l ‘like for a like’. Ask for people you have liked to like you
#YOLO You only live once
#POTD Photo of the day
#QOTD Quote of the day
#OOTD Outfit of the day
#tgif Thank goodness it’s Friday
#instagood ‘Feel good’ (Instagram specific)
#instamood ‘Instagram mood’ (Instagram specific)
#instadaily ‘Daily posts’ (Instagram specific)
#vsco ‘Visual Supply Company’ Photo and video editing app used mainly on Instagram
#tglers ‘Tags for likers’ (Instagram specific). You ‘tag’ users for ‘liking’ your posts
#repost There’s a repost app that many Instagrammers use. Invite users to ‘repost’
#irl ‘In real life’
#igers ‘Instagrammers’ meaning ‘I use Instagram’
DM Direct message
# for each day of the week