What is a hashtag?

Social media—specifically Twitter—has brought an entirely new meaning to the pound symbol (#). Those who live and breathe social media wouldn’t dare call it a pound sign; today, it is the hashtag. But unlike a pound sign, a hashtag must have a word or phrase attached to the symbol. (Example: #marketing)

In 2009, Twitter began to hyperlink hashtags so users could search tweets using the hashtagged word. This enabled the start of conversations on specific topics while also highlighting current trends. Since then, other microblogging sites such as Tumblr, Instagram, and Google+ implemented hashtags to create conversations.

Hashtags are used in many ways to connect specific topics—in internet marketing, TV premieres, sporting events, locations, etc. Sadly, many associate hashtags with hashtag abuse where users enjoy hashtagging entire sentences or irrelevant words. #ItDoesntMakeSense


And then, years later in 2013…Facebook jumped on the hashtag bandwagon. #late. Would the hashtag work on the world’s most popular social network? According data released by Facebook analytics service EdgeRank Checker, it (so far) has zero impact—and can even have the opposite effect.

The data reveals Facebook posts that do not include a hashtag perform better than posts with hashtags. In contrast, using a hashtag on Twitter typically results in double the likelihood of being ReTweeted.

Facebook is working out the flaws, but currently hashtags do not seem to make sense on the very private and segregated social network. Because so many users have private profiles, it restricts the conversation to Pages and those who share posts publicly. Furthermore, Facebook has a unique algorithm that chooses which posts display in the newsfeed. EdgeRank also hypothesizes brands are not using hashtags correctly; therefore, few users are actually clicking on them.

Twitter, on the other hand, more effectively allows users to participate in real-time conversations on events, television shows, and breaking news. It’s how Twitter was created and what the platform is meant to do.

Hashtag abuse doesn’t help Facebook’s dilemma, either. #oops.

When the hashtag is used right, it works well. When it’s used wrong, it serves no purpose and can even hurt the value of your post. Think before you hashtag.

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