What’s the deal with hashtags? Some of us have never hated the pound (#) sign more than we do right this minute. Some of us love it! Still others of us have no clue what it means or how it’s used in the world of social media. Well today we are going to explore the hashtag. Think of this as Hashtag 101!
What is a Hashtag?
A hashtag is a way to categorize a something – most often a statement, but often an image or video. It allows readers (web surfers) to find tons of content all related to a specific topic, category, event, or idea. For example let’s say you want to share a joke on Twitter:
Why did the chicken cross the road? Because the light turned green. #joke
Anyone who reads your tweet can click #joke and be immediately directed to a Twitter database full of random jokes. Basically anyone who hashtags their joke with this little sign (#) will be included in an ever-evolving database of people on Twitter posting jokes. The same goes for Facebook, Instagram, or any other platform that welcomes hashtags. The databases are ever evolving because, since we’re talking about the internet, people are always posting content.
Now, if you wanna get even more specific to a listing of just chicken jokes you can use the ever-specific hashtag #whydidthechickencrosstheroad and anyone looking for jokes about chickens crossing the road can find yours.
Why is a Hashtag Important to Me?
This is the money question. No point in using a hashtag if it’s not important or useful, right? Well hastags, when used correctly turn into great exposure. They generate leads, bring you new fans, bring new opportunities your way, and help you discover things you might not have found otherwise. Here are the two greatest advantages…
1. Show Promo
Lets say you’re planning a show in Chicago at Elbo Room. You post the flier on Instagram and realize that only 10 people have liked the image. Of those 10 people, only 3 actually live in Chicago and will potentially make the show. This is where the beauty of hashtagging comes in. You decide to go back into the editting features of the photo and insert the hashtags #elboroomlive #chicago and #chitown.
You choose these 3 hashtags strategically because the people most inclined to search a #chicago hashtag are people who live in Chicago. Same for #chitown. The people most inclined to search an #elboroomlive hashtag are people who go to events at that venue and want to stay in-the-know of what’s happening there.
Note: after doing some research we found that there are a bunch of Elbo Rooms in the US (non-affiliated), and #elboroomlive is a hastag that most people use when talking specifically about Chicago’s Elbo Room. You can also hashtag #elboroom but its not specific to Chicago based on the other images found on that feed. Just a note b/c you’want to check these types of things to make sure your hashtag achieves its goal and reaches the right audience.
2. Making New Fans
Post a 15-second snippet of a Michael Jackson cover on Instagram and hashtag #michaeljackson and you will surely get a few new likes and maybe even follows. That same post on Twitter will likely get you retweeted a few times. A Facebook post will turn into a few fan shares.
Yea, you’ve got your fans – the ones who are already following you on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook; but a hashtag opens the doors to strangers. Anyone can find you through a hashtag. Anyone can become your fan!
Do People Even Search Hashtags?
YES! You might not think twice about a hashtag, but truth is, plenty of people are searching hashtags every day! They use it to find information on whats happening in their city, find photos from events they attended, and to get updates on all types of things. Prime example: Kanye West.
Lets assume I’m a Kanye West fan (I’m not). A quick hashtag search for #kanye on Twitter sends me to a feed of hundreds (maybe thousands) of Kanye West tweets that have been made in just the last 24 hours. Tweets made by all type of random people. Suddenly I come across twitter users @KanyeWestRants and @KanyeWestReport. I decide to follow them. They’ve each just made a new follower out of me…all because they used a #kanye hashtag.
How Do I Make Sure My Hashtag Will Work?
Hashtagging can be very effective if you do it right. Some people don’t see any return from their hashtags, but here are a few ways to make sure they work
1. Use Hashtags that are Specific
You posted a video snippet of your band’s female drummer playing something on Instagram? You can hashtag #drummer but you most certainly want to hashtag #femaledrummer. People who especially like female drummers will love your post and are more likely to follow your account.
2. Use Hashtags at Specific Events
You’re playing at Philadelphia’s Folk Fest? You most definitely want to use the hashtag #phillyfolkfest. Anyone searching that hashtag before, during, and after the festival will be able to easily find you. In fact, being discovered by new fans is so much easier when they’re following a hashtag feed of an event they’re currently attending. Example
Hey folks, we’re about to open for Dom Flemons of the #CarolinaChocolateDrops. Catch us at 2pm on bluegrass stage #phillyfolkfest.
Hashtagging Carolina Chocolate Drops isn’t a bad idea either. You might make new fans of people who follow CCD’s music. Its not too far-fetched that they will like you.
3. Use Hashtags that are being used
Let’s go back to the Michael Jackson example. Say you want to post a video about Michael Jackson. DO NOT make up your own hashtag if you want the post to be found. In other words #mjismybabydaddy is a BAD idea! That hashtag has no results and will most likely get you nowhere. But if you wanna tone it down a little and use #kingofpop, that will help you out.
What Are Some Other Uses For Hashtags?
People use hashtags for plenty of reasons. Aside from the above, there are a ton of other useful and non-useful things to do with hashtags. Our favorite is sarcasm. Example.
This is a picture of my 2-yr old standing in the toilet [photo included]. #imsuchagreatmother
Inkling Media has a pretty comprehensive article called The Many Uses of Hashtags. They’ll fill in any gaps that we’ve left open.
We hope this post helps you become a better hashtag user! Good luck and let us know how it goes!