The Art of the Hashtag

In social media the hashtag was born on Twitter by Twitter users who wanted a way to find topical conversations. But over time, all of the social networks have started to adopt the use of hashtags, including Pinterest, Instagram,  Facebook and Google Plus. However, choosing the right hashtag for your business can be a tricky thing. When the right hashtag is added, it can mean a boat load of exposure for your brand. When the wrong one is chosen, it can mean a lot of stress.

Choosing a hashtag for your tweet or post is a lot like creating a social media strategy, but first you need to know the basic rules of creating  a hashtag:

  • A word or string of words preceeded by the pound sign (#)
  • No spaces
  • No special characters (!@$%^&*)
  • Can’t start with or use only numbers (e.g. #123)

Once you know the rules, treat it like you treated your social media strategy…

1. Goals/objectives

Before you add a hashtag, ask yourself what do you want to get out of adding that? Is it to add to or be part of the existing conversation? Is it to start a trending topic? Is it to earmark a hashtag as your own?


2. Research

Before you use a hashtag as your own or to get it to trend, make sure it doesn’t already exist or isn’t being used for something else. We all saw the McDonald’s #McDStories failure. But there are others, like Entenmann’s unconsciously taking advantage of the #notguilty hashtag that trended during the Casey Anthony trial.

Entenmanns Not Guilty

Entenmanns Twitter apology


3. Run it by a few people and get some buy-in.

I know it seems obvious, but sometimes it’s not so obvious when hashtags are awful. For example:

Susan Boyle’s album party….or Sus Anal Bum Party




4. Make sure it doesn’t take on another meaning…


How about back in 2012 when a newspaper headline read 6,000 RIM jobs on the line…you cannot even begin to imagine what happened on Twitter for Blackberry. (Hint: the porn industry had a field day, just search #RIMjobs on Twitter). Granted, they didn’t choose it.




5.Choose your social platform, wisely

Take a tip from @ThreeUK ‘s team on how they carefully considered which platform to promote their hashtag.


 6. Measure it.

Regarless of your hashtag usage, you still need to measure how it did. Some tools to measure your hashtag are:


Lastly, I also like this graphic from Twitter’s blog on choosing a hashtag…

Choosing Hashtag







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About Tracy Sestili

Tracy Sestili is CEO and Chief blogger at Social Strand Media. She is also the author of Taking Your Brand from the Bench to the Playing Field -- Social Media Fundamentals for Business.


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