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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Austin

How to Hashtag Like a Champ

Chris Messina, Silicon Valley product designer, pioneered the hashtag concept in 2007. He was aiming to create a “group organizing framework” for Twitter users, while the platform was still in its infancy. Erin Black, writing for CNBC points out that Messina’s idea didn’t go very far initially. His colleagues labeled the notion “nerdy,” and dismissed it. But Messina was committed to his vision, and by 2009, Twitter users embraced the grouping mechanism. Hashtags are now ubiquitous across social media platforms, and for good reason.

Hash tagging is a savvy, fun way to get your content noticed, because it puts that content in line with other posts featuring the same hashtags. It is, indeed, a group organizing framework, pulling together posts that share a common hashtag.

Think of the hashtag as your entry point into a subject. It’s your way of positioning your post among others that have that common tag.

Using hashtags strategically and comfortably requires a basic understanding of how they function coupled with a bit of marketing strategy. Once you get the hang of it, hash tagging fosters stylish, savvy messaging; here’s how to get your sea legs.

A great way to hone your hashtag basics is to do a search to see how they work. Go to the search tab on whatever social media platform you favor, and type in a hashtag plus your search term. Try #checkitout, for example. Your search will pull posts with #checkitout positioned anywhere in its body.

Your search demonstrates how hashtags function just as Messina imagined - as a group organizing framework.

Give it a try. Create a sample post that includes #checkitout anywhere in the body. You’ll see that your post pops up with the others. You’re in!

Once you’ve got the basic concept down, and you realize how easy it is, hash tagging gets fun!

Think about how you search for materials at the library. You can search by title, author, subject or keywords. When you use hashtags to promote your content, you position your post into an ongoing conversation by hash tagging keywords. You’re tagging keywords that other users are also tagging. That way, more users interact with your post.

Consider this sample post:

Today, #VisitingAngels kicked off the summer season with our annual picnic for #Caregivers. We appreciate the work, talent and heart that goes into everything they do! Bring on the summer! #Lovemyjob #caregiversrock

This post will appear among all the posts that have the Visiting Angels hashtag. Likewise, it will show up with all content that has the caregivers, Lovemyjob, caregiversrock hashtags. By adding several hashtags, you’ve significantly expanded the audience that will see your post.

What’s the point? Why is it a good marketing strategy to add hashtags?

Hash tagging benefits you because you’re, basically, indexing your social media posts when you apply them. This makes your content visible to more users and it also makes your posts searchable. In some cases, like with Instagram, it also makes your posts trackable.

Each of these outcomes can lead to greater engagement from your current audience, and can also help you to find new friends and followers. Plus, it stands to yield more likes and shares.

Most platforms offer insight about which hashtags are trending or tend to garner the most attention. Often, more general hashtags (#Caregivers vs. #VisitingAngelsCaregivers) attract more engagement than specific terms; therefore, it’s a good strategy to use one of each in your post. This expands your potential audience reach.

You can both use the hashtags in the running text of your post, which is a sound strategy when you have to be mindful of character count, (like when you’re working in Twitter). You can also line up the hashtags at the end of your post if character count is less important (great for Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn).

A helpful way to get comfortable using hashtags is to find users who do it well, and start following them so that you can examine and mirror their tricks. Then, start experimenting. Play around with it. See what hash tagging earns you, and keep tweaking your process.

It’s a great way to advance your social media savvy, plus it’s also a fun way to communicate.

Give it a try. #yougotthis!

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