In a previous article, we explained what hashtags are, and where you would use them. In this follow-up article, we’ll explain what the best ways are to use them.
Let us recap that hashtags typically consists of one or more words, preceded by the #-sign. They can only contain alphabetical characters, digits, and underscores. They cannot contain spaces. Therefore, if your hashtag consists of more than one word, it is a good habit to start each word with its own capital letter. It is best to keep your hashtags short: don’t combine more than two or three words into one hashtag. It is also best to use them in moderation: for most platforms, the rule is that one or two hashtags per post work best. Instagram and Pinterest are the exceptions to that rule, where it is common to use a dozen or more hashtags.
What hashtags do you use, and how do you choose them? The following guidelines are considered ‘best practices’:
- Be specific: if you post an article on a divorce settlement, then use #DivorceSettlement rather than #CivilLaw.
- Use relevant hashtags only: most platforms will punish the use of irrelevant hashtags by excluding them from search results or by ranking them lower.
- Keep it simple: if you’re writing about human rights violations in Europe, use #HumanRights rather than the article and subsection of the ECHR that most people won’t be familiar with.
- Use hashtags that your audience is looking for. Look at what influencers are doing, i.e. research what other lawyers are using, and choose those hashtags that are used by people who are considered authorities in the field.
- See what’s trending: if your post addresses topical items, you will get more readers when you use a hashtag that is trending.
- If you want to raise brand awareness or name recognition, use a unique hashtag.
- Mix it up: don’t make posts that all use the same hashtags.
- Avoid ‘bashtags’, i.e. hashtags used to criticize something or somebody.
- Track how your hashtags are doing.
Twitter, where hashtags were first used, gives its own sets of Dos and Don’ts that is useful, too.
- Make it easy to remember — and spell. Don’t leave room for possible typos, which will make your Tweet undiscoverable.
- Be realistic. Don’t expect people to start using your brand slogan or other one-sided hashtags in their Tweets if it doesn’t fit naturally and there is no incentive for them to do so.
- Do your research. Check and see what hashtags people are already using when talking about your brand and capitalize on those. Also, make sure to check if your desired hashtag is already being used. If so, ask yourself if it’s still relevant to your brand.
- Give people a reason to use your hashtag. Whether it’s an actual prize or just recognition in the form of a Retweet, your audience will respond better when it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.
- Partner with influencers. Influencerscan help gain exposure and visibility for your hashtag.
- Don’t over hashtag. One to two relevant hashtags per Tweet is the sweet spot. Remember: character count matters.
- Don’t expect your brand slogan to translate to a hashtag. A hashtag is meant to be inclusive, shareable, and discoverable. If it doesn’t organically fit within a Tweet, it’ll feel forced and lose its intended purpose.
- Don’t expect people to use your hashtag without a reason or incentive. The best hashtags have the ability to draw people in and invoke curiosity to explore and join in on the conversation.
- Don’t neglect to educate on what it is and how to use it. Make sure you’re clearly communicating the hashtag and more importantly, why someone would want to include it in their own Tweet.
- Don’t use all CAPS LOCK. Unless it’s an acronym, this feels like shouting and also adds unnecessary work.
Apart from these general guidelines, there are also best practices per platform.
Hashtags are fairly new to LinkedIn, and there hasn’t been a lot of research on metrics to see what performs best. LinkedIn typically suggests up to six hashtags when making a post. It is possible to weave them into the body of your LinkedIn articles, or to list them as article keywords at the end for wider reach. You can also incorporate hashtags into comments you make on other people’s posts. LinkedIn allows you to add hashtags to your profile for more visibility across the platform.
On Twitter, the ideal number of hashtags per tweet is one or two. Make sure to consolidate your tweets. Aside from normal Tweets, other common ways to use hashtags on Twitter include:
- Using a single hashtag consistently to categorize all of your content over time
- Hosting or contributing to a Twitter chat
- Being a part of Twitter Moments to create or curate a story
- Researching trending or competitors’ hashtags
Hashtags are still not commonly used on Facebook, but they are supported. Anywhere between 1 to 3 per post are recommended. Don’t forget to make the post public if you want to attract readers outside of your circle of Facebook Friends.
If you upload a video to YouTube, you can enter a hashtag in the title or description. These are hyperlinked, and similar to Pinterest, are clickable to bring up related videos with that tag. Here, too, the rule is to add hashtags sparingly and to make sure they’re directly related to your content. The more tags you add, the less relevant they become.
Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags, but research shows that using 9 to 12 creates the highest engagement. Hashtags between 21 to 24 characters perform best. Since many hashtags are allowed, it is best to put the most valuable hashtags first. As is the case in LinkedIn, you can add them to your biography section.
Hashtags on Pinterest identify pins about specific topics. Related Pins can then be discovered by clicking on a hashtag in a Pin description, which takes users to all the Pins that share that hashtag. Here, too, it is better to not go overboard, so don’t add more than 20 hashtags per Pin. As with all the other platforms, make sure they’re all relevant, specific, and descriptive. Pinterest hashtags only work within the Pins’ descriptions.