When I first heard of Twitter I thought it was a dumb Facebook rip-off. I couldn’t figure out who would want a character limit on their status update. In my mind the character limit would only lead to a bunch ofÂ incoherentÂ abbreviations used by people trying to tell the world about how they had just bit their tongue or blown their nose. I didn’t see the draw at all.
My attitude changed one night while I was watching Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, which had a segment where Jimmy picked a topic, used it as a hashtag, and read the funniest responses on the air. It was at that moment I realized I wanted nothing more in life than for my tweet to be read on that show. So I went to Twitter, created an account, followed the show’s account, and waited for the opportunity to send out my hilarious hashtag response.
I promptly forgot all about Twitter the three months that followed, until one of my job requirements was to use it. I was told that using hashtags is an effective way to bring more attention to a post, but I didn’t really know what they were or how to use them. At first I simply looked at other tweets and copied their formats, until I realized I could just Google the best ways to create my own. The first hit was the Twitter Help Center (I can’t tell you why I didn’t check there in the first place), which gave me the basic understanding I needed to use the hashtag to my advantage. I would now like to share my findings with you.
1. What is a hashtag?
According to the Twitter Help Center, a hashtag (#) “is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.”
2. What is it used for?
Well, to categorize your tweets. The hashtag becomes a link, so if you click on it you can find other people who are talking about the same thing. Say you’ve written a tweet like this:
Blue represents relaxation or sadness, just depends how you use it.
Now, you could add a hashtag to this statement in a number of different places.
#Blue represents relaxation or sadness, just depends how you use it.
Blue represents #relaxation or #sadness, just depends how you use it.
Blue represents relaxation or sadness, #justdependshowyouuseit.
Be careful though. Squishing so many words together will make your hashtag hard to read, especially if there are a lot of consecutive vowels. It is rare that someone will try to decipher your hashtag, so if you do want to squish your words together a simple solution is to capitalize the first letter of each word (#JustDependsHowYouUseIt).
You’ll also want to avoid using too many hashtags in one tweet. You generally want to keep it between one and two per tweet. No one wants to read something like:
#Blue represents #relaxation or #sadness, #justdependshowyouuseit.
3. Keep your hashtags relevant to your content.
Blue represents relaxation or sadness, just depends how you use it. #cheeseÂ doesn’t make any sense at all. Assuming you want to be taken seriously, you want your hashtags to stay on topic. Something like:
Blue represents relaxation or sadness, just depends how you use it. #colortheory
works because the tag is relevant to the content.
4. Use them to your advantage.
You can use hashtags to send your tweet to a wide range of people outside of your followers. You can also search for hashtags to see what your audience is interested in. Seeing how your viewers use a hashtag and the kinds of things they tweet and retweet can help you determine the kinds of things you tweet about.
5. Just keep tweeting.
As one of my favorite, and wisest, high school teachers always said: Practice makes permanent. It will probably take some time for you to get used to tweeting and for your account to get some decent traffic. Don’t get discouraged if you’re not getting retweeted right away, or if no one is interacting with you. Just keep working at it. That doesn’t mean post something every 5 minutes. It simply means get familiar with Twitter and your followers’ interests and don’t quit just because you’re not getting the results you hoped for.