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Hashtag Etiquette: The Dos and Don’ts of Hashtags

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hash·tag: (on social media sites such as Twitter) a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic.

et·i·quette: the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group.

hash·tag et·i·quette: something many social media users lack.


We live in a world consumed by social media. With an average of 58 million tweets a day, Twitter is a social media giant allowing anyone to provide information in 140 characters or less. I, like many twitter users, get my news, weather, entertainment and sports updates from my Twitter feed.

To filter through the clutter, hashtags can help marketers and advertisers track conversations among consumers. For the everyday average Joe on Twitter, hashtags can be used to join social movements, relate to certain cultures and topics, as well as express themselves. Some popular cultural hashtags that come to mind are #tbt, or “Throwback Thursday,” where people share old photos of themselves on Thursdays.

For example, recently I tweeted this picture of me and my older sister with “#tbt, the Bells like to rollerblade #sisters”

So hashtags are great right? Right.

And they’re always used correctly and effectively right? Wrong.

Due to the extreme lack of hashtag etiquette on Twitter, we’ve compiled the following Dos and Don’ts to lay down some guidelines that are simple enough for everyday users and marketers to follow.

Don’ts:

#dontputamillionwordsinonehashtag

#Please #Don’t #Hashtag #Every #Single #Word #In #Your #Tweets

#Spacing Probs

Hashtag Hijacking – #Fails

Dos:

Keep it #Simple

Spell Check

Hashtag Hijacking – #Wins

Check out more Twitter and hashtag best practices here, or take a lesson from Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon in what not to do:

This is a common mistake by Twitter users. Hashtags should be short and sweet, not long and hard to read. Hashtags that include multiple words strung together or an entire thought are not effective and lack readability.

Similar to the first don’t, hashtagging every word in a post looks sloppy and can be annoying for users to read. The point of using a hashtag is to tag your post with a particular thought or topic – by hashtagging every word in your tweet, you aren’t effectively joining conversations, and your posts look unprofessional.

Just a general rule of thumb, if you want to hashtag two or more words together, do not put a space between them, this will result in only tagging the first word in your post.

Seeing what is trending on Twitter and then using those hashtags to join conversations is a smart move for marketers – most of the time. But tread lightly, and be sure you know what exactly the hashtag trend is referring to before joining in.

For example, following the shooting in Aurora Colorado in 2012, #Aurora was trending, to which a boutique used and tweeted: “#Aurora is trending, clearly about our Kim K inspired #Aurora dress ;)” and included a URL to a dress on their site. Not cool. They soon after issued an apology and removed the tweet.

A short and simple hashtag gets the point across, and can help join conversations. For example, #foodporn is a popular hashtag that foodies use when posting pictures of their meals. It’s extremely effective in generating conversation.

Be sure to check the spelling of all of your hashtags before posting tweets. If you spell your tagged word incorrectly, no one will be able to find your message, and it will not join conversations using the same hashtag – spelled correctly.

Like I said before, knowing what is trending is important and can be used to your advantage. I’ll use my #simple example of #foodporn for this as well. Recently, Feed America utilized the trending hashtag #foodporn and #food to join the conversation about food, but instead of including pictures of fancy meals, they including campaign images like this:

Check out more Twitter and hashtag best practices here, or take a lesson from Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon in what not to do: