Mastering the Art of Twitter Hashtags

Mastering the Art of Twitter Hashtags - #TwitterSmarter chat with Kami Huyse - August 29, 2019

Hashtags are always a popular topic of discussion on Twitter. We all use them and we all have contrasting opinions about how best to utilize hashtags in our marketing and social media strategies. Rightly so now that hashtags aren’t restricted to Twitter—every social platform has introduced hashtag-based tagging and tracking. What’s more, we even use them in offline material like banners, posters, and newspapers. Not even our everyday conversations are deprived of hashtags. I mean, haven’t you heard chattering groups on the street that end their sentences with a “…I mean, hashtag just saying,” and a shrug?

That’s why we invited, Kami Huyse to help us understand some of the finer aspects of using hashtags effectively. Not only is Kami a PR and Social Media Strategist, but she also co-hosts the popular Communities That Convert podcast with our fearless leader, Madalyn Sklar. She hosts the monthly Houston Social Media Breakfast and is the founder of Zoetica, a marketing and community building agency that helps businesses establish an online presence.

Here’s a summary of our chat:

Guest: Kami Huyse
Topic: Mastering the Art of Twitter Hashtags
Format: Eight questions directed at the guest. Everyone’s welcome to share.

Q1: How many hashtags should you use in a tweet?

The general consensus is two hashtags for a tweet. The more you use, the more spammy you seem. Twitter recommends two, too. Read Twitter’s guide on how to use hashtags.

Interestingly, though, Kami revealed to us that according to the numbers, four hashtags get the most reach. She backed up her statement with the Social Media Lab podcast run by Agorapulse. You can give it a listen here.

At the end of the day, though, whether you’re using two or four hashtags, what matters most is the value you offer through your tweet. As Dasle told us, as long as the tags aren’t too lengthy and getting in the way of your actual message, you should be fine.

Q2: Should hashtags be part of the text or separate?

I wish there was a right answer. Hashtag placement depends on the length of your message, its purpose, and most importantly readability. That’s why capitalizing the first letter in a multi-word hashtag is easier on the eyes.

Barbara made an excellent case for keeping hashtags separate from the tweet. She pointed out that separating hashtags makes your content easier to comprehend for visually impaired people using supportive software.

Sometimes hashtags—especially smaller or ones that you’re naturally using as part of your message—are better suited to stay as part of your tweet. Other times, hashtags that are phrases and industry jargon meant to increase reach are better separate.

In any case, you don’t want to throw your reader off by inserting too many blue marks. As Harshith mused, you don’t want to be a stain on the cloth.

Many of our community members end up doing it both ways. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find out what works for you and when.

Q3: Where do you find relevant hashtags for your tweet/brand?

The easiest way to find relevant hashtags is to search on Twitter. Advanced Search is comprehensive and gives you a lot of tags, accounts, and content that you can work with. A quick web search will also give you a ton of articles addressing popular hashtags.

Our guest suggested looking at your competition. Your audience is their audience. Observe and learn from their hashtag strategies. Once you’ve identified a few regular tags, you can research more about its frequency of use and reach.

Susannah recommended looking through Twitter’s default analytics. There’s a whole wealth of data in there about your current audience and the topics they engage with most often. Use that as the base for your analysis.

Knowledge is wealth, ami’rite? And on Twitter, tools are wealth.

Our community members vouched for Riteag, Hashtagify, and—the dictionary of hashtags (yeah, it’s for real)!

After a while, you’ll automatically pick up common hashtags, just by thinking like your audience. Common sense is underrated, folks. Don’t fall for it.

Q4: Who should have a branded hashtag?

You, me, the girl next door… anyone can have their own branded hashtag. That’s the open nature of Twitter.

But does everyone need to? That’s the question you need to ask yourself before jumping on the bandwagon.

If you’re a brand—a business, a service—you might want to create a branded hashtag. It’s a way for you to establish yourself and help people identify your work. Take Madalyn, for example. She created the #TwitterSmarter hashtag and it’s progressed immensely over the years. In 2013, it was to promote her course, which in 2015 evolved into a podcast and a Twitter chat.

Now millions of people use the hashtag to collect information about using Twitter. Hashtags are great for archiving. That commonality is essential. Even though you initiate the hashtag, it shouldn’t be reserved for you. Make it a concept that people can relate you to. It’s about building a community, like our guest emphasized.

If you’re promoting an event, don’t think twice—go for a branded hashtag. It’s the best way for people to rally around your event and activities, share wisdom, and become a community. That’s exactly what Social Media Marketing World (#SMMW) and Content Marketing World (#CMWorld) have done.

Jack, as always, pointed out the flip side of things. Twitter’s become so advanced now that you don’t always need to have a branded hashtag to be found. Every word in your tweet (tagged or otherwise) is searchable and will still get you impressions. And it’s also important how you use a hashtag—just because you’re branding one doesn’t mean you should use it everywhere. Jack’s example of big companies slapping on hashtags on billboards is a good one. Though it could help increase campaign reach,  adding the social handle could get more audience onto your profile.

Remember, though: before you start tweeting your newly created hashtag, make sure no one else has used it already. Also, verify that the word or phrase you’re using isn’t tied to any inappropriate themes or groups. You want your hashtag to be something people will want to use. One way to do it is to include your business name in the hashtag itself, so it feels natural to your audience who often use your name in tweets.

If you decide to create a hashtag, though, you need a strategy. Make sure you’re committed to using it regularly and analyzing its growth. If it’s for a specific campaign, hashtag reach could be a crucial element in determining your success.

Q5: What are some efficient ways to use hashtags at events?

If you’re a host:

  • Have one official, recognizable hashtag. Put it up on emails, stickers, badges, and even on walls during the event so people are aware of the online conversations.
  • Plan ahead and promote your hashtag in the months leading up to the event. Build awareness.
  • Use your hashtag to interact with registered attendees even before the event. It helps you understand your audience.
  • Thank your sponsors, tag their accounts, and include the event hashtag.
  • During the event, use your hashtag to survey attendees, ask questions, run polls, make announcements, share photographs, and engage with live-tweeters.
  • Continue the conversation after the event ends. You can always re-share resources and insights.

If you’re an attendee:

  • Make a list of frequently misspelled hashtags so you can copy-paste them instead of typing them out every time.
  • Always use the official hashtag, and tag relevant profiles when you’re referencing booths or people.
  • If the event doesn’t have an official hashtag, try and find the one most people use. You can even use two popular ones to get the most engagement—just don’t overdo it.
  • Connect with speakers and event organizers beforehand. It helps find new contacts that you can follow up on at the event.

Here’s some great advice from Alex.

The three C’s of live-tweeting:

  • Credit – Who said it?
  • Content – What did they say?
  • Context – Where and when did they say it?

Q6: How do you measure the success of your hashtags? What tools do you use?

Kami uses Hashtracking to monitor the reach of her hashtags and campaigns.

Here’re a few other tools our community members use (links to their Twitter handles):

However you measure them, the purpose is to get conversations going on about your topic. That’s what Matt uses as his metric. If you can connect with new people and excite them with what you have to offer, you can consider your hashtag a success.

Q7: How do you make your hashtag trend on Twitter?

The short answer: there’s no shortcut. For a hashtag to trend, you need a lot of people using it simultaneously. It has to be a topic of interest and relevance. Building such a large network of people takes time and consistent tweeting.

Kami’s advice is to be straightforward: create a hashtag, tell others about it, engage, and tag relevant people.

A few other thoughts from our members:

  • Use the hashtag consistently.
  • See that your hashtag is unique, catchy, and easy to type out.
  • Share value—give people a reason to like, retweet, and respond.
  • Drop it in offline conversations to build awareness.
  • Participate in relevant Twitter chats and share your topic with others. Invite them to tweet using your hashtag.

And like our friends from GiveWP suggested, it wouldn’t hurt to pick a date that you want to aim to trend—like a day in a week. That way, you have a higher chance of getting people together at the same time.

Q8: Should you ride on a trending hashtag? Share some best practices.

Riding on a trending hashtag is a plea to be seen. However, as our guest told us, you need to decide whether you just want to get noticed or get noticed for the right reasons.

Most often, brands that jump on the trending hashtag do it for the sake of showing they’re invested in something they’re not involved in. Why would a software company care about International Dog Day?

Unless a trending hashtag is relevant to your industry and is highly specific to how you operate as a business, the best practice is to stay away.

Take a look at this list of hashtags that Kami shared: Ultimate Social Media Holiday Calendar (updated for 2019).

You might find some hashtags that resonate with you, but you’ll also find plenty that don’t. Pick wisely. After all, you don’t want to be that company, as Gene mentioned.

It’s not all bad, though. Like Don said, if you create a hashtag that others are jumping on, then cheers to you.

Sadly, however, it’s not the case for most of us.

Besides, as a common Twitter user, seeing brands that tweet unnecessarily is just plain annoying. Think of your audience first—do they want to see you riding on a trend?

Well folks, that’s all for this summary. Thanks for reading through and if you have any suggestions or comments, please tweet them out to me (@s_narmadhaa) or Madalyn (@MadalynSklar).

Feel free to drop by our #TwitterSmarter chat next Thursday at 1pm ET. We’d love to hear from ya.

About me, Narmadhaa:

I’m a writer of all things—technical and marketing copy to fill the pocket; haiku and short stories to fill the soul. A social media enthusiast, I’m a member of the #TwitterSmarter chat crew, and always happy to take on writing gigs.

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