Wednesday, December 4, 2013

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Using Hashtags

It seems like hashtags are everywhere these days, from comedy sketches to commercials. Brands of all sizes are trying to cash in on the conversation tool, with mixed results. To make the most of your hashtags, ask yourself these five questions:
  1. Are others using this hashtag?  It might seem basic, but if no one else is using the hashtag, what purpose does it serve? Fun or funny commentary style hashtags can make you seem clever and accessible, but excessive and unnecessary tags can lead to a decrease in engagement. Know your brand and what is appropriate for your audience. To stay professional and polished, leave it off unless you're creating a new conversation and have a concrete plan to promote it and get it to spread. 
  2. Are you using the right hashtag?  For a sexual health writer, it might be tempting to use #ED, since it is the commonly used abbreviation for erectile dysfunction, but a little research will show that the education community uses #ed in their conversations.
  3. Are you adding to the conversation?  When you use a hashtag, your post becomes part of the larger conversation on Facebook or Twitter. Consider what benefit you are providing to the community as a whole by participating in that conversation. 
  4. Will your hashtag benefit you?  If you aren't adding to the conversation, ask yourself if your hashtag contribution will provide a benefit to your account through exposure to people who are following that topic.
  5. If you're tagging a name, would an @mention be better?  If you are trying to get the attention of or acknowledge a particular account, an @mention may be more appropriate. On the other hand, multiple @mentions can seem spammy, so hashtags may be better. Hashtags will also help with searchability and cross-posting to Facebook.  
How have hashtags changed your conversation? What other hashtag-use questions or guidelines would you add? Leave a comment below.