If you're a social media user, you'll no doubt have seen the growth of hashtags: the prefixing of a word or phrase with a hash or pound (#) symbol to create a clickable and searchable topic marker. The first hashtag was used on Twitter in 2007, but since then has grown to incorporate a wide range of other social media networks – and a whole host of different uses.
Whether you're looking to search for news about an event or a current hot topic, find out more about a favourite television show, or – from a business point of view – run a hashtag-based competition, or attract new business by using a specific tag, hashtags are common across a number of social networks, with many networks using them in different ways and with a different etiquette. Here's a brief run down:
As the original network where hashtags were used, Twitter sees many thousands of hashtags created every single month. Users can click on a hashtag to see all tweets using that particular tag, spanning users from all over the globe. Users can also see which hashtags are trending (i.e., are the most popular) – either globally or closer to home.
Instagram thrives on hashtags. While Twitter suggests that no more than two hashtags are used in one tweet, on Instagram you should expect far more for each picture. In fact, at iFactory, we have found that up to 11 hashtags per gram have achieved the best results. Hashtags should be made as specific as possible so that those with similar interests can find your photos – and by clicking on a hashtag you've used, you'll be able to see which other popular tags people are using, which may give you more ideas.
Google+ only introduced hashtags in May 2013, and differs from Twitter in their usage. Clicking on a hashtag will take you to similar posts, giving each post a wider possible readership – and Google+ may even add its own relevant hashtags.
Looking for upcycling ideas? Search hashtag #upcycling, and you'll find loads of users' project photos. Searches, however, are based on words and not the exact hashtag, so Pinterest is a little different to other social networks.
It's taken a while for Facebook to join the hashtag party, and it's not quite as popular as with other networks. By clicking on a hashtag, you'll only be able to see posts that are public and that have been shared with you – which all depends on the privacy settings of the posters.
In addition to the most mainstream networks, you'll also find hashtags used across a range of services that include Tumblr, Flickr, Vine, Orkut, Diaspora and more.
In short, hashtags are a pretty awesome way of upping your social media engagement and reaching out to a wider audience than simply those who follow you… but if you don't want to face them alone, help is available. Brisbane based digital agency iFactory are here to help with all of your digital marketing and digital strategy solutions: call us today to find out how we can help.