As originally published on Forbes.com.
Hashtags can be tricky. Too many and your posts look cluttered. Not enough and your post could end up in digital no man’s land. Use a bad hashtag and no one is going to click it. Use a good yet popular hashtag, and it might get lost in all of the other posts using that same one.
Hashtags turns a word or phrase into a clickable, searchable link within many social platforms. Before using hashtags, regardless of platform, ensure that they are relevant to the content in your post. A hashtag with no relation to the post won’t help to drive the traffic you want. While we all want popular and viral posts, they offer no benefit to your brand if they aren’t getting in front of the right people.
And don’t hashtag hijack, either. If there’s a popular hashtag being used but no correlation at all to your content, then stay away. For example, if #MotivationMonday is trending but your post is about installing a backup generator before a winter storm, it’s probably safe to say that you shouldn’t be using that hashtag.
Let’s look at each platform’s hashtag best practices:
With a limited amount of characters available in your tweet, being selective about the number of hashtags is a good idea. Hashtags, especially for business, should be used as a way to further the message and the conversation of the tweet. The goal of the Twitter hashtag is to expand the brand message to a wider audience and place it in front of new customers who may not have otherwise seen it and, hopefully, spark a larger online dialogue.
When writing Twitter copy for our clients, we mix in both a hashtag or two at the backend of the post and then hash a word, when appropriate, within the copy. This provides an easy way to use hashtags without adding too much copy and keeping the flow of the copy easy for our readers.
Using a custom hashtag is one way to help market your brand. Just be mindful of grammar rules and capitalization, which we’ll talk about further down the article. If you want to find trending hashtags that might be relevant to your tweet or write copy that will complement a trending hashtag, the desktop version of Twitter offers a Trends for You column where trending hashtags, either worldwide or by a location that you can choose, are located. On your smartphone app, click the search icon to see what’s trending in your area. You can also change the location of the trends to see what’s being tweeted in other areas of the country and world.
Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags on each post and 10 hashtags on a story. But that doesn’t mean you want to stuff each post or story with their maximum amount.
Keep in mind that people are reading your posts on a smartphone, so the easier the copy is to read, the more likely they will continue to come back to your posts.
In addition to creating your own hashtag (branded hashtag), just like with Twitter, on Instagram, you can search for relevant and popular hashtags (community hashtag), by reviewing what your competition is using as well as what your audience uses when talking about the same topic.
You can also type your hashtag into the search box and see how many posts have used that same hashtag. This will give you a good idea of its popularity and whether or not you should use it. It may even give you new ideas to use. For example, #yoga is a pretty popular hashtag, but after inputting it into the search box, a list of other yoga-related topics appear, like #yogalife, #yogaeveryday and #yogainspiration. These suggestions will auto-populate after inputting almost any hashtag you want to research.
With more space to write posts, hashtags should fit right at home on Facebook. However, many businesses shy away from using them. The reason? Hashtag use on Facebook has not been as widely adopted as on other platforms. Facebook recommends using only one or a few hashtags at most.
We use hashtags on Facebook sparingly when writing copy for our clients. When it feels organic and natural to include it, we will do so. Forcing hashtags into a Facebook post, or any social post, takes away from the tone of the message or conversation.
Searching for hashtags to use on Facebook is pretty similar to Twitter and Instagram. Start typing a #hashtag into the search bar and a list of related hashtags will drop down. Unlike Instagram, it will not tell you how popular the hashtag is. You can choose to see how hashtags are being used by clicking on any of the suggested hashtags in the dropdown and even find related searches, which may be helpful in choosing hashtags to get your post in front of a wider audience.
Hashtags break all the grammar rules. When using them on any platform, remember that punctuation, like commas, exclamation marks, periods and other signs will break up the hashtag, leaving only the letters, words or partial phrase located before the punctuation as the clickable hashtag. An example of a broken hashtag would be #Let’sGoRedWings. The hashtag stops at #Let because of the apostrophe. In this case, write the hashtag #LetsGoRedWings and the entire phrase is now searchable.
The same goes for spacing. Do not leave spaces between words and, if it’s necessary to differentiate between words in your hashtag, use capitalization. For example, #ThrowbackThursday instead of #throwbackthursday.
Just as optimized copy is critical to a well-written post or tweet, determining the proper number of hashtags, as well as knowing what hashtags to use, is just as important. This is especially essential if you are going to utilize a branded hashtag, where it will be used throughout a campaign and where it is encouraged that others use it to communicate with your brand. Research your hashtags before starting any campaign or adding them to any copy.