In the age of social media, more and more content is being created every second of every day. But with so much going on in the world, it’s often hard to use social media to be updated on just one topic. Luckily, hashtags serve as a way of grouping content posted to social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+, so people can categorize their posts, create and track public discussions, and discover new information.
What is a Hashtag?
A hashtag is the usage of the number sign (#)–also referred to as the hash symbol–before a word to categorize a message on today’s social media sites. The hash symbol has a storied history of use in computer programming (dating back to 1970) and online chat networks like IRC. But its modern usage is known primarily thanks to Twitter, which began using it hashtags group messages in 2007.
How is a Hashtag Used Today?
As the original usage of hashtags was grouping messages together for discussion on Twitter, that remains the primary purpose. Companies and celebrities use them to host Q & A sessions, groups of friends use them for inside jokes, and events use them for organizing discussions and event-related information.
Twitter’s growth eventually gave media outlets and independent reporters the opportunity to liveblog events, such as professional conferences and conventions . This allowed a larger audience to follow and get the latest news as it comes in, instead of waiting to be reported on a major news site.
In 2014, people liveblog everything from television shows to the Oscars, sharing their opinions with millions of other fans and views. TV shows and events encourage this activity by creating their own hashtags and updating them throughout a show as certain events play out.
How Do I Find Hashtags?
If you’re completely new to the world of hashtags, you may be wondering how to go about discovering the best ones to use.
First off, don’t overthink hashtags. They’re simple and should be kept simple. Typically, the most-used hashtags will be one word, such as #Ford and #Chevy. But those are what I like to call tier 1 hashtags. These are the most obvious hashtags you can use, and while they’re good, they tend to be overused.
When the goal is to draw more attention to your links, or even just your profile, a tier 2 hashtag is in order. Sticking with Ford and Chevy, two popular examples would be #Mustang and #Camaro. These are more specific tags, but are also related to Ford and Chevy. From there, you can utilize tier 3 hashtags, such as #2015Mustang or #CamaroZ28. And that’s about as specific as you want to get. If your hashtags get more specific than that, you may not receive the desired effect.
To find the best hashtags to compliment topics in your automotive social media posts, use a service like Hashtagify.me or Hashtags.org, which allow you to gauge the popularity of a topic and find related hashtags.
Hashtagify.me is simple, but particular good because it allows you to see related hashtags. Hashtags.org allows you to see some information, but keeps the good stuff behind a $50/month paid account.
While you’re starting out, stick with Hashtagify.me to find the best tier 2 and 3 keywords for your posts. This will also give you an idea of what users like so you can create content related to popular topics.
What About Tracking?
Two of my absolute favorite services for tracking and analyzing hashtags are KeyHole and Twubs. While they both have silly names, they provide some great data for those really looking to know everything there is to know about the hashtags they use.
Some important data you can find using KeyHole includes:
- Influential Users
- Top Links
- Total Hashtag Reach
And while you can simply use a dedicated Twitter app to track hashtag usage, Twubs offers a simple way to track a single hashtag, such as one from an event. It’s great if you’re really looking to get the most current information or enjoy following a specific topic across Twitter.
Other Great Tools for Tracking Hashtags
How to Properly Use Hashtags
You can find and track popular hashtags easily, but using them properly in your own content is the challenge. One of the biggest issues, especially on Twitter and Instagram, is overusage. If you’ve yet to frequent these sites, you may not have been exposed to users overusing hashtags. But as you can guess, this is when a user applies too many hashtags to a single post, whether that be in the actual content or after. Here are a couple of examples:
- #Ford Unveils #2015Mustang in #Detroit: http://bitly.com
- Ford Shows off New 2015 Mustang Models http://bitly.com #MustangLovers #CarTweets #FordRules #NewCars
Of the two, it’s better to keep hashtags out of the headline and add hashtags after a link (if you’re linking). As an unspoken rule, two hashtags are generally thought of as acceptable. Three or more and you may find people less likely to follow (and you may lose followers as a result).
Good Examples of Hashtag Usage
This photo of a classic Chevy SS makes us all tingly inside. What a spectacular vehicle. #Throwback pic.twitter.com/hKMlz93x3E
— McCluskey Chevrolet (@McCluskeyChevy) August 7, 2014
The #Chevrolet SS is the first Chevrolet to offer Automatic Parking Assist, which provides hands-free parking help. http://t.co/S068mg0bO2 — McCluskey Chevrolet (@McCluskeyChevy) August 5, 2014
3 Things to Know About Using Hashtags
1. Don’t try to use a dash or any other special character — Because the hash (number) symbol acts as an indicator for tagging, other special characters cannot be used.
2. Make hashtags easier to read by using capital letters — When reading a tweet or Facebook post, it’s a lot easier to read #CarTweets than #cartweets.
3. Use hashtags often to establish yourself — Hashtags serve as a way to organize public discussion and content by topic, and you can use that to your advantage. Keep a running list of the top hashtags related to your industry and make sure you consistently use each. While people are searching for content with specific hashtags, you can easily create a name for yourself or your business by contributing high quality content.