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Twitter 101: How to Properly Use #Hashtags

The concept of hashtags can be very confusing for Twitter amateurs and professionals alike (many experienced Twitter users don’t use hashtags properly). To put it simply, hashtags are keywords that organize real-time conversations. The # symbol is used to identify these keywords. Hashtags not only make tweets easier to find in a Twitter search, but also help connect people tweeting about the same topic. For example, if you search for #socialgood on Twitter, you can find tweets from other Twitter users about social causes.
Here are some hashtag basics:
  • The # symbol has to be in the beginning of the keyword or phrase and have no spaces in order to be a hashtag (#socialgood = hashtag, social good = not a hashtag)
  • A hashtag is counted in a tweet’s  140 character limit (so leave room)
  • Hashtags can occur anywhere in a tweet
  • Any Twitter user can create or follow a hashtag (however not all hashtags become trending topics)
Also, make sure you follow these hashtag best practices:
 
Do your research. Before creating your own hashtag, figure out if the topic you’re tweeting about already has one established. Using an established and relevant hashtag can help create more visibility for your tweet. Websites such as Hashtags and Trendsmap allow you to search for popular hashtags on Twitter (Trendsmap allows you to search for current topics by location). Popular hashtags that are meaningful to your message is best. Here’s a great list of 45 hashtags for social change that your nonprofit can utilize.
 
Use hashtags in good taste. Hashtags are best when they’re related to your message. Don’t try to use a popular hashtag that has nothing to do with the topic of your tweet. For example, fashion designer Kenneth Cole was in hot water last year after he used the popular hashtag #Cairo during the uprising in Egypt to promote his spring collection. Using popular hashtags unrelated to your message can potentially upset your followers, make your organization look bad, and lessen the importance of your tweets (no one likes reading spam). Also, you aren’t reaching your target audience.
 
Resist the urge to abuse hashtags. Nothing is more annoying than reading a tweet with too many hashtags. Only use hashtags that add value to your tweet. If you misuse them, your followers will start to unfollow you (or just as bad, tune out your tweets). 
 
If used properly, hashtags can be a valuable communication tool. Hashtags can increase the visibility of your tweets – helping to raise awareness for your cause, reach your target audience, and stimulate conversation. How does your organization use hashtags? Please leave your comments below.