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Hashtag Etiquette: The Dos and Don’ts of Social Media Engagement [INFOGRAPHIC]

Hashtags started as a way to link tweets to dynamic feeds within Twitter, but they’ve quickly infiltrated every part of our lives. It’s no longer uncommon to hear a friend end a sentence with, “#first world problems,” or to find Instagram posts that contain more hashtags than actual content. Hashtags have become so popular even Facebook enabled them.

With 2.5 billion Facebook posts, 400 million tweets, and 45 million Instagram posts published each day, you can imagine how important it is to stand out among the noisy social media chatter and reach your desired audience; hashtags can help you do just that.

Just like every other feature on social media, though, there is both a right way and a wrong way to use hashtags. If you’re looking to develop strong engagement with your social media contacts, here are some dos and don’ts for using hashtags. Welcome to Hashtag Etiquette class:


Hashtag Faux Pas:

Social media users don’t expect you to use the “perfect” hashtag in each of your posts, but they will certainly look down on you for trying too hard. Commit any of these hashtag faux pas and expect to be blacklisted:


Certain circumstances require multi-word hashtags (think #RoyalBaby, #NBAFinals2013: you know, important people, big events). On the other hand, feeling #HopelesslyHungryButFridgeIsEmpty is not a circumstance that warrants a multi-word hashtag. If you absolutely must use multiple words, be sure to capitalize the first letter of each word and to eliminate spaces between words.

#Do #Not #Tag #Every #Word

Tagging every word in your post is the social media equivalent of raising your hand too much in class, poking someone in the ribs one too many times, or screaming into your cell phone while riding public transportation. More than being insanely annoying, tagging every word makes you look like you have nothing better to do with your time.

Don’t Jump on a Trend Without Actually Relating to the Topic

This advice is especially important for marketers who monitor trending keywords without following or understanding the news. Try to use an unrelated trending keyword in your promotional post and you will be social media shamed. Just look at what happened to Kenneth Cole when he tweeted, “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online” while riots were taking place in Egypt in 2011. Or to CelebBoutique when it tweeted, “#Aurora is trending, clearly about our Kim K inspired #Aurora dress šŸ˜‰ Shop: celebboutique.com/aurora-white-pā€¦” during the aftermath of the Aurora shooting. Lesson learned? Just don’t do this.

Avoid Overusing Descriptive Synonym Tags

This is overkill. If you can’t select the word that will fare best as a hashtag, you shouldn’t use hashtags at all.

Check Your Spelling

Ever misspelled a hashtag? That was unfortunate. Including hashtags in your posts is a way to add your thoughts to global discussions. Misspell a tag, and no one can find your message! Before your next post, do yourself a favor and check your spelling ā€“ on Twitter, that’s only 140 characters to review!


Using Hashtags to Reach Your Audience

Here are some ways to use hashtags the right way and engage your followers:

Host a Chat

Using a short and easy to understand hashtag, you can facilitate a discussion online that people can view in real time. Such chats are popular on Twitter and could gain traction on Facebook in the future.

Jump into the Conversation

Using trending hashtags isn’t always bad. Before you use a trending hashtag, make sure you fully understand why the tag is trending and that your content is relevant to the topic.

Align Your Social Media Presence With Your Industry

Search tags relevant to your industry to find out what’s already being said. Then join the discussion by including those hashtags in your own posts.

Promote Your Events

Create a hashtag to promote your event and encourage your attendees to append to it their posts and photos. This will allow you to effortlessly increase your exposure.

Inject Humor into Your Posts

Some hashtags have gained popularity for being humorous, like the #EndOfTheWorldConfessions tag in 2012. Using these in moderation will not only make your followers laugh but also help them relate to you.Though there are many ways to use hashtags, the one constant rule is authenticity. Use hashtags as needed, following hashtag etiquette, and you’ll be on your way to becoming social media royalty.

What are some of your favorite hashtag dos and don’ts? Share with us in the comments section!

Maritza Van Rooi
for those who love to use #hashtages, may want to read this before doing it.
Sharon Allison Barnhart
I think you covered it, but I think being funny, especially in a self-deprecating fashion, is the exception to the rule against stringing too many words together in a hashtag.
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