Monday, July 6, 2015

Social Media Basics for Writers, Part V—How to Use Hashtags in Social Media

Today I want to jump into one of the most important tool in your social media arsenal, hashtags. But first, in case you've missed the previous posts, here are a list of them, with links.

Hashtags—especially for Twitter—can be incredibly valuable in helping us increase out audience. But only if we learn to use them correctly. 

They’re not that hard, but there are some rules you need to follow so you’re not wasting valuable real estate in your tweets.

Hashtag Refresher
First, lets back up and evaluate the reason we’re all working at building an online presence. We are looking to deepen existing relationships and build new ones. But building new ones can be difficult if the only people we interact with are those we already know, either online or in person.

We can get a little bit of exposure to new folks by our existing connections introducing us, but that’s a time consuming way to go about it.

What if there was a way for someone to search a given social media network by topic and find new, interesting people to interact with? That would be a great way to grow our connections.

Hashtags make your life easier.
THAT, in the simplest of terms, is the purpose of using hashtags.

When you compose a social media update that includes one or two hashtags that summarize the topic—you are giving folks who wouldn’t otherwise have a connection with you—a way to find you.

Here’s an example of the correct way to do this. At the end of this post you’ll find a tweet I composed about today’s post:

Grow your #Writing platform by using hashtags correctly - via #SocialMedia expert @EdieMelson

5 Tips for Using Hashtags Correctly
1. Don’t overload your social media updates with hashtags. The optimum number of hashtags depends on the social media network you’re on. 
  • Twitter: two hashtags is best, but one or three will also work.
  • Facebook: no more than one hashtag per update, otherwise you may be unintentionally spamming your followers
  • Instagram: two hashtags is best, but one or three will also work here as well.

Take time to research the best hashtag.
2. Take time to research the best hashtags. Some hashtags are better than others. You won’t know which ones are most current unless you take time research them. The best way to do your research? Do a search on the social media network where you want to use the hashtag. You can also research a hashtag by typing it into the Google search engine and seeing what updates come up.

3. Making up a new hashtag is fine—but ONLY if you pair it with a popular hashtag. If I wanted to try to make #TheWriteConversation into a writing hashtag, it wouldn’t do me any good unless I paired it with another popular #writing hashtag. No one is going to know to search for #TheWriteConversation unless I educate them. If I just use #TheWriteConversation, it’s no more than wasted space in my social media update.

4. Remember a space ends the hashtag. So often I see people forget and add a space in between two words in a hashtag. Once you hit the space bar, the hashtag ends. So #Social Media is really only the hashtag #Social, instead of #SocialMedia. NOTE: this is also true of the @ sign. If I type @Edie Melson, it’s just like I’m typing @Edie, and that person is NOT me.

5. Leave some room at the end of your tweets so your hashtags aren’t cut off if it’s retweeted. Tweets are only 140 characters long. If I use all 140 characters, then if anyone retweets it, the end will be cut off because there’s no room for the retweeters information that goes at the beginning of the tweet. I try to leave 15 – 20 blank characters, but my absolute minimum is 10. This insures at least one unchanged retweet.

Hashtag Etiquette
Try to never use more than three hashtags in any one tweet. If you can make it two that’s even better. Otherwise you end up looking like a used car sales man. If you’re trying to reach more groups, schedule multiple tweets, at different times, about the same subject and target your groups two at a time.

Always research your hashtag before you use it. Never assume it’s the correct one. For example, I was targeting military families with tweets about my devotional for military families and I thought #military would be the logical hashtag. No, turns out that hashtag is frequently used by those trying to date someone in the military. Not really the demographic I was trying to reach. The hashtag I wanted was #militaryfamily and #deployment. The best place to research hashtags is also the easiest, just type it into Google or the search engine of your choice.

I know this is a lot to digest all at once, so I’m happy to answer questions. Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!



  1. Have you been peeking at my to-do list? :) Learning more about hashtags is on my to-do list this week! I've resisted using them until I was more informed b/c I've heard there are certain tags you should never use. I'm not sure if that's correct but doing the search, as suggested, should take care of the problem. Thanks so much Edie! #Yourock

  2. Cathy, hashtags are never assigned or copyrighted, so there are none that are off limits. But research is important so you get the most bang for your buck. Beyond that, they're fun! Blessings, Edie

  3. I always learn more from you, Edie. You truly are THE social media expert!

    1. Ane, I wouldn't say that, at all! But I do try to pass along what I learn! Blessings, E

  4. I can't recommend researching hashtags strongly enough. There are a lot of terms that are common among writers that meant something else entirely on Twitter and other forms of social media.

    Take POV and point of view, for example. Use those hashtags and you'll be reaching people interested in pornography. You will not like the results.

    I'm still dealing with tweets and followers from within or close to that world because I used one of those hashtags a long, LONG time ago. It wasn't until recently that I discovered my mistake and do you think I can find that tweet and delete it?

    No way.

    (Edie, if there is a way to find and delete an old tweet, I'd sure appreciate knowing about it!)

  5. Appreciate this . . . I thank you for an excellent post!

  6. Edie, thanks to the clear, concise way you teach, I am finally getting the hang of Twitter! I never thought it would be possible because I don't even text, so I'm only using it on my PC. I used to have it stuck in my head that Twitter was only for those glued to their cell phones! I don't know where I got that impression.

    I suggest for anyone who just doesn't get it (and believe me, I said that for about three years), make an account on your computer so you can see it as a program and not an app. Those who prefer Facebook will understand Twitter's layout better--at least that's what I found in my case. Now when I'm on an iPad or my Kindle, the app makes more sense.

    Can you tell? I'm a Generation Xer trying to keep up with the times! I'm also glad that your blog continues to run refresher posts about this.