I just purged my Facebook friend list. Yes, I purged it; not because I’m a stuck-up, pretentious millennial who doesn’t want to be connected to anyone anymore. It’s just that some people are annoying as hell. I’ve read lots of long rants about people bitching about each other, seen pictures with captions that are totally not related to the image, people sharing stupid content, adding you to random Facebook groups and many more. The list goes on.

However, one thing that really ticked me off is the wrong usage of hashtags. I mean, come on, what the hell is #OhMyGodMyProfIsBack or #PretendingNotToCareEvenThoughItHurts #ThankGodForThisNewJob? You could’ve just typed it as a sentence instead (or just posted an emoji). Dude, nothing irks me more that.

I work as a content writer and social media manager. And if there’s one thing that could get your business or yourself noticed online, it’s through hashtags (among other things, of course). So who would search for that kind of hashtag? We work hard in the research and creation of our hashtags so that we could target the people that we want to reach. In my months of working as one, I have come to understand how to use hashtags in a way that completes my social media interaction.

Understanding Hashtags

Okay so let’s talk about them Hashtags. It’s actually not the real term for it. It’s called the pound sign. But in the realm of social media, hashtags–short links preceded by the pound sign (#)–are actually an important way of communicating. It’s an integral part of real interaction across social media platforms.

The pound sign basically turns everything that comes after it into a searchable link. The hashtag is responsible for organizing all kinds of content that’s posted and track all the buzz topics based on those keywords. So if you want to tweet something about Justin Bieber’s new song, you have to include #JustinBieberNewSong in your post to join the worldwide conversation. You can click on a hashtag to see all the posts associated with the topic.

Uses in Social Media

Facebook – clicking a hashtag will bring you to a page where all posts containing the same hashtag will be listed. The results are often shown worldwide and is not limited to the people you know. But I guess there’s an advanced setting for that.

Instagram – hashtags are used to discover new image posts, accounts and also to gain followers. The Instagram helped me to gain followers in my art profile. Vine also uses the same hashtag platform.

Tumblr – Hashtags are not actually used as it is meant to be on other social media platforms. Tumblr has a special ‘tag’ section where you can enter your tags for the post. These function like hashtags by organizing posts and the hash symbol being inserted automatically.

Pinterest – hashtags will help you search for whatever content you want. Pins with the same word or phrase in the description can also appear on your content search.

Using Hashtags Productively

So, with all these in mind, you now have a basic knowledge of hashtags. Now it’s time to learn how to use them properly and efficiently. Hashtags can go beyond just organizing tweets and posts. They can also help set your voice while joining a large conversation. Your main goal is to interact and have a specific tone and voice.

I came across this post in The New Yorker, where Susan Orlean said that hashtags can also provide an interesting commentary as something being muttered into a handkerchief; when you read it you feel like you’ve had an intimate moment in which the writer leaned over and whispered something in your ear.

Sometimes hashtags are so funny that people use it into a funny quip instead of a searchable term. It is where I understood why some of us (including me) use #OhWowThatIsInterestingIndeed for our tweets and posts.

Here are some tweets that adds humor and voice (and especially context):

  • Let the weekend begin! #TGIF
  • Wearing socks with Crocs is so stylish #kidding
  • Just dropped my second ice cream cone. #fail
  • I hate when people smoke indoors. #annoying #rude #whygodwhy
  • The movie #Gravity is beautiful, but so terrifying! #nevergoingtospace

Best Hashtag Practices

With all these things considered, here are some of the things I practice to have a better voice online and to get the right kind of content that I am looking for on social media.

Specify. If you want to join a conversation using a hashtag, make sure that the hashtag that you’re going to use is specific and relevant to the topic that you want to engage in. if you want to talk about the last episode of AlDub (yes it’s the only thing that I could think of that’s hashtag-worthy right now), use #AlDUBMusicOfLOVE rather than #Aldub. Using a general hashtag term would take you to confusing discussions about it and not the specific episode that you want to talk about. Generic hashtags like #Opinion and #Rant won’t help you either.

Simplify. Hashtags are kinda like links. They’d look like spam if you use it too often. A maximum of three hashtags are recommended on Twitter and Facebook, but you can use as many as you want on Instagram and Vine. Oh and by the way, don’t use a hashtag twice in a post (“I just watched #StarWarsTheForceAwakens today! You guys should see #StarWarsTheForceAwakens too!”). It’s annoyingly #redundant.

Contextualize. A post that contains only hashtags is weird. Not to mention confusing and boring. If your tweet simply reads, “#blessed”, your followers won’t have any idea what the hell you’re talking about (aside from you quoting that overly used and mocked hashtag of 2014). The same thing goes when you tweet “#AlDub is #Forever”, you are not making any sense.

Remember, social media is like a cosmic place where people from across the world can interact. And if you want to do so, the best thing is to hashtag it productively.


P.S. For more on social media guidance, check out this Beginner’s Guide. Also I owe it to Hashtags.org for all the info that helped me write this as I did my research.