How to Create a Hashtag
So you want to create a hashtag for your business, event or just for fun to use on social media.
Technically, here's how to create a hashtag in a social media post or a tweet on Twitter or Instagram:
Type in the "#" symbol followed immediately (with no spaces) by the phrase or keyword(s) you've chosen (again without spaces). Example: #HashtagsAreCool
Tah-dah! You have a hashtag. But the BIG question is: "What phrase or keyword should, or can, you use?"
Here's where it gets much more complicated.
Why Do You Want to Create a Hashtag?
Okay, so creating a hashtag is a pretty easy affair. But why do you want one? Here are some possible uses:
- To help monitor and measure engagement and trends on the social media networks for a topic, event or business.
- To create an online community of like-minded individuals.
- To help build a business' brand or brand name.
If none of these apply, then there's little point in creating one, especially for business.
Many social media users have a great deal of fun creating spur of the moment, often humorous, hashtags to communicate what's going on or what they're thinking. Example: #WishIWasAtTheBeach. Their intent isn't really to have any following or to start a trend. They usually just want to appear cool or funny.
Why Should I Follow Your Hashtag?
Saw a television ad for a razor that included a hashtag. Really have to ask what would motivate anyone to tweet or post about a personal grooming product like this. Is there a hot conversation trending on social media about shaving?
So here is another important "why" question that needs to be answered:
- Why would anyone want to use or follow your hashtag?
Let's go back to the shaving example. If the ad had said, "Follow [hashtag] for coupons," it would have made a bit more sense. But even then, it takes some effort on the part of the user to follow a hashtag. It's not quite as simple as following someone on social media. Users usually need to set up a way to make sure the tweets or posts with the hashtag show up in their news feeds. And if the reward for following it is minimal, the extra step might not be considered worth the effort.
Creating a Hashtag Keyword or Phrase
Once the "why" is determined for both the business and its followers, then the search for a hashtag keyword or phrase begins.
As noted in What is a Hashtag?, the keyword or phrase should not mislead others in suggesting affiliation where none exists or violate any of the social networks' terms of service.
When coming up with some possible hashtag candidates, keep these tips in mind:
- Make It Unique. Using a common word or phrase is not uncommon for a hashtag when it comes to topics. But when selecting a hashtag for branding and marketing purposes, it needs to be totally original and not already in use.
- Do a Hashtag Search. Go to a hashtag directory such as Hashtags.org or Twubs.com, social networks' search functions and standard search engines (i.e. Google) to determine if a potential hashtag is already in use. Don't want to create any confusion for users or infringe on someone else's brand, copyright or trademark! Also do a search on the social network itself. For example, on Instagram, a list of used hashtags comes up as you start typing the # symbol and a keyword. Or you can use the network's search tools.
- Consult an Attorney for Legal Concerns. Though anyone can use a hashtag at any time on social media as long as it doesn't violate the network's terms of service or mislead others into suggesting affiliation where none exists, legal protections for branded hashtags is a developing area of intellectual property and trademark law. Consult an attorney, particularly one that is knowledgeable in social media, with questions and concerns about using or creating hashtags.
- Keep It Short. Especially if the hashtag is to be used on Twitter, keep the total number of characters to a minimum since Twitter posts are only 140 characters long. Usually up to about 15 characters (the length of a Twitter username) is a good benchmark to target.
- Is It Sayable and Memorable? Coming up with a hashtag that can be easily said can help make it memorable for users. Not a requirement, but it can assist with branding efforts.
How to Create a Hashtag for an Event
Creating a hashtag for an event or trade show is the same as any other hashtag. However, if the event is an annual affair, the question arises as to whether the year should be added to the hashtag. There are pros and cons either way.
- Pros. The tweets or posts for that particular year's event can more easily be measured and compared with previous years' events.
- Cons. Attendees are likely to use both a hashtag that does not include a year AND one that does, increasing the amount of monitoring and confusion. As well, adding the year can signal to attendees that it is a temporary use hashtag. With today's emphasis on year-round activity even for annual events, adding the year may send the wrong signal that the event—as well as the connections and conversation—will not be active again until next year.
How to Promote a Hashtag
Wondering how to promote a hashtag? One word: Everywhere! That would include:
- Social media profiles.
- Business cards.
- Email marketing.
- Advertising (both online and offline).
But most importantly, tell people WHY to follow it! Reasons why people would be interested in following include:
- Be a part of the conversation on a topic.
- Join a community.
- Special offers.
- Important updates or news (especially useful for event hashtags).
And here's one of the best ways to promote a branded hashtag: USE IT YOURSELF! If you don't plan to be part of your own conversation on social media, seriously reconsider whether creating a hashtag is worthwhile since users may expect involvement.
Hashtag monitoring can be done with social media dashboard tools such as Hootsuite.com (free version) and Tweetdeck.com. Using the tools' search and filter functions, a column can be set up to just show tweets or posts that include the hashtag. These are good for daily monitoring and participating in conversations on a relatively small scale and can be done for free.
Hootsuite.com, previously mentioned services such as Hashtags.org and other social media monitoring services can provide a limited amount of insight on usage for free or on a free trial basis, with more extensive and continued monitoring —including measurement analytics such as number of tweets for a given time period, time of day and so much more—available on a fee basis. For large scale and more in-depth analysis, this is an investment worth exploring.
The main point is that if going through the effort to create and promote a hashtag, don't waste the investment by failing to monitor activity!
Disclaimer: Any examples used are for illustrative purposes only and do not suggest affiliation or endorsement. The author/publisher has used best efforts in preparation of this article. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and all parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice, strategies and recommendations presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional adviser where and when appropriate. The author/publisher shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. So by reading and using this information, you accept this risk.
© 2014 Heidi Thorne