How to use the hashtag

Dear readers and followers,

We all know that the beauty of Internet is that everyone can use it. Also, the horrible side of Internet is that everyone can use it, and use it badly. Of course, I am one of those people who has to research almost everything before following a trend or use something new. Now, what may be annoying is that I have to explain things, but hey, this is why you write a blog in the first place, am I right?

Today, I want to briefly explain something that is so incredibly easy that most of us use it in the wrong way: the hashtag. That little symbol, actually just a hash, once only used to recall the previous phone number and, maybe, to top-up over the phone, seems now one more of the emoticons on our statuses. It is not! You use the hash to tag, hence the name hashtag, says Captain Obvious. That said, are there rules about its use? Not exactly, more like suggested practices, and here is Knotty to sum them up for you.

First of all, hashtags are used to make your content searchable in a world in which, according to some statistics, 58 million tweets are posted per day (source.) So, if you use an hashtag that is one of the trend topics, anyone interested in that subject can easily find it, that is if your contents are public. What should we do then? We can look up if there is already a hashtag in use for our topic, and use it, or we can create a new one. There is not official list of hashtags, and anyone can create one.

How to hashtag (mainly, what to avoid)?

  • DO NOT use spaces between the words you want to include in one hashtag, or only the first word will be tagged. “#SillyMe” is an hashtag, “#Silly me” only tags the word silly.

  • On a similar note, DO include a space between hashtags, or only the first one will be a real tag, and the whole caption will be a blur bunch of words. So, imagining a caption for a morning selfie, YES to “#Selfie #NoFilter #Sleepy”, NO to “#Selfie#NoFilter#Sleepy”.

  • Also related, DO NOT put any words or punctuation right before the hashtag, it will automatically invalidate the tag, and DO NOT put any punctuation in the middle either, or the hashtag will end where the sign is. So, YES to “I am happy! #Smiling”, NO to “I am happy!#Smiling”; YES to “#ThankGodItsFriday”, NO to “#ThankGodIt’sFriday.

  • DO NOT put only numbers in the hashtag, or it will also generate an error. So, “#65” will only end up meaning “number 65” in English, but it will not include your tweet on any search. You will need to also add a word, e.g. “#Day65”, to make it useful.

  • DO NOT overdo it by including too many words, three is normally the maximum, but there are very famous trend topics with more, normally the funny ones, such as #NoRestForTheWicked.

  • DO NOT spam, that is, do not hashtag every single word in your tweet: it makes posts hard to read, and it dilutes the search. Again, three is the suggested maximum number of hashtags in a post (guilty, I normally use more!) So, imagining a caption for a picture of a dog in a park, YES to “Walking my dog, always a surprise #Dog #DogLover #Squirrels”, NO to “#Walking #my #dog #always #a #surprise #him #chasing #a #squirrel”.

  • DO NOT insert trend topic hashtags to gain visibility if your tweet is not about the subject, e.g., do not add #LoveTheDarts to your tweets if they are not about Anderson and his victory this week.

Some suggestions:

  • Be aware of the meaning of the hashtags you use. As with any other example of communication, there are registers in tweets. You have funny and serious hashtags, and you normally don’t want to mix them, because you can end up with awkward or offensive posts, and you give an image of insensitivity or, if you use your profile for business purposes, that can suggest you are not professional.

  • Differentiate the words in the hashtag by capitalising the first letter of each word. This is not a rule, and hashtags are not case sensitive, so hashtags such as #NoRestForTheWicked and #norestforthewicked will both be included in the result of the search for that trend topic. Nonetheless, capitalising the first letter of each word will make the hashtag easier to read , and can avoid embarrassing misinterpretations, such as the famous #susanalbumparty, later changed into #SusanBoyleAlbumParty. And we all know this example:

download I have been talking about Twitter, but hashtags also are included on Facebook, Instagram, and Google+, and if you share your posts between your profiles, they are automatically transferred in all of them, that is, all except from Google+, which is still not that keen to share contents with other social media. Now, as I said, there are no real rules, so do what you please, but I tried to warn you!

Until next, and… keep being naughty, Knotty surely will!!!