Hashtags are a great way to aggregate content on social media. They make it easy to search stories about a particular topic, such as #parisattacks, spread games and memes like #movieswithgoats or just add an ironic touch to our tweets (#irony #duh).
Hashtags started on Twitter and, like most things there, they were invented not by the platform but by users. They soon spread to other platforms and are now a feature of Instagram (quite successfully) and Facebook (not quite so much).
Fun fact: hashtags can include emojis as well as alphanumeric characters… hence the popularity (and subsequent banning) of the eggplant emoji as an Instagram hashtag (because it looks a bit like a purple you-know-what).
Like anything online, you can use hashtags well and badly. I was asked the other day by a conference organiser if I had any guidelines for creating a hashtag. I’d never really thought about it, but after a bit of reflection here’s what I told her:
The rule of SUM: my three tips for creating a great hashtag
S is for Short: Twitter only allows 140 characters. Using 15 of those for a hashtag will mean users will ignore it and create their own shorter version. #TGFparty will always beat #TheGoatFarmChristmasParty
U is for Unique: making a short hashtag might mean the catchy initials you chose also stand for something else, somewhere else in the online world. #FridayDrinks is probably already taken…
M is for Memorable or possibly Meaningful. When a hashtag appears in someone’s timeline, making sure it’s meaningful makes it more likely someone will be attracted to your content.. and you want that, right? So while #NZGIC might be a short way to tag the New Zealand Giant Insects Conference (if there was one), #GiantBugsNZ would pull more traffic for only a few more characters.
Oh, and once you’ve created your short, unique and meaningful hashtag, take a moment to read it through fresh eyes… like Susan Boyle’s people didn’t. #embarrassing