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The Difference Between Hashtag Strategy and Hashtag Spam

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The introduction of Twitter’s hashtags in 2007 represented a defining moment in the history of social media, and hashtags have become a defining element of social media platforms since then. While they were originally restricted to use on Twitter alone, other platforms now use it as well. Used correctly, hashtags are a powerful means of communicating with others; when abused, hashtags can be a severe nuisance. Here are a few ways to use hashtags appropriately.

Hashtags 101

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Hashtags allow you to mark posts. If you’re writing about a live event, hashtags allow people to find your messages when posting about the event. On Twitter, hashtags appear in the “Trending” section, and people interested in sharing their thoughts can use them to reach out to others. For marketers and others trying to reach out online, hashtags deliver a number of obvious advantages as they make your posts far easier to find through searching.

Hashtags are for Relevant Posts

Unfortunately, hashtag spam has become common on Twitter and other platforms that use them, and those who search for trending hashtags will be bombarded with unrelated posts from people trying to capture attention. Often, these posts say nothing of value and implore readers to follow a particular account. These posts will often contain multiple hashtags. While this sort of abuse was common in the past, Twitter users will find it to be less common today.

Twitter’s Battle Against Hashtag Spam

Twitter has a number of sophisticated algorithms that can detect hashtag abuse, and these algorithms ban countless accounts on a daily basis. However, they have a relatively high threshold, which allows them to avoid banning chatty users who simply love hashtags. Twitter also allows users to report hashtag spam, and a high percentage of reported accounts are eventually banned. In spite of Twitter’s efforts, many accounts still regularly engage in hashtag spam by staying just below the threshold that would trigger a ban.

The Main Reason to Avoid Hashtag Spamming

Even though there are ways to spam hashtags without triggering an account review, there is another reason to avoid hashtag spamming: It doesn’t work. Twitter users know spam when they see it, and, as with regular spam, they know to avoid it. A great deal of effort is needed to attract a single follower through spam, and the number of users who will avoid your account because of spam will be much higher. Twitter users are savvy, and they learn to instinctively ignore anything that approaches hashtag spam.

How to Use Hashtags

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When using hashtags, it is important to use no more than a single hashtag per post on average. While it is sometimes appropriate to use two hashtags, using three or more is rarely wise. Only use hashtags that are relevant, and avoid using a hashtag that is only marginally related just because it is trending. By following these guidelines, you can reduce the likelihood of triggering a review significantly. However, using hashtags effectively for reaching out will require more than just avoiding upsetting users.

Brand Hashtags

Even if you use other hashtag strategies, you’ll likely want to establish a hashtag for your brand. Fortunately, it is easy to search for posts to see if your desired hashtag is already in use, and choosing a new hashtag makes it easier for people to find information about what you do. In addition, hashtag branding makes it easier for others to communicate with you and for you to find out what others are saying about your account. Short hashtags are better than longer ones, so favor hashtags with as few characters as possible.

Hashtag Campaigns

One of the best ways to spread information about a promotion or special event it to use a hashtag associated with it. Users can discuss your event with each other, and hashtags can make your event seem a bit more official. It is important to only tag relevant posts with your campaign’s hashtag, and overusing it can be a bit annoying. The potential power of hashtag campaigns is significant, and a great campaign even has a chance of ending up in the trending section.

Social Media is Social

Before discussing using trending tags, it is important to be sure that you’re using social media the right way. It is meant to be social, so make sure you’re using it in a social manner. Users don’t want to read posts about your company, product or service all day, and refusing to post about anything unrelated to your company will keep your list of followers small. Post funny information; link to interesting articles. You might want to avoid controversial topics and edgy material, but find entertaining or informative content and share it with your followers. Doing so allows you to using trending hashtags without looking like you’re abusing the system.

Trending Hashtags

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When a topic is trending, many users search about it. If you have a great post, users might check out your account and follow it. Scan the trending section, and discover what people are talking about. If you have something useful to say, do so while attaching the trending hashtag. Multiple posts are acceptable, but don’t post too frequently, and spread your posts out over time to reach new people who are searching. Your posts don’t necessarily have to have anything to do with your business, and you don’t want to inject marketing content where it doesn’t fit naturally. That said, have some fun, and feel free to post funny or insightful information.

Ask for Feedback

Some of the most powerful posts are questions as they allow you to engage with users. In addition, responses to your question will appear when users search for a particular hashtag, which can spread you account quite far. Make sure to engage with users, and answer any questions they might have. Social media is meant to be interactive, so talk with users as much as possible. Remember to keep using hashtags where they’re appropriate.

Be a Social Media User

Social media is fun, so don’t use it exclusively for marketing your business. Try to spend a bit of free time using Twitter and other platforms that support hashtags, and learn why people enjoy using them so much. You might be surprised at how much fun they are to use. By regularly using social media platforms, you’ll develop an instinct and be able to determine what hashtags and strategies are likely to work. When you’re devising your own strategy, you won’t have to wonder how users will respond; you’ll know.

Hashtags can be powerful tools used in the right hands, but too many people succumb to cheap tricks in an attempt to draw attention. However, not all attention on social media is positive, and spamming hashtags can quickly cause users to avoid you indefinitely. Always ask how you would respond to a particular tactic. If it would cause you to look elsewhere, reconsider using it, and try to develop a more effective means of reaching out. However, don’t be afraid to take a few risks. Posting messages is free, and there is no harm in trying a strategy that fails. As long as you avoid upsetting users and don’t spam social media platforms, you are free to try as many strategies as you want.

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George Nielsen

George Nielsen has been in the internet marketing game since 2008 and is passionate about helping businesses use SEO and inbound marketing to generate leads online. He has a B.S. in Marketing Management, loves fishing, and is a big football fan.

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