10 Hashtag Tips

Why bother using a hashtag, a keyword phrase used in Twitter conversations that is written without spaces between words and is preceded by a pound (#) sign, i.e. #writinghacks?

The hashtag brings conversations on the same topic under a single thread to make it convenient for those interested in that topic to find all the information about it.

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The use of hashtags isn't just for Twitter. You can use them on other micro-blogging platforms, like Google+, identi.ca, Instagram, and even Facebook.


Hashtags can tie conversations together from social media users in different countries. Just click the click a hashtag in a message, and you'll see the list of posts using the same one.

Hashtags also allow an audience to interact live during events. I'm sure you've seen the host of a TV show exhorting you to "Tweet hashtag such and such. They're useful for TV shows, conferences, political events, and other kinds of events.

You can find lists of popular hashtags at Hashtags.org. If you use HootSuite, a third-party downloadable Twitter app, you can use it to monitor hashtag activity too.

What To Do Next: 10 Tips

1. Find out if there's already a hashtag you can use by searching Search.Twitter.com for a list of those used in the past. You'll find out if the hashtag you find is currently active. If you find an existing one that's active, it might be better to use one that also hits the target audience but not used as frequently.

2. If there is no existing hashtag, you can register one. Go to Hashtags.org and sign up for a free account. In the right sidebar you'll see HASHTAGS verified. Click ADD YOUR HASHTAG DEFINITION and fill out the form. Be sure and proofread so you don't have a typo in your desired hashtag.

3. Be smart when creating a hashtag to register. The best hashtags are those that are concise, direct to the point, and universally relatable. Avoid the words love or hate or a word. Those hashtags do not fare well with the powers that be. Also avoid sensationalism. You don't want to unwittingly create a social or political furor because of a hashtag. Think it through carefully.

4. Be careful how you use a hashtag. Twitter has a policy on this of course.

"The following usages could cause your Twitter account to be filtered from search, or even suspended:

a) Adding one or more topic/hashtag to an unrelated tweet in an attempt to gain attention in search.

b) Repeatedly tweeting the same topic/hashtag without adding value to the conversation in an attempt to get the topic trending/trending higher. (The general rule is: If you Retweet something, remove the existing hashtag and add a similar one.)

5. Be specific when you use a hashtag. This is an example given on a hashtags.org article I read: if you’re a huge Game of Thrones fan, the hashtag #gameofthrones is better than #HBOshows.

6. Don't use too many hashtags. Two hashtags is the general rule. Too many hashtags is annoying to see and will result in your tweet not being read. Many will Unfollow you if your tweets are like this.

7. Design the best hashtag which is composed of a single word or a few letters. You should keep the hashtag under 6 characters according to Twitter experts. This is hard to do. All my registered hashtags – #writinghacks, #wordplay, #thursday3some, #slingwords, #writtenwisdom – are more than 6 characters with the longest #writtenwisdom weighing in at 13 characters and the shortest #wordplay weighing in at 8 characters. Sometimes you have to work with what you've got.

8. When creating a hashtag, use only numbers and letters in your keyword. You may use an underscore but I personally hate any hashtag or URL with an underscore. They're too hard to miss when the entire link becomes underscored. I've noticed a recent trend of people creating Twitter handles with an underscore at the end. Please don't do this. It's hard to pick up that final underscore.)

9. Learn what is not allowed in hashtags:

a) beginning the hashtag with a number
b) hashtags composed of all numbers
c) special characters like “!, $, %, ^, &, *, +, ”
d) hyphens or dashes.

10. Be careful using slang in hashtags because slang words can mean something different in another country. Effective hashtags are relatable across cultures in other words it means the same thing in France that it means in the U.S.

Takeaway Truth

When you learn the social media tricks, your efforts will be more effective and your time better spent.

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