11 Questions to Help You Choose the Right Hashtag

11 Questions to Help You Choose the Right Hashtag

You’re launching a campaign, hosting an event or trying to get the word out about a cause…

It makes sense to use a hashtag to distinguish your messages from millions of others floating around twitter and instagram. But choosing the right hashtag can be a daunting task. Here are 11 tips to consider, before you hit the # key and send your messages off.

1. Is the hashtag already taken?

This is the first question that bears asking. You can search for posts on both Twitter and Instagram to see if a tag has been used in the recent past. If it has, you should probably move on.

2. Is the hashtag too long?

Twitter recently upped their character limit to 280 (but not in all languages). This helps, but replying and re-tweeting messages can eat up those additional characters fast. Nothing kills a conversation quicker than running out of space, which is sure to happen if you choose a too long hashtag. Plus longer hashtags are more prone to typos and being forgotten.  Try to keep your tag to 10 characters or less.

3. Does the hashtag make sense?

It’s tempting, and often smart, to use initials & abbreviations to keep your hashtag short. But this only works if your audience is already familiar with this form of shorthand. For example, conferences routinely use abbreviations: #BWE12, #NonCon, occasionally adding in the year. If you are shortening a term, make sure to make that shorthand standard and make it public on your site and/or in your marketing materials from as early a date possible to avoid obscurity.

4. Is the hashtag an attention grabber?

Consider adding a short action/emphasis word to your tag if you want to amp up the attention. Words like now, go, win, stop are action oriented and create a reader disruption when combined with your brand/message. Example: #GOBRONCOS, #CRUISENOW

5. Does the hashtag rely on camel casing?

Camel casing (using upper and lower cases to seperate words) a hashtag may look great, and add emphasis, but in practice tends to fall apart. #TheEnd becomes #theend which doesn’t read well sans camel casing. Even worse, camel casing can lead to inappropriate messages.

6. Does the hashtag contain a word that is hard to spell, commonly misspelled or that has more than one spelling?

It’s also a good idea to avoid words that are frequently misspelled or that have more than one spelling. #Caribbean #Grey are two examples.

7. How does the hashtag tell your story? How does it relate to your brand or help you to achieve your ultimate goal?

Keep your goals in mind. Your hashtag should be a reflection of the action or impression you wish to create.

8. Will you be using the hashtag again?

Whether you intend to use the hashtag in a recurring fashion, or not, you should consider whether you could. If your hashtag is an accurate reflection of your long AND short-term goals, it will have legs.

9. How will the hashtag play on other forms of social media?

Even if you don’t plan to use the tag on other sites at this time, consider whether you might want to in the future. Would the tag transfer? If someone used the tag in a Facebook update or wall post, would it register with the reader? The best hashtags are immediately understood and continue to have impact, even when used away from the original medium.

10. Who will (ideally) be using this hashtag?

Keep your user in mind. If they are part of a small special interest group, and are interested in a closed conversation, creating a viral, trending tag is not a priority so much as creating a tag that works well for the group members.

11. Will this hashtag offend or anger anyone?

Before you settle on a hashtag, consider whether there might be any negative fall out. Even if the hashtag has never been used, it could be “owned” in the sense that it is already a common phrase familiar to others & being used by someone else. If your hashtag is unintentionally rude or offensive, it’s unlikely to generate the successful outcome you desire.

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