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Using # Hashtags # : An Effective Tool For Social Media Marketing

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#Socialmedia has witnessed a predominant use of hashtags over the past few years. Ever wondered what they are and why are their use is so rampant?. Well,  hashtags generally consist of a word or phrase preceded by a # symbol. On microblogging or social networking sites, hashtags can be inserted anywhere within a post: before the body of a post, within the body of a post. This makes it possible to group messages or posts into specific categories, since one can search for the hashtag and get the set of posts that contain the same category. For obvious reasons, we have seen hashtags spread like wildfire all over social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest and many others. 

Twitter, being one of the first sites to implement hashtags, has proven to be more effective for engagement purposes. Here are a few rules one should follow when using hashtags, so as to make their use both effective and appropriate.

1. Choosing hashtags wisely

Never just hashtag silly words. From recent statistics, words like #me, #love, #followme that were hastagged were among the most generic words one could ever use. It is important to choose hashtags wisely since the intent of using it isn't likely for your readers. Perhaps the actual intent behind hash tags is to help other people discover your article when they click on a relevant hashtag. As an example, an article or blog from an IT solutions company posted to a social networking website could include hashtags like #webdevelopment or #applications.

2. Using hashtags sparingly

How many #hashtags could a #hashtagger #tag if a #hashtag could be #tagged?. Confused?. The statement I used above looks dodgy, probably because I've used too many unnecessary hashtags.   

According to statistics, posts with more than 2 hashtags have diminishing chances of being retweeted than posts which contain one or two hashtags. From a user perspective, using too many hashtags makes a post look like spam, just like the one above. Often when I see folks using four or five hashtags, it appears as though they are just covering their bases, using every possible iteration of certain phrases the same way they use keywords on websites, just to make sure they don’t leave anything out. If every post, update, tweet has a hashtag, it just looks like you’re trying to sell something so you should avoid doing that

Hashtags can certainly be used an effective tool to promote, discover and organize information but when creating a hashtag, proper etiquette is key. The misuse, or overuse, of hashtags can lead to permanent account suspensions, unfollowing, and/or upsetting the social media community. 

Apart from this it is important to ensure hashtags directly relate to the topic being discussed. Hashtags only work when they are relevant and take you some place meaningful when you click on them, which brings us to the third point.

3. Testing your hashtags

Placing a "%" or "$" sign in front of a word or phrase and making a hashtag out of this is just silly. When you make a hashtag click on them and see what other types of content show up. This could give you a brief idea of the relevance of your hashtag with the topic you are contemplating. If you end up with some random unfocused material then the best thing would be is to skip that hashtag. The exclusive use of hashtags should be directed primarily towards something that you are offering.  

Don't know how to test them?. It's simple. Log on to your Facebook account and change your status update setting to "Only Me". Put a few hashtag options in an update, publish it and click to see what relevant content you can find. Since the post is set in "Only Me" mode, you're the only one who will see it, and you can always delete it when you're done testing. 



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