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A complete guide to Twitter hashtags

The Twitter hashtag has been in our life for a decade now, to the point that youths probably get confused when automated phone systems ask them to push the pound sign.

As reported on Twitter itself, cello classes have certainly been changed forever.

But how have hashtags changed on Twitter in the last 10 years? Have you gotten stuck in a hashtag rut without realizing it? We’ve put together this complete guide to Twitter hashtags to help answer these questions, and more.

Got a question we missed or something else to say? Find us on Twitter @UnionMetrics.

What hasn’t changed

Hashtags are still used on Twitter to organize information: Around chats like #CMWorld, fun pseudo-holidays like #StarTrekDay, breaking news like hurricanes or sporting events, or even more general terms like #marketing. Brands should still work to create unique, meaningful, concise hashtags for their campaigns or even for their brand more generally, if that feels like a good fit and one can be created that’s workable across platforms.

Hashtags are still a great way for your brand to spend some time seeing who is talking about certain things in your industry, how they talk to one another, and if there’s anything unique about how your target audience and/or competitors use hashtags on Twitter.

You still want to keep hashtags to a minimum, using one or two at most; more than that starts to appear spammy fast. With a limited amount of characters to work with you want to use the space you have to communicate the messages of your brand, not a bunch of hashtags.

See what has changed—  for your brand specifically

Hashtags on Twitter are not a requirement; your tweet isn’t doomed to failure if you don’t include one. It could even make sense for your particular brand to use them rarely and very purposefully. Every audience is unique, so even if your brand has seen a lot of success using hashtags in the past, you may want to test using different or fewer hashtags in the present to see how your audience responds.

To see how the hashtags you’re currently using perform, run a short audit. Ask: Which hashtags do you currently use and how are they performing for you? Depending on how much time you have you can do a deeper dive into your Twitter performance over time, or simply take a look at your recent five best and worst performing tweets.

Check the following for each tweet:

  • Did they include hashtags?
  • Which one(s) did they include?
  • Did you use more than one?
  • Did the hashtag fit the content of the tweet?
  • Was it hashtag you’ve used before?

For your next step, take the tweets that have performed well for you and do a Twitter search with them; what other hashtags come up in those results that are related? You can also run a free Twitter snapshot report to see what related hashtags are used in the tweets it returns, in addition to comparing the hashtag’s reach and exposure to others that you’re using and testing.

From this you can create a working list of hashtags to search before you use them, double-checking to be sure they’re not spammy or otherwise compromised (some terms are used as slang and might have a meaning you don’t want associated with your brand; best-case scenario using them incorrectly would just make your brand look out of touch and at worst you might have a PR crisis of your own making on your hands).

From that list, narrow it down to a few you can test in your tweets going forward.

The bottom line

Since Twitter first started it has evolved a lot in terms of the media you can communicate in using it, and so hashtags have naturally evolved along with that. Everything always comes down to what your particular fans and followers and target audience are interested in and respond to.

An industry that tends to spawn tight-knit communities might want a branded hashtag from you that they can use to stay connected and ask your brand questions. One that’s busier and full of noise might want the fewest CTAs possible on tweets, so you should consider only using the most important and meaningful hashtags that won’t take away from anything else you want your audience to do, like click to play a video in a tweet or a link to your website.

To figure this out, you need to measure. Of course we’d be happy if you chose Union Metrics- we have a number of plans to choose from to suit most different team needs and resources- but the bottom line is that you need to have some way of seeing how your performance is doing over time with the ability to isolate different elements to see what exactly is driving success or failure in your social content.

Find something that works for your brand and stick to it while leaving enough room to experiment.

Specific, actionable social intelligence. See how Union Metrics helps marketers win.

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