January 26, 2017

The Art of the Hashtag

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The hashtag. When it first appeared, the common opinion was that the hashtag was a millennial fad that would blow over before long. Believe it or not, though, the hashtag is turning 10 years old this year – and it has become an indispensable part of several different social media platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, and even Facebook (kind of).

But why would you use a hashtag?

They’re actually a great tactic for marketing your veterinary practice on social media.
Hashtags are designed to categorize content – so, for example, if you use #marketing, your post will show up in the feeds of everyone following you, as well as in searches for #marketing. Even if the searcher isn’t already following you.
As a bonus, because hashtags create a category for content, they can also extend content life. Anyone who’s following more than 10 people on Twitter knows how quickly posts can drop off the bottom of the feed – but hashtag searches make it easier for people to find that content again.
You can also measure the impact of a hashtag using third-party tools like Hashtracking or Keyhole. This will let you see just how many people saw the hashtag, how many clicked the associated links, and more. You can even track the sentiment associated with a hashtag to make sure you don’t accidentally pick one with a negative connotation. This will come in handy if you decide to run a social media contest using a hashtag.

What’s the proper hashtag etiquette?

Although it’s as straightforward as putting a # sign before a single word or unpunctuated phrase, there are a few tricks to using a hashtag.Don’t make it too long. There’s an art to creating a hashtag, and while you want it to be specific, you also want to remember that every character in your hashtag takes up space in your tweet. So, rather than creating a #FullSentenceHashtagThatTakesUpYourTweet, build a brief, tongue-in-cheek hashtag that’s #ShortButSweet.
Numerals are also fair game for saving space in a hashtag.Make sure it means what you think it means. Too many big names have been the victims of not doing their research – and you don’t want to fall to the same fate, especially on such a public forum as Twitter.
Even if you’re pretty sure you know what it means, do your research. Sites like #tagdef will tell you exactly what a hashtag means, which comes in handy both before you make a hashtag and before you use a hashtag.
In some cases, it might be a good idea to check a pop culture resource like Urban Dictionary (check your sensitivities at the door) to make sure that you haven’t inadvertently referenced something that you really don’t want associated with your clinic’s brand.Don’t over-tag. Each social media platform has its own tolerance for hashtags, and it can be tricky to find the balance. The danger is that if over-tagging makes posts difficult to read, and in some cases, can cause readers to skip over a post without reading it. Here are some of the generally accepted tolerances:

  • Twitter: 1-2 hashtags per post
  • Facebook: 1-2 hashtags per post (although less is more – some data has shown that posts with no hashtags perform better)
  • Instagram: 11+ hashtags per post (although 2, 5, and 9 are all spikes in the data, according to research from TrackMaven)

It may seem like a daunting task to come up with that many hashtags for Instagram, but once you type in your first hashtag, it will suggest related ‘tags. You can also consult apps like All Hashtag and For Display Purposes Only, which will generate common combinations that you can use in your posts.It sounds like a lot to look out for, but once you get going, you’ll be hashtagging #LikeABoss. Now go get social!
While you’re at it, make sure to follow @LifeLearnInc on Twitter.

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