(This post was originally published on January 26, 2017 and has been updated to be more awesome.)
When the hashtag first appeared on Twitter in 2007, the common opinion was that the hashtag was a fad that wouldn’t last. Today, the hashtag has become an indispensable part of many different social media platforms, including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
Why use a hashtag?
Hashtags are a great way for marketing your practice better on social media.
Hashtags are designed to categorize content. 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 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 applying a hashtag is 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 a post. So, rather than creating a #FullSentenceHashtagThatTakesUpYourWholePost, build a hashtag that’s #ShortButSweet.
Numerals are also fair game for saving space in a hashtag.
Make sure your hashtag 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 the public forum of social media. Even if you’re pretty sure you know what your hashtag means, do your research. Sites like tagdef will tell you exactly what a hashtag means, which comes in handy before you make and 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. Over-tagging makes posts difficult to read, and in some cases, causes readers to skip over a post without reading it. Tweets with 1-2 hashtags, for example, see (on average) 21% more engagement than Tweets with three or more hashtags.
To save you time in coming up with hashtags, many social platforms like LinkedIn and Instagram automatically suggest related tags. If you’re making a post on LinkedIn, for example, and start keying in the hashtag #veterinary, LinkedIn will automatically present a dropdown list containing hashtags that you may also wish to use, including #veterinarytechnician and #veterinarymedicine. 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 may all sound like a lot of work, but once you get going, you’ll be hashtagging #LikeABoss.