Blogging used to be so easy. You would write a post, do a little SEO work on it and BAM! people would be reading about how cute your kittens are or about the amazing sandwich you made.
Fast forward about 10 years and everything is now so much more complicated. Now it’s so much more than simply writing an article. That’s actually the easy part! Now once the article is written (making sure it’s written to strict SEO specifications of course) you then need to post it to different social media sites, use proper hashtags, post links to social news sites and then do some what-hat back linking. All this for one article?
Lets zoom in on the one thing we are focusing in on this post, and that’s hashtags. Just put a little pound sign in front of a key word when using Twitter, right? Um, yea, sure, if you are only using Twitter. Did you know Facebook, Instagram, Google Plus, Pinterest, Tumblr and Flicker are using hashtags as well? And there is more to it than just that little tic-tac-to symbol.
Before you go out and hire some fancy advertising agency to take over your social media campaign or curl up into a ball and cry while you consider a less technical career, let me try to break this one down for you so you can get a grasp on what each social media site is looking for.
What does a hashtag even do you ask? Have you read this far and still don’t know what a hashtag is? Kudos to you for your patience and willingness to read! Hashtags are custom tags you create that create searchable phrases. Lets say there is a new episode of “Walking Dead” on tonight and you want to write a post about it. Adding the hashtag #Walkingdead might get it found quickly by someone on that same social site looking for news, info or just other like-minds talking about Walking Dead.
The first rule of hashtags – and this one applies to all social media sites – is to not over use them. Every time I hear the term hashtag, I think about the Jimmy Fallon skit where he and Justin Timberlake work hashtags into everyday conversation. If you haven’t seen it, check out #hashtag on YouTube.
Next, consider why you are using the hashtag and will it really benefit your post. By that I mean, will anyone really search for your hashtag? Events, movie titles, tv show titles, song names, actors, actresses, singers, etc. will tend to do well. These are things other people will most likely be doing searches for. Things like #IKindOfFeelLikeATacoToady might not trend as well as you think, no matter how much you feel like a taco.
First stop on the hashtag-train is Twitter. If my memory servers me right, Twitter was the granddaddy of the hashtag. From there, all of the other social sites followed suit. What you want to keep in mind when adding hashtags to Twitter is that they don’t allow and of the funny characters other than the hashtag and an underscore. So keep your hashtag to just letters, numbers and if needed, an underscore.
You are not limited to characters, other than staying within the typical 140 character count.
Unlike Twitter, with Facebook you can add any number of hashtags to your post because there is no character limit. Although, like I mentioned earlier, keep it limited. Stick to trending topics and nothing too generic or ambiguous. To search for other posts using a hashtag, you can either click on one that you see to see more posts using that hashtag, or you can do a search by going to: https://facebook.com/hashtag/(key word here). So for example, I want to find a good taco recipe or find other people enjoying tacos, I would go to https://facebook.com/hashtag/taco (notice no hashtag, just the word).
By doing this, your results make look something like this:
Tumblr is one of my favorite sites to use hashtags on as well as search for things using hashtags. When you create a new post, you basically have 3 options – add a title, body copy and add a tag. Simply add a few relevant hashtags and hit Post. Here is an example of what the area looks like on Tumblr:
Now if you are like me and set your blog posts up to autopost from your WordPress site, you can always go back and add hashtags by finding and existing post and pressing the Gear icon at the bottom right of the post and clicking on Edit.
I highly recommend hashtags on Tumblr because it can really improve the chances of your post being found. Tumblr blogs are free and there are tons of users. The chances of someone tripping over your post is slim unless you are properly tagging each post.
Now unlike Twitter, you can add to your hashtags things like spaces, apostrophes, commas, periods, and pretty much any other symbol you like. The problem here is finding the right combination to get your post to trend or be found. When to add a space or not add a space or hyphen. This is something you will have to play around with by doing a search for your different hashtag spellings in the search box to see what one is trending better.
Also unlike Twitter and Facebook, Tumblr only lets the first 5 hashtags you add be searchable. This means you need to make your hashtags count.
Nothing to different when tagging on Flickr. The photo giant allows for any character to be used although I have heard its better to just use letters and numbers. I use Flickr but just for uploading family photos, so I don’t use their hashtags much. I do know that Flickr introduced hashtags to make searching for type of photos easier as well as searching on their iOS app easier.
Following the path of the other social sites, Pinterest allows for all characters and any number of hashtags to be attached to a pin. Searching for keywords or hashtags is easy. Just add your keyword or hashtag to the large search box at the top of the page and you get your results.
Adding hashtags to a new pin or repin is just as easy. Simply add it in the Description box of your pin and you are all set.
I don’t find that hashtags on Pinterest add much value, since you can just as easily search for a keyword that’s already in a pin, but if it makes them feel cool or if it helps when cross-promoting with other social networks, than its good to use.
Instagram is an important one to be using hashtags on, ranking right up there with Twitter and Tumblr I feel. Also like Twitter, you should not be using anything other than letters, number and an underscore. You can add up to 30 hashtags per photo and doing this will definitely help get you more traffic if you are using trending tags.
Something that Instagram does that helps boost hashtag traffic they have something called Hashtag Games. If you use Instragram and want to get your photos trending, I highly recommend looking into a Hashtag game that fits your niche.
Much like the other social networks, using popular and trending hashtags is important, but locations are the most popular, seeing as how people may be interested in where you were when you took a specific photo.
What is also great about Instagram hashtags is this little gem called Websta. It shows the top 100 hashtags in Instagram and will also break them down by country or Instagramers. Definitely something to consider looking at before or even after you have posted.
Last but definitely not least, we have Google Plus. Stick with the basics as far as writing your hashtags with these guys. I’ve heard that they allow anything except for spaces and all numbers. There are no known limits to the number of hashtags or length of hashtags that you can use, so just be smart about it and keep it simple.
Google seems to be trying something a little different with their hashtags. Things like cities and actors don’t trend as well, while more descriptive things like (can you guess what I’m going to try searching for?) #TacoTuesdays might trend well.
Something else that Google Plus does is automatically adds what it feels is a good hashtag to your post for you if you don’t add one yourself. This can be really useful if you auto-pot your WordPress articles right to Google Plus instead of doing it manually. I didn’t even realize they did this until I started searching on how to properly optimize hashtags for Google Plus.
If you are looking for some analytical data on Google Plus, you can try something like Cyfe, but for the most part (as with most Google products) you are left to guess and experiment to see what works.
For the most past, if you keep your hashtags limited to letters and numbers, limit the number of hashtags to 5 or less, keep them short and relevant, you will have good luck drawing in new traffic using them. The key right now is to just get out there and use hashtags with your posts and see what works before for your topic.