Hashtags are a wonderful way to tap into larger trends, broaden the audience for a given piece of content, or add a bit of additional humor into your post. However, there is a dark side to the hashtag… Far too many become addicted to using them. They begin to cram every bit of available space with hashtags, even if they’re misleading or irrelevant to the content of the tweet. You know the sort, we’ve all seen them.

See how bloody annoying that is? Don’t be that person. (Apologies to the followers that had to see that from me)

Some quick tips to keep you from straying to the dark side of the tag…

#1 Hashtags are Not Glitter: The Rule of Three

Hashtags are not glitter, more does not equal better

Glitter is awesome. (Glitter haters to the left) And everyone knows you cannot have just a few dots of glitter. Where there is some, there is GLITTER LEGION. Hashtags are pretty much the opposite of glitter. They are best used sparingly, and with purpose.

The general rule of thumb is no more than three hashtags per tweet. Any more than that and you run the risk of looking like you care more about surfacing to a larger audience than the quality of your content. Plus, hashtag-laden tweets are hard to read. If you’re flooding your tweets with tags, don’t be surprised if you start losing followers.

In general, you want:

  • Brand or campaign specific tag (ex. #IntoTheDead)
  • Related or contextual tag (ex. #zombies)
  • Another related tag, or something playful ‘for the lulz’ (ex. #SlayBells – for an Xmas themed zombie-slaying tweet)

Note: If you’re livetweeting a conference, you’ll want at least one of the above to be the official conference tag.

In short, if you’re using more than 3 hashtags per tweet you damn well better have a good reason for it. If you push it up into the 5+ realm, you’re typically just being obnoxious.

#2 Research First

Before you use a hashtag, ALWAYS do a quick search against it to see if it has any existing meanings or usages that would be damaging to your or your brand. This is critical if you’re representing a brand, as it can be really easy to misstep and use a hashtag that can cause serious damage to the company image.

My favorite example:

When I was working for PikPok, they were releasing a new game ‘Flick Kick Football Legends’. Hell of a long title, and not one that translates well into a hashtag. #FlickKickFootballLegends eats up a whopping 25 out of 140 characters, and isn’t something you’re going to get a lot of people to use.

So I thought ‘Hey, why not use #FKFL?’. Luckily I researched that hashtag before we put it in any official materials. It turns out that ‘FKFL’ is short for ‘Fat Kid For Life’. At the time it was a frequently used hashtag that was filled with delicious looking food. Not really the best place for a game about pseudo 1970s soccer players, eh?

That’s a pretty tame example, but the potential for some serious damage is out there. Just do a quick check, make sure you’re not using something that could otherwise hurt your message and larger brand. It takes just a few seconds, but can save you a huge world of hurt.

#3 Only Use Relevant Tags

This one is simple: If it’s not relevant to your tweet, DON’T USE IT.

For example:

My tweet has nothing to do with The Walking Dead, potatoes, kittens, or butts. Adding those hashtags in just comes across as a blatant attempt to get views from people who are interested in those topics. But because my content has NOTHING to do with any of those, it’s just likely to piss off the people who *are* interested in those topics. It’s disingenuous and skeevy. If you want to remain trustworthy and respected by your followers, don’t do it!

Additional Resources

NOTE: Topsy.com was originally listed in this section. As of publishing, it has been removed by Apple, and has since been edited out of the list. Thanks Jared!
Questions, comments, your best potato-centric recipe suggestion? Drop me a line in the comments, or @boopsocial!

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  1. Unfortunately, it appears Apple has shut Topsy.com down. (Business Insider has an article on it, but I don’t know if you want links posted in your comments.)

    Does the swipe left search offer any benefit that Topsy once did? I can’t see it immediately, but I might be missing something. Also, thank you for the great tips on hashtags.

    • Tara J. Brannigan says:

      Oh no! Thanks for that Jared, will do a quick update! Topsy has been my go-to for a few years now, sad to see it go.

      I haven’t played around much with the swipe-left functionality myself yet. Will have to play around a bit and see what I can find.

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