I’ve been a professional social media executive (aka ‘Twitter girl’) since 2010 in one form or another. Twitter hashtags are one of my pet peeves, because while some individuals and companies nail them every time (yup, I’m jealous), some just don’t understand them.

Which is fine.

If you don’t use them.

If you do use them – and they can be really beneficial when done properly – here are some things to consider.

01. Hashtag consciously

A lot of companies include hashtags in their tweets at random intervals without conscious decisions being made. It’s almost like they’re using them as a form of social media punctuation. I’m not going to call anyone out publicly with examples, but it’s this kind of style:

Are you #ducking out of your #responsibilites? Try #delegating to save time.

How many people do you think are searching for ‘ducking’ as a hashtag and as a result will read your tweet and decide to follow you/convert?

I’d guess zero. If you’re lucky, you might get a Donald Duck parody robot.

Plenty of people use hashtags for a punchline or to be ironic, or to start their own trend, and that’s fine. It’s not always about people searching for hashtags and reaching you that way. But in this example, the company isn’t trying to do any of those things. In fact, it could even distract their existing followers who are reading their tweets because hashtags create links that can take users away from your content too.

It also sends the message that they don’t really understand Twitter. If it’s an individual and you find them interesting generally, it’s not so bad. If it’s a company trying to be seen as an authority, you’re probably going to be more put off.

Don’t just hashtag random words. Use common sense, do a bit of searching around, and use data from your niche and around the internet to create some practical hashtags.

02. Always search a hashtag before using it

A lot of hashtags attract spam and even porn, so do a quick search on Twitter to see what the results look like. It’s also crucial to check that the hashtag means what you think it means, and you’re using it relevantly rather than accidentally jumping into someone’s existing event. Equally, if you’re using hashtags to create bigger audiences, you want to make sure the hashtag has a decent number of uses and that it was used recently.

03. Other people’s hashtags

Using a hashtag that’s already being used by a particular group is a great way to begin involving yourself in a ready-made community. Google ‘Twitter chats’, see if your favourite companies are hosting any (and if they aren’t ask them to!), and check out this list of Twitter chats or this step-by-step guide to find some you’re interested in. Don’t forget to search the hashtag first to make sure it’s the kind of chat you’re looking for and that it’s still active

Always start by adding value by answering other people’s questions or asking them about themselves and their business. Saying you’re new to the chat usually means the organiser takes you under their wing a bit too. If you’re tweeting with the hashtag but struggling to raise interest, try engaging another participant directly with an @ mention.

There are also regular weekly trends on Twitter you can get on board with, e.g. #mondaymotivation (here are some more). Only get involved in hashtags that are genuinely useful to and related to your business. You wouldn’t jump into a Twitter chat for local businesses in Banbury if your local business is based in Aberdeen, so don’t shoehorn yourself into trends about politics or celebrities either. People will see what you’re doing and not be impressed (plus, you won’t attract a relevant audience so it’s pretty pointless).

Again on the local theme, city, state and country hashtags get used and searched regularly (some have twitter chats tied in), so they’re always worth a look.

04. Create your own hashtags for collation

A lot of people only create hashtags for events, but you can also use them to group your own tweets by type or topic. For example, you could create a branded hashtag and use it every time you share a blog post so people can find a complete list of your posts in one place. You can even narrow it down further by topic if you create a lot of content. This is also great if you’re part of a group of bloggers or participate in link ups as you can see all member tweets/posts easily, even over a long period of time. If you’re doing this, set up a Twitter list as well for best results.

05. Use title case (camel case) for multiple word hashtags

It’s a simple thing, but it’s much harder to read #sourgent compared to #SoUrgent. Yes, it’s more characters to type on a mobile. Sorry.

In a similar vein, don’t forget that punctuation and special characters will end your hashtag. For that reason I try to avoid words like ‘I’ll’, which just becomes ‘Ill’ in hashtag form.

And that brings us to the end of this post! Have fun hashtagging!

How do you use hashtags on Twitter?