Social Media Savvy: How Do I Use Tags and Hashtags?

Hey look! It's #hashtag cave art!
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Author: Teresa Johnson

When you hear the words “tag” and “hashtag,” but don’t really understand what they are – or how and why you should use them – you have two options. You can watch Jimmy Fallon’s take on hashtags, or you can review these simple how-to guidelines and get your tags and hashtags on point.

A hashtag is a word preceded by the symbol also known as the “pound” sign or “number” sign, and here’s how it looks: #this. That pound sign becomes a hashtag when it’s combined with a word (no spaces in between!) and used in online or mobile apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

What’s so cool about a hashtag? Consider it a supercharged search term. When you put a hashtag in front of a word when posting on Facebook, it tells everyone reading your post to click on that hashtagged word to see other posts about the same topic.

Likewise, when clicking on a hashtagged word in someone else’s post, you’ll see every other post on that topic. For a great example, go to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter right now and type in #ATA2016. When you search that hashtag, you’ll see all of our awesome coverage (and everyone else’s photos and posts) from the recent ATA Trade Show!

Hashtags are used to make popular topics more popular, too. For example, as the holidays draw near, you might see many small businesses using the hashtag #shopsmall to hold an online conversation about shopping with local companies. When we near Super Bowl Sunday, people will use hashtags to join a global conversation about the game, the teams and, of course, the commercials. (Just search #Clydesdales on Game Day. I dare you not to cry).

So, if a hashtag is a great way to talk about a topic in a social-media post (and make that topic searchable), a tag lets you reference a person, business or organization.

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve seen posts by friends in which they’ve typed in another friend’s name, and it shows up as blue text in their Facebook post. This is called “tagging.” They’ve created a way for audience members to know who they’re talking about in their post.

You can also use Twitter, Instagram and other apps to tag another user in your post or comments. (On Twitter, it’s called an “@mention,” but it’s essentially the same thing). You might do this to thank someone, mention their great product or service or, when an airline loses your bow case, call them out publicly for poor customer service. Facebook and Instagram also have a photo-tagging feature that lets you use a tag in a photo, which identifies that person in a picture you’ve posted.

Whenever you want to tag someone on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, you’ll start by using the @ symbol, and immediately follow it with the person’s user name for that app. For example, if you want to tag the ATA on Facebook, you’d type “@ATA Trade Show,” and it would suggest our page to you. Click on that suggestion, and Facebook highlights our name in your post, which makes our page easily accessible to those following you.

You can do the same on Twitter or Instagram, but people often employ usernames that aren’t based on their first and last names. In both apps you can search by a person’s first and last name to find their username, assuming they’re using that app.

Let’s bring hashtags and tags together in a fun example. Say I’ve been on a hunting trip, and I want to publicly thank someone on Facebook for good advice that helped me harvest my first deer. I might post something like this:

“I harvested a beautiful deer this morning! Thanks to renowned outdoor writer Patrick Durkin, who advised me to pay close attention as the sky brightens, instead of playing Candy Crush on my phone. #bowhunting #myfirstdeer #locavore #localfood”

This is a great opportunity to mention hashtags that won’t turn up a helpful search when you click on them. For example, you might see a friend who always posts things on Facebook with silly hashtags, like #tiredofcookingchicken and #needmesomevenison. We know that #needmesomevenison probably won’t turn up tons of posts on a topic, but it’s an ironic spin on the hashtag. It’s fun, but not functional.

For archery businesses, the upshot is that tags and hashtags are your friends. Sprinkle them into your posts when it makes sense to do so. For example, #archery and #bowhunting are popular hashtags, and even reference trendy topics, such as movie premieres like #HungerGames.

Are you liking our social-media pointers? Read up for more advice on using Facebook and other platforms to help boost your business!

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