Ah, the hashtag.
It's the previously underrated pound sign that has revolutionized social media.
A typographical symbol with power, the hashtag has infiltrated contemporary culture and marketing techniques.
In the first days of Twitter, the hashtag was primarily used by the early and eager social media users.
Today, they are embraced by all ages and demographics, from middle-aged marketing experts to middle schoolers posting status updates about their weekends.
As a lifeguard three summers ago, I even witnessed a group of fifth graders replace the traditional “Marco, Polo” with “Hashtag, YOLO."
The hashtag is inescapable.
According to some bloggers, they are ruining the English language.
Regardless of negative opinion, the hashtag has made its mark on society, and it won't be going away any time soon.
Whether it is Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, the hashtag is used to not only identify a post, but to also categorize it in the greater scope of the social media universe.
It allows us to see what topics are trending, to see what's going on around the world and to join in on the painstakingly crucial debate, hotdogs or legs?
The truth is, hashtags are both widely misused and misunderstood, as shown by Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon in their humorous “#Hashtag” sketch.
Even if you use the hashtag daily, are you sure you're using the hashtag right?
If you've violated any of these hashtag don'ts, my guess is no.
Here are six ways to hashtag properly:
Just because tweets are restricted to 140 characters, that doesn't mean you should cram as many words as you can into your hashtag, too.
While this method can be used to be humorous, a crazy long hashtag will never be taken seriously.
In most cases, it will come off as annoying.
Don't do it.
2. #Do #Not #Tag #Every #Single #Word #On #Your #Post.
Seriously, don't be that guy.
Remember how I said hashtags are useful to categorize posts?
Well, adding as many hashtags to your sentence as possible doesn't add any extra value for your followers, and it sure won't help you gain any.
Excessive hashtags make your dialogue on social media seem forced and overwhelming, and your post will come across as spam.
3. Don't use spaces or punctuation.
Make sure that there are no spaces or punctuation marks preceding or following the hashtag.
It will break the link, and the hashtag will be rendered useless.
4. Use proper spelling for your #hashtag.
A finely tuned tweet can go to waste with a simple spelling error.
This will send your post into the oblivion of misspelled hashtags, and there's no bringing it back.
And, they might enter you into social media dialogue that you have no interest in.
For example, “#FeelTheBarn” may lead you to a community of empathetic farmers, but it won't provide any information on Senator Sanders' presidential campaign.
5. Start a conversation.
If you're an avid social media user, then you understand that hashtags can create a trending topic.
With examples like #PrayForParis, #FridayThe13th and the classic #ThrowbackThursday, hashtags have the ability to bring together people from all over to share their stories and snapshots of their lives.
A well-constructed, thoughtful hashtag can gain you followers and boost your interaction.
6. Trends are not that relevant.
Do not make up a hashtag for the sake of having more hashtags on your post.
They are useless, they will be ignored and they will do nothing to boost your interaction with fellow social media-ites.
Just because you like the hashtag, it doesn't mean others will.
Irrelevant hashtags will not promote your name or brand identity, so steer clear from them.
Hashtags are a great way to get people talking.
It's more than a simple collection of characters; it's a tool to reach new audiences, initiate conversations and connect with like-minded people.
When used properly, they are extremely valuable.
Ask yourself: Are your hashtags worthy of being part of a social media discussion?