Home PodcastBlog 6 Ways Hashtags Can Humanize Your Brand
6 Ways Hashtags Can Humanize Your Brand

6 Ways Hashtags Can Humanize Your Brand

November 7, 2014

You’re either: a) cringing at the thought that something as overused as hashtags can make you more human b) think that hashtags are for hipsters who like to have #ironic #fun (which is always fun)! c) have no idea what hashtags actually do or d) all of the above. Hashtags may get a bad reputation. But hashtags can be a fun, valuable, and useful way to when done right. And they can also make you more human. Here’s how:

1. Use hashtags as a tool for context

Hashtags are a tool for how to communicate. They don’t communicate for you. They simply give you a boost. They offer context.

And context is the everything behind your brand. Don’t believe me? Try texting without an emoticon. Or talking without inflection in your voice. It’s confusing. Because the heart of communication is emotion.

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And the heart of emotion is context. Context is your social human punctuation. And social human punctuation is what grows your business {click to tweet!}. It makes you more authentic. Gives you a voice. And makes you stand out.

But…how do hashtags add context? To get context right, you’ll need to…

2. Identity the platform

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (among many other platforms) all have the hashtag feature. This means that when you put the hashtag symbol (#) before a word or a phrase, the platform can sort through the content to find others sharing a similar hashtag. Here are some examples:

a. Facebook

At the top of your Facebook news feed, you’ll see the search bar. You can type in any word or phrase and find others who are sharing news or information about a particular topic. For example, if you’re into music, you can see what music others are talking about by putting the #music into the search bar. Warning: there will be a lot of noise to sift through with general topics like this. Facebook hashtags tend to work the best when you’re searching for highly specific information. Or current news.

b. Twitter

On Twitter, you enter the hashtag within a tweet itself. It’s best to place the hashtag at the end of your tweet. Or after a link to an article. When you use hashtags, you make your message immediately searchable by everyone and anyone. This has the added benefit of meeting interesting new people.

For example, my favorite way to use hashtags on Twitter is at events. Hashtags are for the water cooler moments that you can’t say aloud for a variety of reasons. Some reasons may include:

– To take digital notes.

For better or worse, there’s no longer a need to take handwritten notes when you go to events. When I attend events, I want to share what I’m learning – and spread the knowledge to my Twitter followers. When you use hashtags on Twitter when you’re at an event, you make it easy for others to “find your notes” – and also to find the physical, human version of you!

– To add onto the speaker’s ideas.

While voicing your opinions out-loud is considered rude during a speech, it’s acceptable (and even encouraged!) on Twitter. Why hoard your ideas when there are people who want to learn? For example, during a recent event I attended in NYC, the people on the panel were talking about the discrepancy between how people communicate. I tweeted that I’m shocked about this (screenshot below), while adding the hashtag for the event (#zulasummit). This prompted conversations with a number of people who were physically actually at this event…who I may have not met otherwise.

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Tip: Don’t use more than 2 – 3 hashtags per tweet. If you’re sharing an article, focus on the key message of the article within your tweet, and choose one quality hashtag (this means that you actually need to read the article. Not just share it). For example, if I were to share on article on how to be a better writer, I would choose the hashtags #writing and #creativity…and maybe the hashtag #tips if there was room. Using more than these three hashtags is unnecessary. And it often comes across spammy.

c. Instagram

Instagram is the one platform where it’s completely acceptable to “overuse” hashtags. It’s the bread and butter of social media. And it’s quite common to see up to 30 different hashtags in the comment section of a photo. For example, if you go to my Instagram page you’ll see photos of nature, food, my dog, inspirational quotes that I like, and random other moments in my life. Go follow me there (I try to keep selfies to a minimum). For each type of photo, there are always a few different ways to “tag” the theme using hashtags. Hashtagging your photos on Instagram gives other Instagram users the ability to find you (and possibly follow you) simply based on the theme of the photo. For example, when I shared this photo of the beach on Instagram on a Sunday night, I chose a number of different hashtags. You can see the hashtags in the comment section (the high-res image of the photo is below).

Tip: If you automatically share your photo from Instagram to Facebook, go into your Facebook post to “Edit” and remove the majority of the hashtags that you used on Instagram. It’s ok on Instagram. But try to limit hashtag use on Facebook.

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3. Appropriately place the hashtag

This is so super important: Don’t place your hashtag at the very beginning of your message. Remember that hashtags are a tool. Connecting should be about communicating. And building relationships. Don’t put the tool (the hashtag) before the connection. Focus on connecting through your words first. Then add the hashtag to the end of your message. Your audience will appreciate this seemingly little detail. It goes a long way to building your credibility.

4. Engage in conversations

The entire point of hashtags are to engage in conversations. You should be using them to find others who either share your interests. Whether it’s about your professional or personal interests, hashtags are meant to help you sort through the clutter. Don’t add to the clutter by using them in meaningless ways.

5. Listen 

The most important part of any conversation is the act of listening. But listening can take up a lot of time. The good news is that you don’t necessarily need to be on these platforms to listen to conversations. You can use Sprout Social (or other analysis tools) to sift through the online conversations from afar.

6. Be Silly

Being silly is the default option when using hashtags (and it’s the exact reason why hashtags are so misunderstood!) Silly hashtags makes you relatable to your audience. And it’s often these hashtags that are the most creative or nonsensical that prompt the most engagement.

For example, during Jeff Pulver’s talk on the importance of being “present’ and “in the moment” I added two silly-ish hashtags to my tweet

The Truth is often found through paradox. Can you still be “in the moment’ while live-tweeting? Maybe. Maybe not. I felt “in the moment” while I tweeted Jeff’s words. I was truly focused on Jeff’s words. But I wanted to remember his words for later (for this very article!) You could argue that if I was truly present I would simply absorb the moment…and not tweet. But I wanted to leave my “digital breadcrumb” for others to find.

While you can’t eat this type of breadcrumb, you can drop it in the digital world – to laugh at your silliness later.