Hashtags? What’s a Hashtag?

hashtagsOn our recent summer vacation, my wife and her aunt were comparing notes about the social media they use and don’t use. Then all of a sudden the conversation got heated. The reason? Hashtags.

They both said they were constantly hearing about hashtags but they had no idea what they were or how to use them. And it was seriously bugging them.

Hashtags really are everywhere these days. Hashtag was even chosen “Word of the Year” by the American Dialect Society in 2012.

(On the flip side, hashtag was one of the English words banned by the French government’s Academie Francaise.)

Whether you use social media simply to be social – to keep up with friends, post pictures, etc. – or to help market your business and engage your customer base, you’ll get more out of your experience if you know what a hashtag is and know how to properly use them. The good news: it’s quite simple.

How to Create a Hashtag

There are only two requirements for all hashtags:

  1. They start with this symbol: # (it’s the number or pound sign that’s above the 3 on your computer keyboard).
  2. They have no spaces at all in them. So, for example, #EarthLinkBusiness or #ITservices are valid hashtags, but # EarthLinkBusiness, #EarthLink Business, # ITservices or #IT services are not because of the spaces.

Hashtags can be a single word, multiple words, numbers, or words and numbers as long as they start with the # sign and have no spaces.

What are Hashtags For?

The most basic function of hashtags is to help categorize, organize, and connect with content. They were popularized on Twitter because they helped those tweeting reach a wider audience interested in their topics.

If I tweeted about a new cloud hosting service offered by EarthLink Business I’d probably add a #CloudHosting hashtag (and probably also #CloudComputing) to help categorize the tweet.

They are also sometimes used to specify a location. If, for example, I tweet a picture I’ve taken, I may add a hashtag for the location.

On Twitter, if you click on a hashtag or search for a hashtag, you’ll see all the recent tweets using that hashtag. For that reason, they can really help you find information and spread information about any topic.

They are also used to for events such as conventions, webinars, classes, online chats, Q&A sessions and other group discussions. Typically the event organizer or leader will create an official event hashtag; then all attendees can follow that hashtag to keep up with event information and discuss the event’s topic with each other. Even those not at the event can follow along this way.

Businesses are now often using hashtags for online promotions and contests. You may, for example, be asked to include the hashtag for a contest on Twitter to enter.

Hashtag Tips

  • How long? There is technically no character limit on a hashtag, but if you are using a hashtag on a social network like Twitter, the characters in the hashtag count towards the overall 140 character limit. So if you had a 120-character hashtag, you’d only have 20 left over for your post. It’s recommended that you keep your hashtags as short as possible.
  • How many? Similarly, there isn’t a rule about how many hashtags you can use in one Twitter post, but you should be mindful not to overuse them. On the one hand, research has shown that tweets that include hashtags typically get 2x the engagement compared to tweets without hashtags. But tweets with more than two hashtags show a 17% drop in engagement. So, try to limit your hashtags to one or two.
  • Where to put them? You can add a hashtag anywhere within a tweet – beginning, middle or end – but it’s most common to see them at the end.
  • Where to use them? Twitter is ground zero for hashtags, but they are now also used on Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumbler, Pinterest and Vine. Click the following links for hashtag help from Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
  • Capitalization or not? Capitalization doesn’t matter for hashtags. #EarthLinkBusiness and #earthlinkbusiness are considered the exact same hashtag. When using a multi-word hashtag, capitalization can help the readability (and therefore shareability) of the hashtag. So, when tweeting about our EarthLink Business SIP Trunking phone service, for example, we would typically format the hashtag as #SIPTrunking  vs. #siptrunking.
  • Stay relevant! Make sure your hashtags relate to your posts. If not, it’s seen as a form of spam. Don’t drop a hashtag into your post because it’s popular unless it is relevant.
  • Don’t use for emphasis. This really is part of our advice to stay relevant but I’ll call it out separately because what makes hashtags confusing for many is the way some people are using them: to #make #a #point or #SHOUT. At their most confusing, hashtags are used almost like ALL CAPS or bold or italics to emphasize some random words within the post.
  • Test them. One way decide if a hashtag is a good one for your topic is to search for those hashtags and see what content comes up. If it’s totally random stuff or off topic from what you thought, it may not be a good hashtag for you. It is especially important to test event or contest related hashtags to make sure they are unique to your event. Otherwise, your event participants could be totally confused by unrelated posts.

New Facebook Search – Time to Check Your Privacy Settings?

Way back in January, we posted about Facebook’s announcement of a coming new search engine they were calling Graph Search.

Well, it’s finally here.

Click here to see Facebook’s official Introduction to Graph Search. It’s a nice-looking overview, and if for some reason the new search isn’t active on your Facebook page yet, you can click the Try Graph Search button at the bottom of the page to activate it.

Privacy Shortcut menu on Facebook

But before you go play around with Facebook’s new Graph Search engine, you might first want to review your own Facebook presence and change some of your privacy settings.

Why? Because the new Facebook search indexes your public posts, your likes, your photos, all your interests and other data you’ve shared on Facebook – and it makes all your information as easy as possible for everyone else on Facebook to find.

So, if you don’t want your boss, your ex-wife, your neighbor, or anyone else – even if they are not your friends – to have access to all your Facebook information, you should take some time to review your Facebook account and your privacy settings. Here’s how to do it:

Reviewing & Changing Your Facebook Privacy Settings

  1. Sign in to Facebook.
  2. ClicFacebook Privacy Shortcut iconk the lock icon at the top of your page (show to the right) to open your Privacy Shortcuts menu (shown above).
  3. Click Who can see my stuff? to open some privacy options.
  4. Click the first option if you want to change who can see your future posts (Friends, Close Friends, Public, etc.).
  5. Click the next Privacy Shortcut option (Use Activity Log) if you want to go back and review the visibility of all of your past Facebook activity (old posts, comments, photos, likes, etc.). This is where you can make individual changes and delete items you don’t want to show up in future searches. Click the pencil icon to “unlike” previous likes (of photos, posts, businesses, etc.) or to delete posts and photos, or change the timeline status of previous posts. Click the people icon next to any post for which you want to change the audience, for example, from Public to Friends. On the left side of this Activity Log page you can also click Photos to manage who can see photos you’ve uploaded or been tagged in. If you don’t want people to find photos of you that your friends have tagged, you can untag yourself.
  6. The next option in your Privacy Shortcuts is called View As. Click that link if you want to see what other people see on your timeline. You can see what your Facebook page looks like to the Public (people you don’t know) or specific people.
  7. To change who can see what on your page, click the Update Info button on your Cover image (you can also click the About link). You can then go section by section down your page to specify who gets to see this information. Below your personal information, you’ll see sections like Music, Movies, Books, etc. Click the pencil icon to hide any of these sections or to change your privacy settings for the section. Your choices here will affect what of yours comes up in other people’s Graph Searches, like People who like Comic Books.
  8. If you want to quickly limit who can see all of your past posts, rather than change the settings one by one on the Activity Log page, click the gear icon in the upper right and choose Privacy Settings from the menu. On this Privacy Settings and Tools page, click the Limit Past Posts link if you want to change all the past content that you’ve shared to the Friends setting. Your Activity Log lets do this for individual posts, which gives you more control, but it takes more time. This option lets you do it all in one click (really two, since they warn you and make you click again).

Facebook has some handy videos and other information explaining some of these search privacy issues.

Sharing Your Email Marketing with Social Media

To help EarthLink Web Hosting customers grow their businesses and keep current customers engaged with email marketing, we’ve previously posted about how to create your first marketing emails  and how to track your email marketing results with Announcer Pro.

Announcer Pro is an easy-to-use email marketing tool that’s integrated into the EarthLink Web Hosting Control Center. It is free with all our EarthLink web hosting, ecommerce hosting, and professional website design and hosting plans.

Social Media sharing of email marketing with Announcer Pro

Today we’ll show you how easy it is to integrate your Announcer Pro email marketing with your social media marketing on Twitter and Facebook.

The good news is that once you’re ready to share your email marketing on social media, you’ve really already done all the work: setting up your company info, creating the subject line, choosing an email template, entering your content into the template and, lastly, scheduling and sending out the email.

One reminder when it comes to social media. Today’s post will go over how to share your emails on your company or personal Twitter and Facebook accounts. But don’t forget, it’s ideal if you can also get some of your recipients to share the email on their social networks.

In our first Announcer Pro post, we mentioned that, when you are creating your email, you will have the opportunity to click the checkboxes in the Social Networking section of the Edit Details page (bottom-right) to have Twitter and Facebook icons included with your email. These icons will make it easy for the recipients of your emails share them with their friends and followers.

Here’s how to share your company’s marketing emails with your social networks:

  1. Make sure you are signed into your Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  2. Sign in to your EarthLink Web Hosting Control Center at control.earthlink.net with your email address and password.
  3. Click on the Email tab and then the icon for Announcer Pro.
  4. From the Main Menu tab, you can either click the Social Networking tab at the top of the page or click Try it out under Social Networking on the right side of the page (seen on the screenshot above).
  5. You’ll see a list of all the emails you have created. Click on one that you want to share (both sent and unsent emails are listed, so make sure you choose one that is finished).
  6. Click the Share It button with the F to share on Facebook.
  7. Customize your message for Facebook, choose what group you want to share with (Public, Friends, Close Friends, etc.) and click the Share Link button.
  8. Click the Share It button with the T to share on Twitter.
  9. Write your Twitter message (under 140 characters) and click the Tweet button.

That’s all there is to it. Good luck spreading the word.