Over the years, numerous words have been added to the dictionary, but none have been more peculiar than the words added thanks to social media. Everything from “YOLO” to “selfie” can be found in Webster’s. However, few terms have become so widely used and accepted as “hashtag.” For a long time, the hashtag symbol (#) was known simply as the “pound” symbol, but times have changed, and nowadays, it’s becoming known as a hashtag first. Hashtags were initially made famous on Twitter, but have since made their way to social networks all across the Internet. So what is a hashtag and how can your credit union use it?

 

Hashtags tie public conversations from various users into a single stream, which you can find by searching for a specific hashtag, clicking on it or by using a third-party monitoring tool such as HootSuite or SproutSocial. In order for a post with a hashtag to appear in a search, the post must be public. Hashtags are often used to unite conversations around things such as events or conferences (#Rio2016), disasters or emergencies (#HurricaneMatthew), holidays or celebrations (#NationalDogDay), pop-culture topics (#Oscars), general interest topics (#Chocolate) or even popular hashtags (#ThrowbackThursday).

 

The key is to use hashtags sparingly and only when they add value. If you use them too much, they can become confusing, frustrating or flat-out annoying. However, according to Buddy Media, tweets with hashtags receive two times more engagement than tweets without. On the other hand, Buddy Media also found that when you use more than two hashtags, your engagement actually drops by an average of 17 percent. With this in mind, let’s look at how hashtags work on different platforms.

 

Hashtags on Facebook

Hashtags on Facebook can sometimes be hidden due to people having private accounts. That means that even if people are using hashtags, if their account is private, your credit union will not be able to see the posts.

What does that mean? If you search for hashtags on Facebook, the posts will most likely be published by influencers, brands and publishers as opposed to individuals.

 

Hashtags on Twitter

Twitter hashtags tie the conversations of various users into one stream. For example, if two Twitter users are both tweeting using #GameOfThrones, their tweets will appear in the same stream even if the users aren’t connected otherwise. Using a hashtag on Twitter is as simple as publishing a tweet from your credit union’s account that includes the hashtag. As long as your account is public, anyone who searches for that hashtag will also find your tweet.

 

Hashtags on Instagram

Similar to Facebook and Twitter, Instagram hashtags tie conversations and photos from different users into one stream. Because Instagram is primarily a visual platform, the interface is different when searching for hashtags. On the search page, you can do three things: scroll through related hashtags, look at the Top Posts and browse Recent Posts.

If you’re posting a hashtag, once you start typing in a hashtag using the “#” symbol, Instagram will suggest some hashtags for you to use based on their popularity. This tool is helpful if you’re not sure what hashtag to use for your credit union’s post.

 

Takeaway

In 2007, Google’s Chris Messina wrote that the “channel” concept behind hashtags holds the same value as group discussions but without the “unnecessary management cruft” that group systems often suffer from. Over a decade later, not much has changed, and hashtags continue to flourish. When used properly, they are a great way for individuals and brands to make their social posts more visible and increase engagement. It’s safe to say that hashtags have changed the way we use social media, they’re here to stay, at least in the foreseeable future.