#confused? Unravelling hashtags on Twitter

Posted: 18th April 2016

Recently I gave a talk to York WiRE about Twitter. The hottest topic? Hashtags. The same thing happened in an advanced Social Media course I was on a week later. Even that tutor rolled his eyes and sighed before wading in.

Ah, the #. These four simple lines can be a blessing or a curse. Here’s my take on when to use hashtags on Twitter and some potholes to avoid.

When to use hashtags

1. As a catchphrase

As hashtags don’t use spaces, they are a great way to add a phrase or sentiment without using up too many precious characters in Twitter. For example #ilovemyjob or a sly #potkettleblack.

2. To be in with the in-crowd

Want to make sure everyone knows you’re tweeting about a specific subject? Add a hashtag. This is particularly good if you’re ‘live-tweeting’ along with an event or TV programme. So for example:

Soggy bottoms ahoy! #GBBO

doesn’t make much sense unless you’re one of the thousands of people following the hashtag #GBBO. As The Great British Bake-Off is a bit of a mouthful (excuse the pun), this hashtag is used as a shortcut.

If your business has a relevant link with an event,  you can even join in. Here’s a great tweet from York Cocoa House:

 3. To make things blindingly obvious

As Twitter isn’t psychic, it can only find tweets that include the search term you’ve entered. You can use hashtags to help reach a wider audience. For example:

Join the team! We need a new dressmaker apprentice here in Malton http://www.dressfab.co.uk/dressmaker-ad is a great tweet. But it wouldn’t come up if someone was searching for the word “jobs”.

You can fix this by adding ‘#Jobs’ after ‘Malton’. Why not just at the end? Because your ‘call to action’ – what you want your reader to do next – works best if it’s the last thing they read. In this case you want them to click the link to your website.

Mistakes to avoid
Don’t go overboard

#Is #it #easy #to #read #this? Or is it #easier to read this? Use no more than two per tweet to avoid it looking cluttered and amateurish.

Mind the gap

If you do invent a hashtag, search on it first to check no one else has used it. I used #inkup when I live-tweeted my Windows 10 upgrade and then discovered tattooists were using it as well. Also  think about how it will work without spaces. Merging words can backfire. For example:


Was used in Switzerland – which has the country code CH – to promote the Hobbit film. Oops.

For more ideas check out The Beginner’s Guide To The Hashtag. And if you’re on Pinterest How to properly use hashtags in your Pinterest marketing is definitely worth a read.

Do you even need a hashtag?

Are all the key words in the tweet already? Then you don’t need a hashtag. Here’s a completely valid tweet:

I can’t wait for the second series of Poldark to come out on BBC One.

Look at that. No #Poldark, no #BBC One. #sorted.