Each social media platform uses hashtags in a slightly different way and cannot (yet) see what hashtags are being used elsewhere. So, although you will often see the conversations using the same hashtags on both Twitter and Instagram, for example, they are completely independant - Instagram doesn't know what hashtags are in use on Twitter, and vice versa.
Despite this, hashtags are very powerful, and can be used in all sorts of ways. One reason they are so powerful is that they are clickable links, which makes information instantly accessible. In addition, using them in your posts increases the chances of your posts being seen, read, and engaged with. Thus you can use them to gain new followers on Twitter or Instagram, for example, or to connect with other people and organisations who share your interests.
More About Trending HashtagsLast week, we saw how easy it is to find out which hashtags are trending on Twitter. It's just as straightforward to find out on Facebook, as a list of clickable trending hashtags appears in the top right hand corner of the Facebook home page. Similarly, there is an Explore tab on the main Google+ page, which brings up a clickable list of the 10 most popular trending hashtags. Instagram works slightly differently, but by selecting the Discover tab you will see what photos are being posted.
Can I Create My Own Hashtag?
Yes, you can create your own hashtag, although it may take you some time to see it established, since the power of hashtags comes from the fact that lots of people are using the same one in the same context. You may also need to check that it has not already been "claimed" by another user or organisation. However, if you have a brand name you wish to protect, or would like to establish a unique word or acronym as a hashtag, you can register it on twubs.com - providing of course that it is not already in use! I read somewhere recently that over 43 million hashtags have been used on Twitter alone! To see the most popular hashtags for various sites, visit hashtagify.me.
How Many Tags Should I Use?
Here I need to issue a word of warning - don’t use too many hashtags on Twitter, as this will make your content appear spammy. And never use a hashtag that is not relevant to your tweet - nothing is more guaranteed to incur the wrath of other Twitter users! Just choose two or three hashtags that are relevant to what you are sharing, and try to work them into your sentence if you can.
Facebook posts also seem to be more successful when one or two hashtags are used. Strangely enough, this is not true of Instagram, where the optimum number of hashtags for engagement with your posts is 11 - yes, eleven!
The infographics which follow were adapted from "The Ultimate Guide to Hashtags" by quicksprout.com, and they demonstrate how using hashtags can affect your potential audience reach in all the main social media software. As you can see, the consensus is that using hashtags increases the chance of your posts being engaged with, and on all but Instagram the optimum number of tags to include is one or two.
Which are the Best Hashtags?
This all depends on what you are using hashtags for. One of the most popular Twitter tags is #FF or #FollowFriday, which you can use to thank those who have retweeted you, or to promote friends and possibly even gain them more followers. Another popular one is #SO, which means "shout out" and, like #FF, is used to promote friends and gain them more followers. Probably the one that most people are familiar with is #RT, which can be used with or without the # to retweet a Twitter post.
People sharing finds or items for sale on Etsy might add hashtags such as #Etsy or #EtsySeller to their tweets or posts, while depending on what they are sharing, others might use hashtags like #fashion or #jewelry or #wedding. If you're into fashion, you probably already know that #ootd means "outfit of the day", and is used to publicise fashion sites and blogs. And how about #TBT, the short form of #ThrowBackThursday? It's used by people on Thursdays (funny, that!) when they share old (hence "throwback") photos or anecdotes from the past.
Some of the most popular hashtags of all time on Twitter include #vote5sos which appeared in 78 million tweets during the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards, and #WorldCupFinal in July 2014 which appeared in 32.1 million. The recent #IceBucketChallenge only appeared in 4.2 million tweets - so now you know! By the way, at the moment it doesn't really matter whether you use upper or lower case letters, or a combination of both. For more information, check out hashtags.org or hashtagify.me.