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Each time a new trend comes along, the world is divided into 3 parties – one that follows it frantically, one that opposes it fanatically and rolls their eyes at the entire thing and one that are altogether indifferent.

It has been a while since facebook started supporting ‘hashtags’ for grouping posts together with the use of a placeholder. A quick refresher course on hashtags – hashtags are words preceded by a ‘#’ sign, used by several social media sites to help users organize & search conversations belonging to the same topic. A more detailed description can be found on Wikipedia .

Hashtags are a relatively stale concept for people who have used twitter for several years. With the growing use of Instagram and Facebook’s decision to support active hashtags, obsessive hashtaggers have begun taking a little bit of a beating on social media at the hands of the ‘non-believers’.

The non-believer argument over the use of hashtags, revolves around the overuse of unnecessary words, which make little sense in any kind of a social update. But to be honest, how exactly does an extra hashtag hurt the eyes of anybody with a sane frame of mind? Even if it is something as bad as #IJustHadAVeryWateryPoop? I mean I understand it is stupid to the nth degree because nobody is going to search for something as bizarre as that, but isn’t it much easier to ignore and let go altogether? People hashtagging their instagram/facebook updates with more than 3-4 terms receive stick for excessive hashtagging and I still fail to understand why!

The importance of hashtags to a content generator is ridiculously misunderstood. If I use 10 relevant hashtags in one post and get 1 extra visitor for the effort, I’ll be more than satisfied, so long as I am not hashtagging a sentence. If it means pissing off a dozen other ‘holier-than-thou’ followers, assuming a higher moral ground on the basis of something they do not understand completely, so be it.

I believe people fail to understand the fact, that hashtags are for users around the world, who do not follow you directly, but may be interested in something you might have done, written, shot or experienced in a completely different part of the world. So if I post a story about a ‘rickshaw ride’ at midnight and hashtag ‘auto’ and ‘rickshaw’ separately, I allow users to filter in through two separate concepts instead of one, even if that means I’m breaking the supposedly ‘golden’ Five Hashtag Rule to accommodate the extra placeholder. You, as my direct follower are expected to overlook the stuff not meant for you and concentrate on the rest of the post which if you’re following me, I’d only assume is of some interest to you.

Pointless, misunderstood criticism is a vile disease. Our online presence is sadly divided into two groups of pointless opposition – the hipsters and the anti-hipsters, neither of whom contribute to anything significantly, but are happy to criticize and bash characteristics & practices of the other group to no end. While this is a free world and people have the right to express an opinion via hashtags or otherwise, I believe a certain degree of objective perception is highly missing, amidst our judgmental class of pseudo-intellectuals.

Yet, in spite of everything I’ve written so far, I believe certain precautions are due for anybody using hashtags, just for the semblance of sanity in your social media updates. Here are a few pointers we follow, and hope will be of some use to all of you as well:

  1. Back your hashtags with research – there are tools available out there, that give you wonderful insight on search volumes and popularity on terms that you plan on using in your posts. USE THEM. One of the most comprehensive and FREE tools around (one that I use frequently, are Hashtracking.com  & Hashtags.org  – most of their features require a paid upgrade, but the free ones will do enough to let you know if the term you’re contemplating is worth hashtagging)
  2. Don’t overdo it – I in no means believe in the so called ‘5 Hashtag Rule’, though it has its benefits; and yet, it is important that you keep a tab on how many hashtags you use – several of you might want to use a single portal to control your activities across several social media portals. For example, I use Hootsuite . It facilitates creating one post for all your social media accounts and hence saves time. The dilemma, is that some social media portals like twitter have a character limit, and you don’t want excessive hashtags eating up all of your post space. Once again, Step 1 will help you prioritize and choose hashtags wisely. However, if you have plenty of character space remaining, do not hesitate to use as many as you want (relevance is obviously expected)
  3. DO NOT HASHTAG SENTENCES – For the love of God and everything that is considered Holy, this is one thing I am in complete agreement with the anti-hipsters. If you’re hashtagging a sentence, there’s something seriously wrong with you. Nobody is going to search for #MyPetIguanaGaveBirthtoABabyIguana – it will get you 0 visitors and serve no purpose than to make you look like an absolute fool. I agree the excitement (and drunkenness) sometimes gets the better of some of us, but you’d do well to avoid a complete disaster like that. A good idea is to delay your post by some time, if your emotions are running riot.
  4. Know what you’re doing – Please understand, that hashtags do not support space or special characters or alphanumeric text. If you’re going to hashtag things like those, then I’m afraid nobody can prevent the embarrassment you shall face…
  5. Relevance & Common Sense – Like most things in the world, a little bit of common sense is all you need to effectively use Hashtags. Define your reason for using a hashtag at the back of your mind. Once you know that, everything else is a simple self-sufficient process. Do not cheat people. If you’re going to hashtag #travel in a post about your baby boy’s first haircut, you’re going to receive a lot of angry visitors who might even block you from further searches. For your own good, maintain relevance and sanity and hashtags can be a wonderful source of free traffic for all of you 🙂

Happy Hashtagging then | Photo: Mashable.com

What is your take on Hashtags? Please feel free to express yourselves in the Comments section. We love to hear from you 🙂 

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