How Does It Work: hashtags

By: Kelly Smith; Photos by Brooke Dennis for Alt Summit

In the online world everything moves so quickly and sometimes it is hard to keep caught up on what things are, how they work, and how they can be used to benefit your goals. We get that. So, we are starting a new column called How Does It Work and we want you to tell us what you want to know.

Today, we are talking about hashtags. Hashtags are a way to group a specific topic together in one place on different platforms, so people interested in that particular topic are able to connect and gather.

Some businesses, brands, and blogs see great benefit from using hashtags on a regular basis, but here are some things to know before filling your feed with them.

  • Using too many hashtags is becoming a faux pas. See this video from Jimmy Fallon for reference.
  • Using a huge hashtag like #love will not benefit you in any way. As in, people are not likely to scroll through and see what you said because of the large volume of people using that hashtag at the same time.
  • Using a hashtag to clarify or explain a situation can be a fun way to play along. For example, a large number of people use the #tbt (Throw Back Thursday) to post a picture from the past on Thursdays. It's large so people are most likely not going to become a new follower while scrolling the hashtag feed, but it is a fun way to show an old photo in a new relevant context because it's Thursday and it's fun.
  • Searching a topic hashtag to gather facts, news, or other information can be a quick way to get in the know.
  • Creating a niche hashtag is probably the most beneficial way to gather interest and participation from new followers. Gabriel of Design Mom and co-founder of Alt Summit, who used the #DMLivingWithKids to generate 2,000 tags on Instagram in less than two weeks, got her readers excited to showcase their real homes, living a real life with real kids. Gabriel picks a photo a day from the bunch to share with her followers on her feed, which benefits all involved. 

A few more technical facts about hashtags you might be interested to know:

  • They don't carry over from platform to platform. If you post something with a hashtag on Instagram it does not magically show up somewhere on Twitter.
  • If you use a hashtag in an email, text, or blog it does not collect anywhere.
  • Capitalization within a hashtag does not matter - they are just useful for easier reading.