Understanding Hash Tags

Hashtags provide a way to categorize and find posts on social media. They are keywords or key phrases preceded by the hash or number sign – # – which is on top of the number 3 on most keyboards. According to Wikipedia, hashtags were originally used in programming to highlight a special meaning.  They moved first into Twitter during the Iranian election of 2009-2010 as a way to call attention to specific messages. It didn’t take long for their usefulness to spread first through the world of Twitter and then on to almost every other form of media. Hashtags have become an important way for people to find what they want on photo sites like Instagram and Pinterest and even Facebook. 

You decide what a hashtag is

Although you can find lists of hashtags for almost any topic, the truth is you can make up your own if you want. The problem with that approach is that if others aren’t also using the same term, no one will notice. At least not at first. For example, I’ve noticed a gradual increase in the hashtag #freelancewriter over the past year or so. It’s useful to me and others and is slowly gaining currency. #freelance and #freelancer are both more popular. By and large, the more generic a term is, the more popular it’s hashtag is likely to be.

Hashtag lists

You can Google up an amazing variety of lists of hashtags. For example, I searched on real estate hashtags and at the moment there are some 440,000 listings. That’s actually pretty low. This time next year I wouldn’t be surprised to see that doubled. I switched to twitter  real estate hashtags and got roughly the same results. It’s worth paging through four or five of these lists just to get a sense of what’s working in the world of real estate hashtags. Consider using your city or town, always think about what your client may be searching for. If they are looking for a new house the hashtags #newhouse and #newhome would be appropriate. Terms like #oldhouse, #newlisting, #sandiegorealtor or #saltlakecityrealestateagent could work.

The form of hashtags

Hashtags have to be properly formed or they have no value. The search terms need to be scrunched together with no spaces. For instance, I might use #AnneWaymanWriter. Mixing upper and lower case to make the phrase stand out is perfectly fine. Hashtags are always prefaced by the # symbol.

Dos and don’ts of hashtagging

Don’t overuse hashtags. Although there are no ‘rules’ as such, you don’t have to be on social media long to discover readers get annoyed if there are too many hashtags on a post or picture. I’ve been told no more than two hashtags on Twitter, which seems extreme to me so I use three and seem to get away with it. Some of this depends on how it looks. Many more than two or three can overwhelm on Twitter. Be judicious. Watch what others are doing and don’t buck the trend. Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment – just be polite about it. Adding hashtags will make your posts and pictures more visible to your market. Share your hashtag stories with us in comments, and your questions too – we’ll work to get them answered.
Anne Wayman real estate writer