Ten years ago today, the first hashtag was proposed on Twitter. It was created by former Google engineer Chris Messina, who, along with some friends, were frustrated at lack of organization the social media format had at the time. Inspired by similar uses on internet relay chat, in August of 2007, Chris went straight to Twitter's headquarters, approached co-founder Biz Stone, and suggested they begin using the pound symbols to tag posts.
Soon after, a system for searching and displaying hashtags was devised, and the rest is social media history.
Hashtags provide a way for social media users to tag keywords to topics relevant to their posts, enabling other users to find exactly what they're looking for, and for social mediums as a whole to better track what topics are currently being discussed the most, at any given moment. They even allow users to track news in real time. Hashtags have become so pervasive over the past decade, that currently, over 125 million are used daily, just on Twitter alone. When you add even more on Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr, that's a lot of tagging!
Happy 10th birthday, hashtag! You make using social media so much more efficient!
As a medium, photos are by far the most engaged-with content on social media. The entire founding of the platforms of Instagram and Snapchat speak to that. Facebook itself encourages administrators of pages to post more posts with photos. It's said that a photo speaks a thousand words, in part, because people see and process them with an immediacy not possible with text or video. You instantly have a feeling when seeing a photo.
There's a rarely spoken-of key to helping drive even more successful engagement with your photos, and it's almost counter-intuitive at first glance. Whenever you post a photo on social media that you're hoping to get a good response from - take a moment to see if the photo looks good small, seriously. Many people take the time to make sure their photos looks good large - and all the fine details are exactly as they want - and you absolutely should, but if a photo can't be understood on a smaller scale, those details may never be seen. If it's not worth viewing, it's a lot less likely to be reacted to, commented on, or shared, and may end up being passed up entirely.
Consider that many of your followers are viewing social media on a small device, with a smaller screen, likely in the midst of doing three other things. If a photo doesn't look intriguing enough to be understood at 400 pixels (or sometimes far less), you may be missing out on engagement that you could've had with a more appealing photo.
Before you post, take a look at the thumbnail of the photo and see if you'd want to view it larger.
It's a long-debated topic, and will continue to be... what social media platform is any given follower the most valuable to you on?
This might be controversial, but as of right now, May 2017, we're going to say it's the most worthwhile to have any given follower on Facebook, than any other social media platform. Yes, a Facebook follower right now is worth more to you from a marketing standpoint, than a follower on Twitter or Instagram.
Why would we say that?
1. Facebook currently has by far, the largest amount of users. It's on track to reach 2 billion users, this year. By comparison, Instagram has less than a third of that, around 600 million, and Twitter has around 300 million. As a matter of fact, as a side note, Tumblr has significantly more users than Twitter does right now, at 500 million. By user metrics alone, you hypothetically have the best chance of reaching the largest audience on Facebook.
2. On Facebook, you can do considerably more with any given post, than on Instagram and Twitter, practically infinitely more-so, right now. On Facebook, you can include just about as much text content as you want, as many external links as you want, individual photos, photo albums of practically unlimited sizes, videos, it allows the ability for multiple sorts of reactions from users, the list goes on and on. Instagram is nice, in that it's comparatively easy to build a large following on (in large party because it's less commitment from a follower's side, and less personal), but you're constrained by your text being almost immediately truncated, short video length, no ability to post external links (how many times can you read "See link in bio", and actually go check it out?) On Twitter, you're limited to 140 characters, and a photo or video or link will start directly eating into that limit. So judging on a metric of how can your followers engage with you? Facebook, by far, gives them the greatest opportunity to interact with you, in the largest ways possible.
3. Which brings us to our third point, Facebook users are accustomed to significantly longer engagement times, categorically - and they're becoming even more-so. Instagram largely consists of scrolling through photos at an athletic pace - you might have a person who's actually interested in your post see it for a matter of seconds, then move on to the next photo - the most interaction you might get is a "Like", and maybe a comment, which is sort of awkwardly presented on Instagram's side. As for Twitter, the users are more engaged with individual posts than Instagram, but again, it's for such short lengths of time, it puts Facebook ahead of the pack, significantly. Using the metric of who is most engaged on any social media platform right now - Facebook users are far-and-away in the lead.
This can also be gauged in almost a sense of social media exchange rate. It's not uncommon to see Instagram and Twitter accounts with astronomical amounts of followers. Part of that is because followers on those platforms are much easier to get - a less engaged audience, on lesser used platforms, seeing less individual content, that you don't even have to use your actual name on. What you don't see as much is inordinately large followings on Facebook, because people are on it more.
We're willing to guess that if you're reading this right now, and you have a Facebook page, Twitter account and Instagram account representing an online presence - you likely have less followers on Facebook than the other two. The reason being, on Facebook, a follower has to really, actually like whatever you're promoting, to make the sort of commitment to almost bring you into their online life. Instagram and Twitter are great, but they've almost taken on a more public and less serious model than Facebook has. If you get a follower on Facebook, it will be worth more than one anywhere else - just make sure you retain them, and create content that they'll want to engage with.
To be clear, growing a significant following on any social media platform that's well engaged is worth an inordinate amount to you, as a marketer. Having a solid social media presence has quickly become the standard of any business represented online. However, you can do the most with a follower on Facebook, than anywhere else, right now.
They've gotten so embedded in pop culture that they've almost become cliché, but depending on the social media platform you're using, hashtags can be invaluable. If you're not familiar with what a hashtag is, it's the same symbol seen on a standard touch dial phone button that is the "pound" or "number", and denoted by #.
At the moment, hashtags are by far most relevant on Instagram and Twitter. Facebook as a platform does make use of them, but most of Facebook users do not. Chalk that up to chaos theory, or that they enabled them a lot later in their life-cycle than the other two, as to why that is, but they are no where near as commonly seen on Facebook, currently.
While they were popularized by Twitter, currently, Instagram seems to make the most use of hashtags (or simply "tags", as they refer to them), and is currently the primary way of searching for photos on it.
The format for hashtags are pretty straight-forward. For example, if you want to post about something related to social media, you'd include it written either as: #socialmedia, or #SocialMedia, and people specifically looking for posts related to social media could potentially find your post. While capitalization doesn't matter, a space between the words will not work. So, if you do want to differentiate between a number of words, you can use capital letters.
Historically on Twitter, the most popular and relevant hashtags were all that used to be featured in their "Trends" section, though, currently, it's about evenly split between keywords (actual, unformatted words) and hashtags. If you use a hashtag in your tweet that's currently trending, it's more likely to be seen by a higher number of people, and in turn, interacted with by more people, so long as the tweet is relevant to the hashtag.
The platform where hashtags can make the most difference right now is on Instagram, where it could be the difference between your photo getting a significant amount of interaction, or none. If you don't use a hashtag, the only people likely to see your photo will be those on your friends list, and perhaps, their friends, if and when someone interacts with it. On the other hand, if you make appropriate use of hashtags (making sure to include only tags that are relevant to the photo, itself), anyone on Instagram searching for that tag at the moment could potentially see it - which significantly increases the size of your potential audience. What's more, it will primarily appear to people who are specifically interested in it.
We've seen people with amazing photos that have absolutely no interaction, just because they failed to use hashtags. Some people are "too cool" to use them, but if you want your photos seen by the most amount of people, we highly recommend using them, and as many as are relevant, at least while you're initially establishing your following. The current limit for number of hashtags you can include on an Instagram post is 30, so, make them count!
No, it's not paranoia... people on social media really might be seeing what you're thinking, to an extent. Any time you engage with any post; be it "Liking" it, "Loving" it, commenting on it or sharing it, there's a chance that just about anyone on your friends list, and even the general public online, could see it. It all has to do with the level of privacy both on your account, and the ones you're interacting with.
For example, on Facebook, if a post has a globe icon next to it, and you interact with that post, pretty much anyone typing your name in on a search engine could see that you did. It would also potentially appear directly in the feeds of your friends and family. Posts on Facebook that have a small icon of two people standing next to each other are "Friends Only", and would only be seen by anyone who's friends with both people. Posts that have a gear icon next to them are "Custom", and only the person who is posting knows who can view it, but interactions with such posts may still be shown to your friends and family.
As a matter of fact, you might be making all your posts unintentionally public, by accident. Be sure to take a look at your Facebook posts, to see if they have a globe icon (public), two people next to each other (friends only), three people next to each other (friends-of-friends), or a gear icon (custom), next to them. If you're posting publicly and don't want to continue doing so, see the Privacy settings on your Facebook account, and adjust them accordingly.
On Instagram and Twitter, any time you "Like" or comment on a photo on a public account, it too will be accessible for people on your friends list to see, again, potentially being shown in their feeds. The posts you interact with that all the people on your friends lists would not see, would be posts from private accounts on Instagram and Twitter. Only the people who are friends with those accounts would see them.
So, depending on the level of privacy you personally value, before interacting with a post on social media, take a moment to consider whether or not you want everyone on your friends list to see it - because, there's a better chance than not, that they will, and potentially, so will many other people that you don't know, too.
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