Conquer the hashtag, Nephrons!

I’m not sure if Chris knew how he was going to change the landscape of social media with that first tweet that featured the hashtag a little more than 10 years ago. #ShouldveFiledAPatent

[I'm] part of the generation that commonly uses hashtags as punctuation

I have a unique perspective when it comes to the hashtag, being in the generation that had been using social media extensively before its existence, while also being part of the generation that commonly uses hashtags as punctuation in real life. #SoMeDinosaur #IKnewHashtagsBeforeTheyWereCool

Prior to being part of the #NSMC internship, my exposure to hashtags was limited to Instagram and concert posters. Now that I’m using Twitter much more regularly than before, I’ve grown to appreciate how elegant the hashtag is. I’m prone to #FOMO (fear of missing out) and hashtags allow me to catch up on discussions that I could not attend due to my schedule/ timezone (#NephJC, anybody?). I am also learning on the fly with hashtags like #NephPearls and #FOAMed. I find it amazing how events and conference can create virtual “meeting rooms” where different discussions occur simultaneously. I can dip in and out of these conversations whenever I like and nobody can judge the involuntary responses I display when I come across opinions I don’t agree with! The hashtag changed how I approach and consume social media content for the better and helped me harness the power of social media. #word

Just in case you’re still on the fence, here are a few reasons why you should just #EmbracetheHashtag:

  1. Hashtags help target your audience and curate your timeline. If you want to see what other tweeters feel about topics you want to explore, what better way is there to filter relevant tweets? You also cross new tweeters and gain followers with similar interests as you – this enriches your Twitter experience. Not only that, it helps you keep up to date with how opinions on these topics are evolving in real time.
  2. Want to propagate your brilliant ideas? Tweets with one or more hashtags are 55% more likely to be retweeted, and they also get twice as much engagement. However, less is more! 1 or 2 hashtags should be the maximum as it has been shown that tweets with more than 2 hashtags show a drop of 17% in engagement. Using hashtags discretely will help you build a loyal follower base with similar interests, who will spread your ideas to their networks in turn. You do not want to be waiting for your ideas to be picked up by the right people by chance!
  3. Start conversations, inspire and break down barriers. Stimulate and provoke opinions with your well-placed hashtags. Open discussions with people from all over the world, people you would never meet if not for social media. There are so many people with different perspectives out there, use this as your soapbox! You’ll never know how many people you’ll inspire – I’ve been inspired multiple times and I’ve only been at this for a month!

Now that I’ve convinced you that hashtags are #TheBomb, how can we maximise their impact and make every character count? (You know, especially with #NephMadness around the corner and the prospect of #BlueRibbonFails lurking very closely behind…) Here are some tried and true tips from the pros:

  1. KISS (keep it short and sweet 😏)4,6,7,9 Nobody will be able to remember (or want to type) a lengthy hashtag which is difficult to read. Shorter hashtags will be used more actively, plus those characters are precious! (consider: #NephJC vs #NephrologyJournalClub)

  2. Keep your hashtags relevant to what you're tweeting about 3,8,9. You want to attract people who are interested in what you’re actually sharing. Hashtagging #beans when you actually mean #kidneys will probably end up in a few queasy stomachs and unpleasant surprises for some people!

  3. Use specific phrase hashtags to hone in on a particular topic3. Building on the above, hashtagging #kidneys when you want to engage people in a conversation about #KidneyDonation will leave you falling short of reaching your target audience.

  4. Don’t hashtag anything in your tweet that won’t add to the conversation9. This post is full of examples of how you shouldn’t be using hashtags in real life, but my excuse is that I am using them #ironically and to make my points! Would you actually click on the hashtags #ironically, #TheBomb, or #word? Without any context, this is just noise!

  5. Spell check is your friend 9,10. It would be a great shame if you hashtagged #NehpPearls or #RenalSEC or #NephMdaness with exciting content because they just won’t show up! (You could always delete and re-tweet but #AintNobodyGotTimeForThat!)

I hope I’ve made a strong enough case for hashtags and how they can help you navigate social media productively. Now go try your hand at them, #MayTheTweetBeWithYou!

Michelle Lim