Have you ever encountered a “verbal hashtagger”—someone who uses the term “hashtag” in a normal, spoken conversation (i.e. “I’m hashtag hungry”)? And did you know that you can now buy a Hashtag Halloween costume on Amazon? Hashtags were invented in 2007 on Twitter; but despite only being around for a little over a decade, they have invaded popular culture in ways we never could have imagined. The ubiquity of hashtags in modern life can make them seem unnecessary, and even silly. But they are only silly if you aren’t smart about how you use them. The purpose of a hashtag is to expand reach; so if that’s one of your business goals, using hashtags is a necessary, and valuable component of a smart social media strategy.
Because hashtags are a tool to grow reach, you have to think strategically about who you are trying to reach. In the education market, active hashtags can usually be categorized as the following:
Job Titles: Trying to reach #principals? There is a hashtag for that. Same for #teachers, #EdLeaders, #parents, #students.
Instructional Practice: Perhaps you are focused on an audience who is focused on a particular type of instructional approach, and you can reach them by the use of hashtags, like #PersonalizedLearning, #PBL (project-based learning), #BlendedLearning, #Curriculum, #FormativeAssessment.
School Design: Is your target audience interested in #PublicSchools, #CharterSchools, #StudentCentered learning, or #CommunityEngagement? Using these hashtags will help you reach those communities.
Equality Issues: Equity in education is the critical issue of our time. Reach folks engaged in that work with #EdEquity, #Educolor, #ELL, #AchievementGap, and #OpportunityGap.
Subject Area and Grade Level: You can become even more granular with your approach by deploying hashtags that target specific subjects or grades, such as #HighSchool, #Literacy, #STEM, #EarlyEd, and #SocialStudies.
So, you have a plan for how to reach your audience. How do you know that hashtag you are using is even active? First, you should be using your social media platforms to listen to the conversations happening amongst your audience, which should give you a good sense for relevant hashtags being deployed by this group. But if you haven’t yet taken this step, there are several apps and online tools—both paid and free—that will give you pretty robust analytics on popularity and reach of hashtags. If you’re looking for a free tool, we like to use TalkWalker to determine which hashtags will be most effective in our social media content. It’s helpful to know, for instance, that #teachers has nearly ten times the engagement as #educators on Twitter.
While you shouldn’t go overboard on your hashtagging—just 1-2 hashtags per Tweet and between 5-15 on Instagram—you should be using this important tool to get your social media content in front of your target audience.
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