The hashtag has revolutionised the way that we search and consume media by quickly and easily grouping words, phrases and images into a searchable link. When used correctly they can be a very powerful way to interact and spread awareness around events, brands, causes and trending events.
Whilst this video clearly pushes the boundaries of the use of #’s, it reflects a level of truth in that society now feels the need to add a hashtag to just about everything. Most social networks use hashtags in the same way but each has their own little quirks on how they are used. Lets look at some of the most popular social media platforms and see how they work and how you can use them to your benefit.
This is the “birth-place” of the hashtag and, if you’re on twitter, you’ll no doubt have been exposed a wide range of hashtags used to provide regular updates on trending events and topics. The #OscarPistorius hash tag revolutionized the way that reporters were able to provide up to the minute coverage on the trial directly from the courtroom.
Clicking a hashtag on Facebook will bring you to a separate page with posts that are visible to you based on the various users’ privacy settings. You’ll also see the different trending topics in the top right hand corner of your News Feed. To be honest, this hasn’t really cught on and, from what I can see, most posts where hashtags are incorporated are cross-posted from Twitter or Instagrm where the use of hashtags is far more powerful.
Hashtagging on Instagram essentially adds your image to a stream of other images tagged with the same phrases. Whilst this is great, the results can sometimes be a little off target. A simple search for #Elephant for example produces 1 965 619 images of which these are the 12most recent.
As a wildlife photographer, I’m not going to get much joy out of a feed dominated by cakes, fluffy toys and other random nick-nacks.
Using the #WildlifePhotography hashtag is a better option for me in that my image will now feature in a feed of wildlife images which is most likely searched by, yip, you guessed it, people interested in #wildlifephotography.
There may only be 119 214 posts in this feed but the kind of people following this phrase are more likely to share a common interest in wildlife photography with you than the people sharing random images of two elephants sharing a bouquet of flowers.
Google+ uses hashtags similar to the other sites, but with one main difference. Google+ will add hashtags to content if they think that it is a relevant and popular keyword. I am by no means an expert on Google+ and don’t really pay too much attention to it so please feel free to leave a comment if you have any tips you’d like to share about hashtags on this platform.
Hashtag use in YouTube is mostly done in the comments section. Users can leave comments with hashtags, which, when clicked go through to a page with videos that contain that hashtag in their title.
So, a hashtag is basically like your own little Google search engine within each social media platform. Got it? Good, now how do you use this to your benefit.
Sharing using Popular Hashtags
From a wildlife photographers perspective, the use of hashtags would almost be exclusively be aimed at gaining exposure and a following amongst a group of peers with a common interest. This can always be expanded to include linked and similar interests such as adventure, travel, nature etc etc.
The example of tagging an image of an elephant with #elephant versus #wildlifephotography is a great example of how you can add your images to a stream of related content with other users who may share a similar interest in wildlife photography and are therefore more likely to follow you and your work.
You can also use a popular or trending # to slip your image into a stream of regularly updated and followed images.
There is no shortage of accounts out there that will share your work once you have contributed to their hashtag. Most of these are rubbish in my honest opinion. One which is the exception to the norm and shares quality images on a regular basis is the @SouthAfrica account and you can share and possibly be featured by mentioning them and using #ThisisSouthAfrica.
Popular Wildlife Photography #’s for Instagram
Feel free to copy and paste these #’s on your next posts, I feel that these are pretty neat #’s to share on and will help your images pop up in the feed of other wildlife photographers who are sharing on Instagram.
#wildlifephotography #photosafari #afritravel
#Ig_Africa #instawild #travelgram #wildeyesa
Creating Your Own Hashtag
Creating your own hashtag can be powerful, especially if you are a brand or hosting an event. If you do it right, and have a lot of luck on your side, your hashtag will start trending among your circle of followers. Then, whenever someone sees that hashtag being used they will not only be reminded of your brand, but may even being to engage and share with you using your chosen hashtag.
Its tricky though, choosing a # is not as easy at it sounds, you want a # that is easily linked to your brand/event but is not “polluted” by noise from other online users. As each # is essentially a search phrase, you want your # to be almost exclusively for content which has either been shared by your community or your brand. Anything else is noise and detracts from the perceived “value” of your brand/event.
Using a # before your name (eg. #PhotoJoe) is pretty pointless unless you have other people contributing content to your hashtag. If not, well then thats just another way to access your own profile/feed seeing that you’re the only one contributing to the #.
We have created a decent community on Instagram where you can share your images with us using #WildEyeSA. If you check out the feed you’ll see its populated by wildlife photographers from around the world (including our team of course).
Whilst hashtags can be very powerful in helping you to gain exposure and create awareness around your work, they can also be pretty redundant and “noisy”. I prefer to keep the use of #’s confined to Twitter (very seldom more than one or two #’s) and Instagram (relevant to the content and popular wildlife photography tags).
Creating your own hashtag is very difficult unless you have spent a considerable amount of time looking at what is shared via your chosen phrase and have buy-in from your community. If you’re in this for the followers then you should enjoy the game and your followers are, in the words of a social guru I caught up with last week, nothing more than a high score in the game.
If you’re wanting to add value, drive conversation and develop a community of like-minded individuals, you’ll need to think a bit more carefully about what you put out and which #’s you make use of on your next post…