Hashtags are here to stay (so long as Twitter and Instagram have anything to say about it), so if you’re not already using hashtags in your social media marketing, now is the time to start. For those of you who already use hashtags on social, kudos! You’re well on your way to becoming a social media savant—if you’re not already. But even savants can use advice from time to time, so before we dive into the latest and greatest trending healthcare hashtags, we’re going to build up some foundational hashtag knowledge with a few best practices:

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Understand what hashtags do—and how to use them.

Hashtags aren’t just for aesthetics—they actually serve as a grouping mechanism for social media searches. The idea is to tag a post with hashtags related to its content; that way, people can quickly pull up (and look through) posts about a specific topic. So, if you’re a big fan of professional photography (or just like neat-looking pictures), take a look at Instagram’s #photography search results. Needing some professional inspiration to carry you through the rest of the week? Search #motivation on LinkedIn.

Formatting Hashtags

Technically, a hashtag can say anything under the sun. I’m not exaggerating—there are posts on Twitter and Instagram that are tagged with #asdfghjkl. But there are a few formatting rules you need to follow to make sure you don’t accidentally break your hashtags and prevent them from working:

  • Don’t use punctuation or symbols of any kind. (These break hashtags!)
  • Don’t include spaces. (These also break hashtags!)
  • Don’t use standalone numbers (e.g., #100 won’t create a hashtag link, but #100percent will).
  • Use capitalization for clarity. (This makes the hashtag #MuchEasierToRead.)

Follow social media etiquette.

You may #love to pepper your #selfie captions with #hashtags—and #MorePowerToYou! But when you’re marketing, you can’t just throw hashtag spaghetti at the wall and hope something sticks. You have to be strategic, and you’d be wise to respect the following universal (but unspoken) rules of social media etiquette:

1. Too many hashtags scare people away.

Hashtags clog up social posts very quickly. When used in excess, they can scare people away to calmer, easier-to-read waters, hampering engagement and sabotaging your marketing efforts. Naturally, every social platform is a little bit different, so here are the most widely-accepted hashtag benchmarks for the most popular social platforms:

  • Facebook: Zero
  • Twitter: Two
  • Instagram: Ten or more
  • LinkedIn: Three to five

Note: Facebook’s hashtagging system is unintuitive and a little funky. While you can hashtag on the FB, it likely won’t generate much return—and probably isn’t worth it.

2. Irrelevant hashtags are bad news bears.

This is the golden rule of hashtags. If you’re tagging your posts about tennis elbow with #photography—and those posts don’t even include pictures—then you’re not using hashtags correctly. Hashtags are a search mechanism. So, be sure to tag your posts with relevant hashtags that will allow the right people to find them—and subsequently, you—when they may be searching for solutions you can provide.

3. Hashtags should live at the bottom of the post.

When you use hashtags—and especially when you use a lot of hashtags—you don’t want them to detract from your message. In other words, it’s often best to place all of your hashtags at the bottom of your post—unless you’re hashtagging a couple key phrases in the meat of your content.

Use common, industry-related hashtags.

The best way to connect with other rehab therapy professionals—as well as prospective patients—is to use common, industry-related hashtags. The most popular tags will vary from specialty to specialty, but here are some common ones for the following groups:

  • All rehab therapists: #healthcare, #wellness, #health, #motivation
  • PTs: #physicaltherapy, #physicaltherapist, #physicaltherapylife, #physicaltherapyassistant, #physiotherapy, #bizPT, #FreshPT, #ChoosePT, #PTTransforms, #PTfam, #PTadvocacy, #PhysioTalk
  • OTs: #occupationaltherapy, #occupationaltherapist, #occupationaltherapyassistant, #AOTApeds, #OT, #OTA, #ValueofOT
  • SLPs: #slpeeps, #schoolSLP, #speechtherapy, #SLP2b, #ashaigers, #slpnow, #slplife, #schoolSLP, #speechies, #SLP, #speechpathology, #dysphagia

Contribute to other hashtag movements.

Sometimes, the easiest way to promote your posts and boost your social media presence is to jump on the back of other hashtag campaigns. Take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge from 2014, for example. The #IceBucketChallenge was a fundraising effort—spearheaded by the ALS Association—that took the Internet by storm. Everyone from Peyton Manning to Ellen participated in the #IceBucketChallenge to help fundraise and show support for those suffering from Lou Gerhig’s disease.

This is a great example of a spotlighted movement that was tangential to the PT specialty. Physical therapists can help slow ALS-related muscular degeneration—so PTs could have participated in these fundraising efforts and talked about how therapy can improve the lives of those with chronic illnesses.

Timing Your Tags

Now, I’m not saying you have to piggyback on every hot Internet trend that pops up. Instead, you should think critically about the hashtags you can meaningfully contribute to—and research the local and national events you can support. For example, April is “Move More Month”—an awareness movement sponsored by the American Heart Association that encourages Americans to be more active. It’s a great initiative that therapists can support—and it also comes packaged with a handy hashtag slogan: #MoveMore. April is also national OT month (#OTMonth). April 11, 2019, is World Parkinson’s Day (#WorldParkinsonsDay). And May is Better Hearing and Speech Month (#BHSM). The list goes on, so check out your local events or an awareness calendar. Above all, be respectful, and ensure you understand the purpose of each hashtag trend or movement before you participate.

Create your own hashtags.

If you’re feeling adventurous, it may be time to create your own hashtag. It probably won’t go viral, but you can use your hashtags for brand cultivation. At WebPT, for example, we invite (and encourage) employees to tag work-related photos and statuses with #WeAreWebPT. It helps foster community—and it creates a unified showcase of what it’s like to work for the best software company in the Valley of the Sun. You can use that same strategy to appeal to patients. After all, who wouldn’t pick a clinic that has visibly happy, invested employees?

Promoting Events

Unlike diamonds, hashtags don’t have to be forever. Instead of using an evergreen tag for the day-to-day, you can create a temporary tag to promote an event—like a monthly wellness clinic or a series of musculoskeletal injury seminars. That way, all of your event-related posts—and the tagged posts of anyone who attends—will be grouped and easily accessible via a hashtag search. And you can always revive an event tag if you’d like to reuse it.

Here’s another WebPT example: Each year when Ascend rolls around, we include #AscendEvent in all of our Ascend-related social posts—and we invite conference attendees to do the same. So, if anyone on the fence about attending, he or she can take a peek at our conference-related social media posts to see pictures and thoughts from past attendees, sponsors, volunteers, and contributors.

How do you feel about hashtags? Are you a #pro, or do tags totally trip you up? Let us know in the comment section below!

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