Hashtags are such an integral part of social media today that it’s rare to find anyone who doesn’t know what they are. In fact, the hashtag is so recognized that it was added to the Oxford dictionary in 2010, and the Scrabble Dictionary in 2014. However, while the majority of people know what they are, a huge number of people still don’t understand how to use hashtags.
Hashtags turn topics and phrases into clickable links in your posts on your page. This helps people find posts about topics they’re interested in. For example, if you write #marketing, and then click that hashtag, you will see a feed of posts that include that word. The hashtag is the most popular means of categorizing content on social media. It makes your own content discoverable and allows you to find relevant content from other people and businesses. The hashtag also allows you to connect with and engage other social media users based on a common theme or interest.
Here I outline the best practices and usages of hashtags that will help your brand achieve hashtag success on social media.
Hashtags help your content reach more people
People use hashtags to search for information on social channels. When you hashtag your content appropriately it makes it easier for an audience to find you. It’s a competitive world of content out there, and making your content stand out, be seen and reach more people requires a multi-faceted approach. Hashtags are the perfect way for people who may not follow your page already, or even know who you are, see what you have shared.
Keep it relevant
If you use a hashtag with your content, you are setting your readers’ expectation of what they will find in that article or post. Failure to deliver on the promise or expectation you’ve set with the hashtag can hurt your content marketing strategy in the long run, causing your audience to think of your content as spammy. Using a tool like Hashtagify.me can help you find existing hashtags that are related to your content. You can also use existing hashtags to piggy back on a trend.
Google can produce 542,000 results for the search “Hashtag fails” in less than .5 seconds. These fails range from comical to offensive to sinister. For smaller businesses it’s usually best not to create your own hashtag. Creating new hashtags is best for use with events, or for brands that have sufficient resources to promote and sustain the new hashtag. Remember – hashtags are to categorise posts and to help people search for content. If you are hashtagging your business name – or a new/unknown product you have made – chances are, no one else is going to be searching for that term.
Don’t be this person!
Do come up with relevant, unbranded hashtags
Brand hashtags shouldn’t mention your brand name, but should represent your brand and what you stand for. For example, if you are selling clothes hashtags such as #SummerStyle #FashionForward, or for a travel company #WellTravelled #SummerSun. In general, if you’re creating a branded hashtag you should try to keep it short and sweet. Even though “#NorthernIrelandFashionLovers” might target a very specific audience, no one will use the hashtag because they just don’t want to type in that many characters. You also don’t want to try and be too clever or offbeat (#NorIreFLvs?) since you want people to naturally search for your tag. Hashtags are supposed to make things easier to find and engage with.
Remember that different social networks have different hashtag preferences
It’s important to know when to tag, where to tag, and how much to tag. Here’s the lay of the land:
Facebook posts with hashtags get fewer interactions than those without. Using a hashtag on Facebook is a bit like shouting out the topic you want to talk about during a family gathering or private party, as Facebook is seen as a much more friends only, social gathering network. Facebook posts with hashtags have a 0.80% median viral reach per fan, compared to 1.30% for posts without hashtags.
Using one or two hashtags with Tweets does improve interactions. But, more than a couple is too much, making your tweets look spammy. Twitters own best practices recommend using no more than 2 hashtags per Tweet.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Instagram, where hashtags are essential. According to Social Media Today, Instagram posts with 11 or more hashtags get the most interactions overall. The textual content of a hashtag is essential in order to help people find the types of images they are interested in. To connect your content with an Instagram audience, consider using popular hashtags like #TBT or #MotivationalMonday. Other good choices are hashtagged place names, product types, industries, or websites.
The bottom line….
A business should use hashtags if they are used correctly. It’s completely pointless adding loads of hashtags for the sake of it or adding hashtags that no one is going to monitor or care about.
Use 1 or 2 when they make sense and when you use something relevant that people can use to filter to find more relevant conversation.
Facebook creates a unique URL for the hashtags used so it can point people to the conversation to encourage more people to use the hashtag and create more relevant conversation. So please don’t hashtag #everything (example of a pointless hashtag).
Use them strategically – for fun communication, for increased reach, and for social monitoring.
Happy Hashtagging 🙂