A Guide to Using Hashtags

Hashtag

Using hashtags in your digital content can significantly enhance your social marketing and engagement campaigns by helping grow your reach. They function like keyword phrases do on a website.

The hashtag originated on Twitter in 2007. Since then, its use has extended to all social platforms including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and others.

As defined on Wikipedia, a hashtag is a type of metadata tag used on social networks to make it possible for people to find messages with a specific theme or content easily. When a hash mark (the “#” sign) precedes a word or phrase in one of your messages, it is instantly indexed by the social network you are on. Therefore, adding a hashtag to your posts help make your content visible to a wide audience. Whenever someone clicks on a word or phrase with a hashtag on any social network, they’re taken to a page aggregating all of the posts with that same hashtag, in turn, simplifying their search.

For those of a certain vintage, you may recall being taught all about the Dewey Decimal system, which is used to classify and organize books at your local library. Searching the sheer volume of books, topics, authors and so on at the library would be overwhelming without it.

Similarly, hashtags categorize your company’s digital content and make it discoverable in a straightforward way. Unlike the Dewey Decimal system, hashtags are much easier to use, and you can track them to see if they’re helping your business increase online engagement with your target audience.

Using Hashtags Smartly

For all the benefits hashtags can provide to your social marketing strategy, it’s worthwhile to note they can have a negative or negligible impact on your engagement efforts if misused.

First and foremost, determine what your hashtag strategy is. Are you using them for a specific campaign to market an event or promotion? Is yours a branding exercise to promote your business? Or are you using them in your content such as a location hashtag to build community awareness? All have value.

Here are a few basic tips to keep in mind when using hashtags:

  • Everything in Moderation. On nearly all social networks using a maximum of two or three hashtags per message is adequate. Don’t add a hashtag to every word in a sentence (that’s regarded as spam and is more likely to hurt engagement).
  • Check Your Competitors. Take the time to explore which hashtags your competitors are using and how they’re using them. That insight can help you determine which ones to use or avoid, depending on whether or not you want to compete for the same audience. What hashtags are your most influential competitors using? Use them as a learning tool as much as you would for marketing purposes.
  • Keep It Simple. Hashtags that are short, relevant, and easy to remember are the best ones. Before you use a hashtag, read it aloud to ensure it doesn’t have an unintended or embarrassing connotation (quality control is vital). If well timed and used right, not only will a catchy hashtag grab your audience’s attention, it could go viral and be liked and shared millions of times.
  • Brand Your Hashtags. Creating branded hashtags and using them consistently in your posts can help drive awareness of your company as well as engagement with your target audience. A unique, branded hashtag can be used in a variety of ways across multiple platforms to increase awareness and generate conversation. For example, it can be your company’s name or something memorable that’s related to it.
  • Research Hashtags First. To optimize your content and ensure it reaches a relevant audience, take the time to figure out which words to hash mark as part of your marketing strategy. Don’t use irrelevant hashtags. Do a search of the hashtags you want to use generally or as part of a campaign, audit them, and keep track of them. There are several hashtag tracking tools you can use for this purpose including Hashtagify.me, RiteTag.com, Tweetreach.com and Keyhole.co. Most social platforms feature a native search capability too and are often an excellent place to start. There are many more options out there, but not all of them are free to use.

By: Liam Lahey