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The humble # has come a long way from just a simple number sign.
Anyone who uses social media has seen the “hashtag” (#). It is predominately used for social awareness, business promotion, categorising content, product advertisement and as a motif for certain users.
You’ll mostly see it used on platforms like Twitter (since as early as 2007!) and Instagram, but Facebook is also trying to implement hashtags into their sites. While Facebook was actually the first platform to launch hashtags, they remain less popular than on sites like Instagram and Twitter that have incorporated them since the sites’ inception. The word “hashtag” has even been added to the dictionary in recent years! So it’s no secret that a good understanding of this feature is vital for the online presence of any business.
Here’s a few helpful dos and don’ts when it comes to hashtaging:
DO be consistent. You don’t want your social media to look messy so try keeping your hashtag formatting consistent. For example, if you always use sentence capitals in your hashtags, you’d say #FlashbackFriday rather than #flashbackfriday
DO use relevant hashtags that are on-brand. Whether it’s a company name or the product/service you’re selling, hashtags can help increase your reach when they’re relevant.
For example, if we post an article on our top marketing tips, we would use #TheMarketingGP, #Marketing and other similar tags. This way people can find your business if they are following or looking up those particular hashtags. Forbes says another reason this can be beneficial is its ability to create conversation about a specific product or brand.
DO pick one or two brand hashtags that are relevant to everything you do and use them! For example, a plumbing company in Maitland might use #Plumbing #PlumberMaitland. This shouldn’t just be in the captions of social media posts – it should appear everywhere; the bio/about section of your social media accounts, email signatures, business cards, texts and throughout your website.
DO follow some hashtags yourself. If you’re a journalist, you may use Instagram to follow #News, #Writing etc. to keep up to date. Hootsuite advises to “browse through posts containing a hashtag you’re already having success with”. This could lead to more popular hashtags or you may even find something you want to write about, or a subject you want to interview. Following hashtags that your target market is likely to engage with can also help. By putting yourself in the shoes of your ideal client/customer, you can find out what they’re interested in. It pays to be in the know!
DO use hashtags as a way to tag others. If you post a photo on Instagram that indicates a recent collaboration with another business, you can tag that business with their username AND hashtag their name/brand. If we did a piece with a florist, we could use the tags #JansFlorist and #Florist. This doubles your chance of exposure and gives users another way of finding you.
DO know where to research. If you’re ever unsure about what hashtags to use, there are online tools that can help. Ritetag, Hashtagify, Planoly and Trendsmap are just a few of the options out there. You can trial different hashtags on different platforms and gauge which work, and which don’t. The more you know the more different trials you can do, increasing your chance of success.
DO double check your content. Before and after you’ve posted something, double check the hashtags have properly linked and are all correct. It’s easy to make a spelling mistake when you have #MultipleWordsInOneHashtag
DO know what works for each platform. While it’s recommended to use a lot of hashtags on Instagram, the same cannot be said of other platforms. This blog recommends proceeding with caution on Facebook, advising to only include one hashtag and make it one that can organise conversations (like #Ask or #Share). This experiment found you can successfully use up to 30 hashtags on Instagram, but we recommend 10-20 for the best results.
While you might send a Tweet or Facebook post saying: “Learnt so much about #Marketing at today’s conference #NewcastleMarketingConference”, it’s recommended on Pinterest to include your hashtags at the end of your caption instead. Researching and finding out how each platform responds to hashtags is a good start if you’re still unsure – get in contact with us if you want to know more.
DO follow the trends. Twitter uses “trending hashtags” that identify what a lot of people are currently tweeting about. By keeping up to date, you can implement the relevant hashtags into your content and be seen amongst the other trending tweets. Instagram doesn’t have this feature, but they do show users how many times a hashtag has been used when you search for it. Easil recommends incorporating ones that have 10,000 to 30,000 uses, rather than overly-popular generic hashtags that your content could get lost amongst.
A lot of viral tweets come from users hashtagging the right things at the right time. For example, Instagram changed the font of relevant hashtags to rainbow during pride month last year and had such great feedback that now all pride hashtags are rainbow on the platform (e.g. #Pride #Gay #LoveIsLove).
DO monitor the effectiveness of your hashtags. Most social media platforms have some sort of analytics for businesses to watch their progress – even things as small as video views, likes and retweets give you some indication of the success of your post. If you usually don’t use hashtags, try it! We bet you will see much greater exposure.
DON’T forget spacing. In order for your hashtags to actually tag, you need a space between each one. Too often we see #Weekend#Fun#Family and unfortunately this means that not all the tags will be recognised by the platform. But on the other hand, make sure there is no spaces in a hashtag that IS supposed to contain more than one word – for example #NewcastleTravel won’t work if you put a space between the two words. According to Twitter, “you cannot add spaces or punctuation between words in a (single) hashtag, or it will not work properly”.
DON’T waste hashtags. If you only want to incorporate a certain number of hashtags in each post, you need to make sure you’re not wasting them unnecessarily. Social media is quite advanced these days and there are tools to give specifics about your posts, so your hashtags should focus on specifics. For example, if you’re struggling to fit in the number of hashtags in your caption, instead of using #SydneyAustralia in your caption, try tagging the post itself as Sydney. That way, you have room to use a tag that’s less generic and more relevant or on-brand.
DON’T forget about influencers. There are people on social media today who’s job it is to influence and promote brands and trends. Keep an eye on their accounts to see what kind of hashtags they’re gaining exposure with.
DON’T underestimate the importance of timing. If you’re posting about an event you’re attending, push the post either during the event or soon before/after. If it’s a safety conference, you could tag #SafetyConference or hashtag the name of the event. Posting this content around the same time of the event is important as you’re likely to gain more exposure because this is the time most people are looking/thinking about it (provided the event has been well promoted).
Timing also comes into play with almost all types of content. For example, you may be posting about your service/product, but if nobody is on social media at the time it’s unlikely they’ll see it. Rather than posting at midnight (when your audience is asleep) or midday (when your audience is a work), send out your content when they’ll be online. Early in the morning or towards the evening is normally quite effective – but keep in mind this all depends on who your target is (if it’s teenagers or students, they might be more likely to be awake later at night).
DON’T use punctuation or wrong special characters in hashtags. You can’t use anything outside of the basic characters; letters, numbers, underscores, and emojis in your hashtags. Like the spacing issue, your hashtag won’t appear properly if you use any of the unrecognisable characters. For example, you’d need to say #RestAndRelaxation or #Rest_Relexation instead of #Rest&Relaxation.
DON’T be afraid of jumping on the bandwagon. Twitter and Instagram reward users who utilise hashtags, so don’t miss out on some extra exposure simply because you’re not using the feature.
DON’T use confusing or vague hashtags. There’s no use hashtagging something if it doesn’t make sense. You’ll only confuse or annoy your followers. This includes words that have double meanings. For example, if you are a guest speaker at an event and you post a photo saying #Speaker, you risk being lumped in will all the people who have posted about music speakers, megaphone speakers etc. Instead try the more refined #GuestSpeaker.
DON’T overdo it. We don’t want your post to drone on forever with a bunch of hashtags that aren’t relevant or worth reading. Use a few relevant tags, maybe a few very popular ones, as well as some unique to you and your business. For Instagram, Smart Insights has suggested no more than 10 hashtags on Instagram posts for optimum results, however Hootsuite recommends between 9 and 15 hashtags. The same blog from Hootsuite also says between one and two hashtags works best for LinkedIn. Same goes for Twitter – Buffer Social has found that engagement drops by 17 per cent when users include more than two hashtags in a single tweet.
DON’T hashtag for the sake of it. Use meaningful and relevant tags, don’t just slot them in to fill the blank space. In the same regard, don’t use complicated or long hashtags just to fill space, as these can be confusing and are easy to misspell.
This covers most of your basics, but there’s a variety of ways to use your hashtags. The trick is finding the best way for you and your business. The most important thing to remember with hashtags is to stay relevant and up-to-date. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with #TheMarketingGP today!