If you aren’t using hashtags in your social media content, you are missing out on a huge opportunity to grow your audience and increase engagement on your pages. However, you can’t just throw some words together and put a # sign in front of them. Using hashtags as part of your strategy only works when it is done correctly. In this guide, we are going to share some hashtag basics. We will also share our super-secret tips to help you use hashtags more effectively.
What is a hashtag?
A hashtag is a word or phrase that has a # sign in front of it. Hashtags are used by some social media platforms as a way to catalog content. They make it easy for users to search for and find information on the topics that interest them.
Why are hashtags important for social media campaigns?
Hashtags are a free way to gain new fans for your personal or business pages on social media. They get your content in front of people who are not fans or otherwise connected to you. Each hashtag has it’s own feed that users can look at when they are looking for new content. Additionally, people can follow or like a hashtag and then have trending content from that hashtag show up in their personal feed.
Hashtags are also an important way to gather user-generated content for your social media pages. User-generated content is the content that is created by fans and customers as opposed to your business.
For example, let’s say you are a restaurant owner. Your customers like to take a picture of their amazing meal before digging in. If you have a hashtag for your restaurant, you can encourage them to use it when they post their pictures on social media. Then when others search for your restaurant using the hashtag, they can see those pictures. User-generated content is an excellent way to promote your business for free.
As you can see, without hashtags, you are missing out on a number of ways to make your social media campaigns more effective and gain an audience of true fans.
How do I research hashtags for social media?
To start, this is not a step you should skip out on. Throwing a # sign in front of words that you think are relevant and adding them to your posts could very easily damage your brand. Sometimes a hashtag seems to mean one thing on the surface, but it is used for something entirely different.
One example of this is when a US-based baked goods manufacturer jumped on the trending hashtag #notguilty. If they researched the hashtag first, they would have realized it was a discussion of a controversial court case and saved face.
You can really go crazy researching hashtags. There are several free tools available to do this. But at the most basic level, you should search the hashtag and review the content. This ensures it is a good fit for your post. Think about whether or not your content will be viewed as spammy if it is included with other posts using the hashtag. Also, make sure the hashtag doesn’t have an unexpected meaning with content that could create negativity for you.
Creating branded hashtags
If you are using hashtags to gather user-generated content, you will need to create a branded hashtag for the business, product, or campaign you are trying to promote. Then you can encourage your customers or fans to use the hashtag when they post pictures related to the campaign.
For example, let’s say you sell gardening tools. One of your most popular tools is called “The Maximus” and your customers rave about how versatile it is. You could create the hashtag #RockingTheMaximus and encourage people to take pictures of the many ways they use the tool in their gardening. Then you could use those images to promote the tool and generate more sales.
A word of caution when using branded hashtags. Take your time and think about the hashtag you create thoroughly. Do some research to make sure it isn’t already in use. Think about it from different perspectives to ensure it isn’t a hashtag that could be misrepresented either. Hashtags can go very wrong, as evidenced by this list of hashtag fails brands can learn from.
How do you use hashtags effectively?
If you are super-busy, it is okay to just pick a few hashtags for your business, research them to make sure they are relevant, and attach them to your posts. This isn’t the most effective way to use hashtags, but it will help you promote your content to new people.
To use hashtags more effectively, ensure you are using the correct number of hashtags for each platform. Currently, recommendations are set at 1-2 hashtags for Twitter and LinkedIn. You can use 5-10 for Instagram. However, it isn’t rare to find business or influencers that swear by more.
The trick is to not appear spammy. We recommend you fiddle around with it to see what works best for you and your business.
Facebook makes use of hashtags, and some brands do include them in their strategy on that platform. However, it hasn’t really caught on as of the writing of this article and we recommend against it at this time.
Our super-secret technique
There is a lot of back and forth in the marketing and small business world over the proper way to use hashtags. Disagreements stem from how many hashtags a company should use, to the proper use of trending and popular hashtags. Do you use the most popular hashtags, or stick to the ones that aren’t used as often?
To start, you need to understand how the algorithms work. When you post on social media, each platform has criteria that your post needs to meet for it to be considered a top post. A lot of the criteria has to do with how much engagement (likes, comments, and shares) your post gets in the first few minutes. The platforms show posts with higher engagement to more people.
When it comes to deciding whether or not to use popular hashtags, you have to think about the algorithm. But you also have to think about how long your post is going to stay at the top of the feed. Each social media platform has a section for posts sorted by most recent. On popular hashtags, where content is posted every few seconds, your post isn’t going to stay visible for very long.
The platforms also have a section for top-performing posts for each hashtag. This is where you want your post to be. The question is, how do you get there?
We recommend dividing hashtags into three tiers to solve this problem. Tier One is where the most popular and busy hashtags go. Tier Two is for hashtags that aren’t as busy or popular. And Tier Three is for hashtags that have relatively low popularity.
When you post, include at least one hashtag from each tier. For Twitter, that means just one from each. You can get away with two hashtags from some tiers on LinkedIn. For Instagram, the mix of Tiers should depend on how much your audience currently engages with your content.
Why would you do this?
Tier One hashtags will get a lot of engagement right away if the content resonates with the right audience at the right time. These hashtags present an opportunity to have a post go viral. However, the most recent posts feed moves quickly. If you don’t make an impression right away, your post is lost.
The feed for Tier Two hashtags moves much slower, which means your content sits near the top for a longer period of time. Additionally, since there isn’t as much competition, you have a greater chance of getting into the top posts section.
The really slow nature of Tier Three hashtags means you don’t get the immediate engagement that will skyrocket your post and have it shown to the masses. But when someone searches the hashtag, they are very likely to see your content and interact with it. This guarantees new people see your content.
By now you understand a little more about what hashtags are and how to use them. If you try this strategy out for yourself, we’d love to hear how it works for you! And feel free to reach out if you have any questions regarding this post and how hashtags work. We are always happy to help.
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