If you use any form of social media, you’ll be using hashtags. They form an important aspect of your posts, enabling readers to see what’s important about your post – whether it be a campaign, topic, an event, something trending or just sentiment. Having a hashtag prefix the relevant keywords or phrases enables that keyword or phrase to be indexed by the social network and so be discovered by other readers.
If you want to increase awareness and have your posts seen by more people than just those that currently follow you, then knowing how to use them correctly is vital. It’s very simple and can reap rich rewards.
Simply put, a hashtag is a label for content. Businesses generally use them to showcase the brand or to highlight a campaign or event. Hashtags started off being used solely on Twitter but are now used on other platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Google+. For this article, I am mainly using Twitter and Instagram as platform examples.
Clicking or tapping on a hashtagged word in any post shows other Tweets or posts include that same hashtags. You can use hashtags to reach your target audience and they are used as an information filter for readers.
So, you’ve written your post, you’ve got a great image to go with it, where do you start?
Firstly, think about what your post is about and the the key piece of information that you want portrayed. Your hashtag should give the message of your campaign clearly.
Then it’t time to action it starting with this first point:
Make sure you’ve researched your tag before your start to use it.
Type the tag into Twitter and Instagram and see what comes up. You don’t want something that another organisation or company has clearly comandeered for themselves, likewise you don’t want anything which may have negative associations. Also, if putting two or more words together, make sure you actually see how it looks – many #hashtagfails are caused by unfortunate words being created when words are merged together. Capitalisation of the first letters can help reduce this risk. Ideally the hashtag shouldn’t be too long, fewer than three words is great, or less than 20 characters – any more and it gets difficult to read,
The tag needs to be relevant to what you are producing or selling or advertising. There’s no point in placing highly trafficked tags into your post if they have no relevance to you. Just because Kim Kardashian has millions of followers doesn’t mean that her audience will have any relevance to yours.
A little hint here, if you continue to use the same set of hashtags for each post, however relevant they are, at some point Instagram will penalise you for it as it will think you are spamming the network.
Also, don’t use the really generic, often one-word hashtags such as #cats as they are so popular as to bear little relevance. (#catsofinstagram is a much better choice.)
In Instagram, type in the main product or company focus and find the popular hashtags associated with it. Ideally, those that get about 10 – 15k posts including that hashtag are good to utilise yourself. This way you can build up a library of hashtags that all are relevant to your market and are popular. This set of hashtags can then be used and added to when required. Your set of hashtags will probably include those of your location, your product. product area and brand.
How many hashtags is too many?
- Twitter: As Twitter has restrictions on the number of characters you can use, it’s best to use only a couple of hashtags
- Facebook: Although Facebook doesn’t have character restrictions, hashtags just aren’t used to such a great extent, therefore a good idea is to use two hashtags – one being a popular and one being a custom one for your product or brand.
- Instagram: The king of hashtags allows up to 30 hashtags, but to get a high engagement level it’s best to use no more than 11 (you’ve seen posts where there are so many hashtags at the end that it just looks desperate)
- Pinterest: Like Facebook, just use two tags here. Pinterest use hashtags as a search tool to help their users find relevant content.
Trending tags are those Twitter hashtags which are currently really popular. As in millions of tweets being posted including the same hashtag. Using a trending tag on a post can be great, if relevant. A handy way of finding what is trending is to use Twitter’s mobile app, go into the search tab and up to 20 of the top trending topics personalised to your account will be displayed.
So, armed with these nuggets of information, you’ll now be able to use hashtags properly and so start online conversations, increase brand awareness and increase your sales.
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