Not even ten years ago, social media was dominated by #throwbackthursdays and #selfies at every scroll. #TBT may not be a thing anymore but hashtags are no less important in your social media marketing strategy.
Regardless of your industry or the platforms you’re on, effective hashtag use can boost your visibility and increase engagement for your brand. Some of the most social media savvy organisations have created their own hashtags or joined in on trends for incredible results.
Don’t think you can just add #funny to a post and expect it to go viral, though. Using hashtags effectively on social media is a strategy in and of itself. Here’s what you need to know.
What is a hashtag
A hashtag is the pound symbol (#) followed by a word or phrase. They can be included as part of a post itself, in the caption, at the end of the caption, or in comments. Think of hashtags as a categorization system.
If you were to file paperwork in your house, you might have a file labelled “medical records,” or “insurance.” On social media, content is the paperwork and hashtags are the file labels.
There are a number of different ways you can categorise a post. Your hashtags can be broad, niche-specific, branded, etc. Hashtags on a single post might include a mix of all of these categories.
For example, the local coffee shop might post a picture of their newest latte flavour on Instagram. The hashtags could be broad, like #latte or #cafe. They can be specific, like #melbournecoffee. Or they could be branded hashtags like #JacksCoffeeShop. Likely, the post would contain a mix of all three types of hashtags.
The idea is that social media users can search for things on the platforms and find content related to what they’re looking for based on hashtags.
Tourists in Melbourne may search Instagram for #melbournecoffee and discover their new favourite place thanks to that hashtag in the post. Dog lovers can search for #dogsoftiktok to see cute puppy videos. Sports fans can search #AFL on Twitter to stay up to date on every match.
Consumers searching for the products or services you offer can find your content and become customers.
How to use hashtags
At the core, hashtags are a simple concept and typing them into your caption couldn’t be much easier. However, effective hashtag use has a bit more to it.
As a business, you’ll need to find the right words and phrases to use as hashtags. It’s a careful balance of broad and specific, of standing out while taking advantage of trends. You’ll need to take into account hashtag popularity and seasonality, and adapt the usage to each specific platform.
It can be a lot to manage, especially for a small business. Don’t let it overwhelm you, though. You can make hashtags work for you.
The first step to using hashtags is finding the right words and phrases. Again, thinking of hashtags like categories can help. How would you categorise what you’re posting? What do you want people to search for to find this content?
The best hashtags are usually short and easy to remember – think #marketingstrategy instead of #bestdigitalmarketingstrategyforsmallbusiness. Make sure the hashtags you use are truly relevant to the content they are accompanying. Using a random trending hashtag may get you views, but irrelevant content will lose your consumers trust.
One of the best ways to begin finding these hashtags is on the platforms themselves. Check out other leaders in your industry. What hashtags are they frequently using? When you click on the hashtag, what other words are related? Some platforms, like Instagram, will show you related hashtags to use as inspiration.
Researching hashtag popularity
Once you’ve created a list of all the related words and phrases you could use, it’s time to research their popularity. This is where a hashtag strategy really comes into play.
Contrary to popular belief, using the most popular hashtags on social media isn’t always the best idea. #fitness has almost 400 million posts under it. A small fitness boutique using this hashtag would get drowned out amongst the masses.
On the other hand, it’s also not great if a hashtag only has a few hundred posts underneath it. That means it’s probably too specific or detailed and very few people are using it. Including these small hashtags likely won’t do much for your visibility or engagement.
The best hashtags will have 10k – 200k posts associated with them. For best results, include a mix of hashtags with different popularities. Small hashtags give you a great chance to stand out to your niche audience. As you gain popularity with them, this helps launch you to success with larger hashtags.
This step takes some time and effort, but the returns are well worth it. Softwares can help, especially those that let you save and group hashtags for future use.
Using hashtags on different platforms
As you may have noticed, hashtag usage varies across platforms. Knowing how to adapt your hashtags to the various platforms will go a long way in their effectiveness.
- Hashtags are used minimally on Facebook
- Location based hashtags have the best success
- Make your hashtags relevant
- Include 10-20 relevant hashtags in posts
- Follow hashtags related to your business and industry
- Include up to 10 hashtags in stories
- The first platform to use hashtags
- Less is more. Use one highly relevant hashtag
- Use hashtags to engage in events or conversations
- Hashtags are used minimally on LinkedIn
- Be deliberate and relevant with hashtag usage
- Include a max of 5
- Hashtags are used minimally on Pinterest
- Include hashtags in pin descriptions
- Few regulations to ensure pin relevancy to hashtags
- Hashtags used minimally but can be powerful
- Include hashtags in titles and descriptions
- Limit to 15 max
- Include hashtags in captions, up to 100 characters
- Community based hashtags perform well
- Look at the hashtags your audience uses. Follow suit
Why use hashtags
Hashtags are a great way to boost visibility and engagement on social media. Your followers probably already see a good number of your posts, but using hashtags opens you up to be seen by people that don’t follow you.
Most social media users follow hashtags they are interested in. As they engage with content in those hashtags, the algorithms understand their interests and show them other related posts. When you use hashtags that align with users’ interests, you’re likely to be shown in their feed, whether they already know about your business or not.
One in three consumers say that social media is their preferred way to learn about a new brand. Hashtags help this discovery happen organically.
Hashtags are also an easy way to engage with consumers. Brands can follow related hashtags and see the types of content and engagement that are associated. For example, a florist may follow #flowerarrangements on Instagram and notice that daisies are growing in popularity. A user may ask a question on Twitter about caring for #flowerarrangements and the florist can respond with their expert advice.
This all leads to greater brand awareness, increased trust amongst consumers, and ultimately, a more successful business.
Effective hashtag use on social media does take some strategy and effort, but the results are well worth it. An experienced social media marketing agency can help you navigate each platform and #CrushIt.
Talk with our team at Unified Marketing about your hashtag strategy today.