You’ve seen it on the tweets you follow, your friend’s Instagram photos and even on television commercials. The Hashtag, once known only as a simple pound (#) sign, has taken over the social media world by storm and the term was even added to the 2014 version of the Merriam Webster Dictionary. With countless hashtags being added to virtually every social media platform, how do you determine which are effective and which are purely entertaining? Effective hashtagging depends on a few variables, the most important being the social site you’re posting on. Read on for an easy guide to getting the most out of your hashtags for three of the most popular social media sites that use them:
The social site that gave birth to the hashtag. Twitter Users can search for trending topics based solely on hashtag searches and can follow along during live events like the #WorldCup or even television shows like #WalkingDead. The appeal of hashtags on Twitter is that it allows a user to organize a conversation and to quickly find or track all tweets on any given subject. It was, in fact, invented by the Twitter users themselves so that they could track conversations easily, since the # character was not something people used commonly in posts. Since Twitter is all about real time communication, following trending hashtags gives you the ability to immediately jump into the conversation. So what are the most effective ways to take advantage of these real-time updates? Here are a few tips:
- As we mentioned, hashtags are great for covering live events. Be sure to inform the media, fans and guests that they can follow along or tweet about an event your company is hosting with a certain hashtag. Keep it short, catchy and easy to remember. Most importantly, make sure other Twitter users aren’t already using that hashtag for unrelated topics.
- Come up with a creative hashtag campaign that works to give users a good sense of what your brand is all about. Click here for some inspiration from previous successful hashtag campaigns.
- Have a good PR plan in place in case your hashtag campaign goes rogue. The most important thing to understand about hashtags is that anyone can use them, and sometimes not for what they were originally intended for. Just look at what happened to McDonald’s #McDstories campaign.
- Stick to 1 or 2 hashtags per tweet. It’s a microblogging platform and if 90% of your 140 characters is made up of hashtags, no one will want to click on them. Think of hashtags as a conversation centered around one particular topic. You’ll see more engagement if you have multiple tweets all using different relevant hashtags, than one tweet with five relevant hashtags.
- You MUST monitor the conversation, especially with a unique hashtag campaign. The last thing you want is a stream of bad tweets all using your hashtag. By staying on top of it all, you can try to steer the conversation back to a positive direction, respond to questions or negative comments, or put your PR plan into action.
Following in Twitter’s footsteps and in the pursuit to be people’s number one source for the latest news and trending topics, Facebook made hashtags “clickable” on posts. Just like Twitter, clickable hashtags helps people find posts about topics they’re interested in. Although hashtags are not yet driving additional engagement overall, many top brands are demonstrating effective ways to use them. Here are a few other rules to keep in mind when using hashtags on Facebook:
- Hashtags are a great way to create synergy between all your social platforms, making it easier for fans to find your content anywhere they look. Be sure to use the same hashtag on Facebook as you do on Twitter and Instagram.
- Trending Topics, one of the newest additions to the Facebook Newsfeed, makes participating in the most popular conversations more simple. See what other companies and individuals are saying about a particular topic and use the same hashtag in your posts about it. It’s also smart to comment on other brand’s posts to spread awareness of your brand.
- Find out which “Day of the Week” hashtags are being used and plan your posting strategy around them. For example, since #ThrowbackThursday is so popular it would be smart to post a nostalgic photo of something related to your business on Thursdays with said hashtag.
- Don’t, and we repeat, DON’T be a #hashtag #douchebag. Just because hashtags are clickable on Facebook doesn’t mean you should use them on every post or overload any given post with hashtags.
Instagram should really be known as “Hashtagram”, since using effective hashtags really make or break the success of your posts. There are only two ways to search items on IG- by username or hashtag. As you can probably conclude, hashtag searches are used more often than username and therefore are the most important technical aspect of a post description. So here are the rules:
- Use a mixture of 10-20 relevant and trending hashtags on each post. (You can find the “Top 100” trending hashtags on webstagram.com)
- Come up with one hashtag you want all your fans to use on their posts about your business. Then promote that hashtag on your website, other social sites and your Instagram Profile Description.
- Find out what hashtags your target audience is using to search and post about photos that are in your industry. For example, if you are a fitness studio, search for fitness enthusiasts and use the most common hashtags they are using (like igfit or fitspo).
- Get on board with whatever the local and state tourism agencies are using and be sure to incorporate them on each relevant post. For example, VISIT FLORIDA has a new hashtag campaign called #LoveFL. They will not only feature photos using this hashtag on their own web and social sites, but they will also engage with users who post it.
One of the most important things to remember when adding hashtags to any of these social sites is that quality ALWAYS trumps quantity. Even in the case of Instagram where a large number of hashtags are necessary, the relevance and popularity of each of the hashtags matters most. We hope you enjoyed our Guide to Hashtags and wish you the best on your hashtagging ventures!