If you were to time-travel just 20 years into the past, the concept of a hashtag would be non-existent. The # was just a symbol was used to denote a number; nothing more, nothing less.
Fast-forward to the present day, and hashtags have become a staple part of life. They have entered into popular vernacular, with people saying them aloud when they wish to emphasise a point, and they still rule the roost on the type of site that popularised the idea: social media.
The use of hashtags on social media has garnered a huge amount of commentary and discussion over the years. While there may be the occasional naysayer who dislikes the practice, for the most part, hashtags are part and parcel of modern life. This is particularly true for brands; when used correctly, hashtags can increase your company’s online visibility and allow you to capture the focus of your target demographic.
To ensure you are able to get the most from your business’ hashtag usage, we have put together a simple guide to the essentials you need to keep in mind…
How should you use hashtags?
Capitalise the first letter of each word in the hashtag, for example, use #GoodHashtagPractice rather than #goodhashtagpractice This not only helps to ensure that each word is distinct and easily read by users, but it also beneficial to people using screen-reading software.
Keep hashtags short and succinct, even if you are not specifically required to by the social media site. If you are launching a new product, opt for #CompanyProductLaunch rather than rather than #CompanyLaunchNewProductProductName. The simplified version is easier to read and should also fit more naturally into your content.
Use different hashtags for each social network; what works on Twitter, for example, will not necessarily work on Instagram. Approach the research for every social media site from a fresh perspective; there may be some hashtags that can perform well on multiple platforms, but these are the exception rather than the rule.
Keep a record of the hashtags you have used and how they have performed. If a hashtag is underperforming – and even if your research suggests it should be doing well – then remove it from your rotation for awhile. Focus on the hashtags that are doing well; your own experience is often the best guide to which hashtags are most suitable for your specific business.
Hashtag common words that are unrelated to the point you are trying to make. All-too often, companies will use pointless hashtags that are unlikely to ever be beneficial. For example: “We’re so #excited to show our #customers our #NewProduct!”. Hundreds of thousands of people use basic tags like #excited and #customers, so your post will immediately be lost in the crowd. Hashtag relevant words that people are likely to search for instead; using the aforementioned example, you could keep the #newproduct, but the #excited and #customer tags are extraneous.
Use tags that no one else is going to use. If you use niche tags to your business – for example, #CompanyNameInCity – then your social media account is likely to be the only example of this hashtag being used, ever. Instead, seek out beneficial hashtags that people are actually likely to search for or click on. Extremely specific hashtags can be useful if you are running a promotion – for example, if you invite people to enter a competition using a hashtag – but should be avoided as part of your general strategy.
Use hashtags for the sake of using hashtags – they have to be genuinely useful, or you risk effectively cluttering your content for little benefit. If you write a post and cannot immediately see a natural connection for a hashtag, go without – hashtags are supplemental rather than a requirement.
Note a hashtag is trending and choose to use it, even though you are not posting anything relevant to the subject. You will see this happen particularly during major events, with brands posting their usual updates – which no mention of the major event itself – and adding the top trending hashtag to their post to try and capture attention. Not only is this counterproductive, as your comment will likely be quickly lost due to how frequently the hashtag is being used, but it could also potentially irritate users who are browsing the hashtag in search of relevant content.
How do you find popular hashtags?
Often, the best way to find popular hashtags is simply to browse social media sites for yourself. This provides you with an opportunity to see usage in real-time, from real people; a valuable insight into hashtags that are actually in use rather than those that just seem like a good idea.
Tools such as Hashtagify.me can provide valuable insights into hashtags, their popularity, and who is using them. This tool is particularly useful for identifying trends, such as which hashtags are still in use and which have fallen by the wayside in recent days.
It is also useful to check the hashtags of influencers and popular social media accounts. You can usually assume that these accounts will have heavily researched the hashtags they use, and – due to their high follower numbers – that the hashtags will have already been seen by a large number of people. There is also a chance that the influencer or popular account is personally monitoring the hashtags they use, which could draw their attention to your content, and potentially result in a beneficial retweet or repost.
There is also no harm in checking the hashtags that your competitors are using, especially if they have a larger social media following than you. However, if you do choose this option, then be discreet, and always insert one a hashtag you have personally researched alongside one that you have discovered via a competitor.
In a short period of time, hashtags have moved from being an obscure online phenomenon to a cultural staple. To ensure you stay abreast of developments – and the multitude of benefits that hashtags can bring to your brand – keep the tips above in mind whenever you are posting on social media.