Once the US shorthand for number, hashtags have become part of our vocabulary, moving from being a social media curiosity to being a feature of everyday language.
What are hashtags?
Hashtags make your content more visible. The tag means it’s easy for people to find, and easy to share, which is exactly what social media marketing needs to make it fly. They’re easy to use, entirely accessible and their popularity shows no signs of slowing.
The inherent simplicity of hashtags does have a downside – people have a habit of #hashtagging every tweet, status update or feed addition that drips from their fingers. This leads to oversaturation and makes it hard to decipher which tags will be truly valuable to your brand. Getting the most from hashtags needs planning, and research – a task made all the more difficult by the fluctuating nature of social media discourse.
If you’re new to social media marketing, getting your hashtags right may seem like an impossible task but following best practice along with keeping your eye on the ball will soon have you hashtagging like a boss.
How to choose your hashtags
Just like any marketing campaign, choosing the right hashtags relies on knowing your audience. Once you’ve nailed that a few easy steps will help you pinpoint your perfect hashtag.
Be the innovator
Hashtags represent you and your brand. Their job is to become part of your brand's personality and become synonymous with your social media marketing strategy. For long term campaigns, you’ll want a hashtag that is uniquely you – a simple Twitter search will help you here – avoid the generic and hackneyed, things like #beauty or #love add little intrinsic value to a campaign.
Your hashtag reflects more than your name – it’s about your brand identity, messaging, and values. Your hashtags will vary as your brand develops and responds to social changes or major events. It’s important to note how hashtags impact brand engagement; what causes a flutter or retweets? What inspires a swathe of shares?
Make something happen
Some of the best #hashtag campaigns inspire collective action, tapping into our need and desire to be part of something. One of the most successful has been Coca Cola’s #shareacokecampaign, which worked alongside their hugely successful idea of sending personalised cokes as a gift – the #shareacoke social media campaign kept this idea fizzing. Even something simple, like the Domino’s #LetsDoLunch promo, where tweeting #LetsDoLunch meant a Tuesday pizza discount can really raise your social media status.
Know your industry
As well as creating a unique identity for your brand, there are certain industry staples you need to know. Think of it like a wardrobe – you need your standout pieces, but you also need your reliable basics to bring the look together.
Tap into the hashtags common within your consumer's community, industry-specific ones like #amwriting are known to the whole writing community and there are various recurring staples like #ThrowbackThursday that will gain traffic week after week.
Hashtags are the perfect way to create excitement for your event. Establish the tag with your initial announcement and keep your social media marketing momentum by including it with logistics questions, and chat about the event itself.
First stop is Twitter – the homepage will show you the top trending topics, as well as helping you identify industry and community staples. To really make the most of hashtags in your social media marketing though, there are some other tools that you might be interested in.
- Hashtags.org – this is where you’ll find a handy graph of current trends along with the time of the tweet and the actual content
- Hashtagify – perfect for finding out which hashtags are popular, and building on industry staples, Hashtagify also shows you which tags are de riguer amongst influencers and how particular tags are performing
- TWUBS – in their own words, this tool helps you “engage your tribe” by helping you understand group hashtag trends. It’s great for events and creating a conversation around your brand
Short and snappy is the order of the day – your hashtag needs to pop into peoples heads as soon as they think of something associated with you or your brand.
Keep it evergreen – social media happens in real-time, so dates aren’t necessary and mean your tag can be reused, becoming part of your identity – the exception to this is those dates that are an event in themself - #2020 will have universal meaning for years to come.
This is imperative. Read your tag back and be sure it means what you want it to mean. The legendary tag for Susan Boyle’s album launch #susanalbumparty says all you need to know. Using upper case letter for each new word is the best way to avoid any confusion - #SusanAlbumParty is much clearer no? Be aware that using symbols or spaces will break the tag, and proper grammar is essential -contractions like #We’re will be tagged as #We – using the full phrase, i.e. #WeAre is essential for clarity.
How many hashtags
Unless you’re an established social media whiz, you’ll likely stick to Instagram and Twitter for your social media marketing campaign. Both platforms have guidelines for how many hashtags you should use.
There’s no limit (beyond the number of characters) to the number of hashtags you can use, but Twitter itself recommends two as the optimum amount. Anymore and your message will become diluted, leaving your content floundering in the Twittersphere.
Instagram has a whopping thirty hashtag limit – this may seem excessive but using all thirty gives your customer thirty different ways to connect with your content. A simple search in the app will show you the most popular tags, who follows them and how much traffic they have.
Hashtags are a superb signpost to get people engaged with your content and do what all social media marketing campaigns crave – start a conversation around your brand.