A Beginners Guide to Using #Hashtags
Hashtags are everywhere. Whether we like it or not they have become part of our everyday lives. Who would have thought that 11 years ago the humble hashtag would come to represent so much, from providing support and solidarity, to raising awareness and ultimately changing the way we communicate both on and offline.
So, first things first – what exactly is a hashtag? Well, it’s not #puttingaloadofwordstogether and thinking that’s a hashtag. Primarily, this little symbol #, when used in front of a word can help you find content, topics, news, trending subjects and people on social media platforms. When you click on a hashtag on a platform you will find other content and people that have also used that hashtag. Therefore, the skill in using them to maximum effect is to do your research first. Taking the time to finding which hashtags are relevant to your industry is absolutely key.
There are a number of great free tools that will help you with your research, such as Ritetag or Hashtagify. Not only are these free, they are also very easy to use, giving you hashtag suggestions and statistics about how often they are used, as well as alternative # suggestions. There are also lots of free apps on Android and iOS. Another starting point would be to identify a few influencers within your industry to see what hashtags they are using. Don't forget to check out your competition to see what they are using.
How you use hashtags will differ slightly depending on whether you are using Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. Each platform has their own way of adding hashtags, quantities of hashtags and even the type of hashtags used. Twitter hashtags tend be more focused on the topic while Instagram is more about the content/emotions. Hashtags are not used on LinkedIn and although they are used on Facebook, it’s random and not that common, so I would suggest just the one hashtag.
To make it easy we can split hashtags into different categories, generic/popular, industry, niche and emotions and it’s important to get a mix of all when posting.
Generic/popular hashtags are ones that appear across all platforms, examples include #TBT (Throw Back Thursday), #MondayMotivation, #MotivationalQuotes and #FridayFollow. These hashtags are high volume, this means they will be used by lots of people, so your tweet, picture will disappear pretty quickly amongst all the others (this is why you need a mixture).
Industry hashtags are for example #photography and #coaching, these are still used frequently but not as much as the popular ones. We can then narrow our industry hashtags down to niche so for example #WeddingPhotographer, #LifeCoaching and #MumsInBiz.
Branded hashtags are great for user generated content. This is where customers will use a specific hashtag, which has been created by the brand itself, in a post. The idea is the brand will pick up and if interesting enough will retweet your post. This is really powerful as it also provides social proof about your product. When we see other people buying and using a product we are more likely to purchase ourselves.
How user generated content works
@GoProUK ask people to use the hashtag #GoProUK when posting pictures taken with their Go Pro's. Go Pro will then post the most interesting ones on their own feed. This not only provides Go Pro with a rich source of content but also provides brand credibility, builds consumer trust and allows them to connect with their audience and build a community.
Finally, on Twitter, trending hashtags will show you a range of tweets that are linked to a specific topic that is being discussed the most. A word of caution though – don’t just add a trending hashtag to your post if they have no relevance to each other. You will see trending hashtags listed on the top left-hand side of your feed. And on Instagram you can now save hashtags which will appear in your feed, I find this particularly useful and worth doing.
How to Use #Hashtags Correctly Having worked out your hashtag choices, it is now important to use them correctly:
TWITTER – There are no rules as to how many hashtags you use on Twitter although there is a character limit. I personally feel that more than three looks spammy. You will come across Twitter Hours which are a fantastic way of promoting your business and expanding your reach. In Devon, #DevonHour and #ExeterHour are really productive opportunities to chat with other businesses using the same hashtag. Twitter hours will happen at a set time/day each week or month.
INSTAGRAM – Searches using hashtags on Instagram will return the top 9 posts, and then the most recent. Clicking on one of the top 9 posts will tell you how popular it is. You can see in my post I have used a mixture of industry, themed, location and popular tags. I have added my hashtags in this post to the comments section. Opinions are divided as to where you should place your hashtags, either in the post, a couple of lines away from the main text or straight away in the comments. You could experiment yourself.
FACEBOOK – Not everyone uses hashtags on Facebook. You can search for content and find people on Facebook using hashtags, so I don’t see why you couldn’t use them in your posts. There is also a trending topic function on Facebook, which is generated on the back of hashtags.
Do your research, use various apps and follow top influencers to find the best ones
Make sure your hashtags are relevant to the post, don’t use a trending hashtag which has no relevance
Don’t be spammy
Use hashtags that are relevant to the platform
Create your own branded hashtag, great for user generated content
Measure the success of individual hashtags
You may already be thinking that this seems like a lot of hard work and wonder if it is worthwhile, but the simple fact is not using hashtags on platforms like Twitter and Instagram will result in your hard-thought posts becoming lost in the ether, and probably only be seen by a handful of the people who follow you.
But more importantly, hashtags can help your business in a really positive way. With a carefully thought through hashtag strategy, hashtags are a great way to reach new people, create a community and build confidence in your brand.