Since the hashtag was first introduced by Twitter in 2007, it has become an integral part of online communication. Hashtags not only allow you to organise content and track discussion topics, but they make your content discoverable to users outside of your network of followers.
If you’re a business looking to build an audience on social media, this is a highly valuable functionality and knowing how to use hashtags effectively will be fundamental to your success. Following these simple guidelines will keep you on the right track.
Do your research
Choosing the best hashtags for your content will help increase its discoverability and reach. All it takes is a little research and forward planning. Brainstorm specific keywords and topics related to your content and targeted audience, and take a look at the hashtags used by other businesses in your industry. There are many free online tools, such as RiteTag or Hashtagify, that can then help you to identify which hashtags are the most popular.
Don’t use a hashtag just because it’s trending
Using a popular hashtag may increase your potential reach, but you will risk alienating your audience if it doesn’t coincide with your brand’s message. Only use hashtags that are relevant to your business, content and target customer.
Do cater for each platform
Although the fundamental purpose of the hashtag may be the same on every social network, the optimum number of hashtags per post varies from platform to platform.
- Twitter: Studies show that using more than two hashtags in a tweet decreases reach and engagement.
- Facebook: Although Facebook has hashtag capability, its users don’t tend to search for hashtags. For this reason, most marketers choose not to use them on Facebook at all.
- LinkedIn: Too many hashtags can look unprofessional. Using one or two to categorise marketing content is generally acceptable.
- Instagram: While you are allowed to use a maximum of 30 hashtags per post, reach and engagement falls when using more than ten hashtags.
Don’t over do it
Using an excessive amount of hashtags generally dilutes your message and comes off as desperate. You may attract a few extra followers but, more often than not, they are the wrong kind of follower — spammers or users only interested in being followed back. The general rule of thumb: use the optimum number of hashtags for the platform you’re using and don’t use more hashtags than words.
Do use branded hashtags for events and competitions
If you’re hosting an event or a competition, encouraging participants to use a branded hashtag (i.e. #YourEvent2017) is a great way to connect with your audience, drive engagement and create user-generated content. Use the hashtag in promotional content and publicise it at the event itself.
Don’t use long words or phrases
Keep your hashtags short, simple and easy to read. This applies especially to branded hashtags; if it’s difficult to remember or easily misspelt, your audience won’t bother. Including spaces or punctuation in your hashtags will also render them useless. If you want to differentiate between words, use capitals instead (i.e. #LikeThis).
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