Hashtags can be difficult to get your head around if you are new to or not a regular user of social media. All those weird sounding grammar-agnostic terms clumsily put together preceded by the hash symbol? What on earth is that? They are almost eyesores!
This initial distaste, hesitation or skepticism even is easy to understand. But equally, hashtags become irresistible to use once you get a hang of them.
Before Twitter came along, the hash was just the pound sign on our phones and keyboards.
But the social network transformed our understanding and use of this symbol. By putting it in front of terms, Twitter invented the hashtag, and its use has ever since kept on growing.
Hashtags do a lot. Here’s a quick primer on how and why they can be useful for your business.
Hashtags improve brand visibility and engagement
As per Twitter’s own research, tweets with hashtags have the potential to lead to an almost “100% increase in engagement for individuals and 50% for brands.”
The purpose of social media marketing is to create brand awareness and generate user engagement. You can do both with a smart, frequent, and consistent use of hashtags.
Hashtags help categorize content
Take a look at the nature of your present content and think of the broad topics it would fall under or those that it relates to.
For example, 10 ways to grow your iOS app could use hashtags such as #iOs, #apps, #iphone #iPad, #appmarketing and so on.
When others enter the above hashtags in their social search bars, your article, if it is fresh, will show up in results.
This helps expand the reach of content significantly.
Hashtags help others find related content
Taking further the iOS example, if you are interested in knowing the kind and amount of related content that has been recently pushed out onto social media, the right hashtags could help you do it.
Businesses can take advantage of this and ensure their own content offers something unique and is not simply a rehash of all that has been said on the matter before.
For consumers, the right hashtags help them find related content in one place, which is a great convenience. For this reason alone, businesses should educate themselves in the proper use of hashtags.
Hashtags help people find trending topics
Not only that, hashtags also help users create trends.
Media publications do this all the time. Recently, June 21 was observed as the International Yoga Day worldwide. Any related tweets could therefore be found via the #internationalYogaDay.
Prior to that, Apple’s World Wide Developers’ Conference trended in the second week of June under #WWDC2016.
Any big event can be found trending on social with the help of hashtags.
Which platforms use hashtags?
To some extent Pinterest, YouTube, and Google+ do so, too. It all started with Twitter, but the hashtag proved to be such a rage that its use spread to other social platforms in no time.
One can, technically speaking, find trending content or even content related to a particular search term without the help of hashtags on Twitter, but that is not exactly a case against the hashtag.
On Instagram, for instance, small businesses, new bloggers or amateur photographers can utilize established hashtags in their fields and have their own updates noticed by influencers as well as their followers. That is a huge advantage and one that must be leveraged by businesses and entrepreneurs.
Where are hashtags most effective?
There are a number of ways in which hashtags can prove effective for businesses.
Businesses can create social media campaigns and promote them with the use of hashtags. You’d have to find a theme for the campaign and promote the content in a manner that you are able to connect to existing as well as prospective followers and promote brand awareness, and create engagement, in a way that does not impinge on the social conversations of the followers.
P&G has done this with their Thank You, Mom campaign. By introducing #thankyoumom, the company has made the brand visible to those having similar conversations (people thank their mothers all the time on social!) It helps to use intuitive terms when creating a trend.
Businesses can hashtag their names and promote that on social media. For example, an upcoming restaurant can hashtag itself and upload pictures of the place on Instagram, along with including hashtags related to that location, industry, or anything that would get their account noticed in desired search results.
Make using hashtags a part of normal tweeting, i.e. even when you are not promoting content. This will help the comments show up in related searches, seeking out new people to engage and interact with, while improving the reach of your brand in the process.
How many hashtags should I use in a post?
On Twitter, not too many. You don’t want your post to look like a broken stream of random hashtags. Think of the most pertinent ones and use them depending on the kind of search in which you’d want the content to show up.
So while your content might benefit from both #blogging and #contentmarketing, if there is only space for one of those, find out which one is more important and will take your content to the greater number of the target audience.
In fact, research has found that using more than two hashtags per tweet may result in drop in engagement. Stick to three or four hashtags and see how that works out for you.
Instagram, however, it’s normal to see many more hashtags. Add as many you like, as long as they are relevant to the post!
Tools for determining the best hashtags to use
Find out the most popular trends of the day, as well as how different hashtags are faring in relation to each other.
Enter the hashtag you have in mind to determine its competitiveness and relevance.
Find out trends based on location with the help of this tool. Useful for businesses that are promoting their services in distant or particular locations via Twitter.
Don’t just track hashtags but also gather social data intelligence with the help of this tool.
Find out data pertaining to geography, demographics, as well as your competition! While it’s not a free program, they do offer a free trial.