Hashtags. Lets talk #s

When we were growing up "#" meant something completely different. Unless you have been living under a rock or have sworn off technology completely, you are likely well aware that this symbol has transitioned from being thought of first as a number symbol and is now all over the internet in the form of hashtags. Pound signs are a thing of the past and #words and #phrases are all over today’s most popular social media platforms.

They have become so prevalent, in fact, that they were added to the Oxford dictionary in 2010, and the Scrabble Dictionary in 2014. We call that #official. While the average person is at least aware of their existence, if not using them on a regular basis, there is still a lot of questions swirling around about proper use. What is too much? What is too little? We don’t want to alienate people with improper hashtag etiquette!

These popular symbols now have a place on the most popular networks, including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest. We like to think about it as the most popular means to categorize social media content. This powerful tool, when used properly helps your content become discoverable and also helps you find relevant content from other individual users and businesses. The hashtag helps bring together social media users that can engage about a common interest or subject matter.

But how do we best use them? Knowing some of the top strategies for successful hashtag use is critical. Here are a few tips to get started:

You need to get specific.

This will take some research, but why do anything if you are not going to put in the effort to do it right and get maximum impact. This involves watching what your competition or others are doing and learning from their tactics. What relevant hashtags are getting the most traction, interest and activity? Find a passionate group that shares interests in a specific arena that is relevant to your brand. Getting more specific with your hashtagging will mean that your audience will be that much more specific and more likely to be the right audience for your service or product. This is where the real strategy and persona targeting can come in. Like all marketing efforts, it all comes down to ROI and getting results. Anything else is a waste of time and money. A targeted audience lends to the highest level of engagement and conversion.

Pay attention to network norms.

While you will see hashtags on all of the platforms we mentioned above and they all have the same foundational purpose, each of these platforms have different popular uses and standards. On Instagram hashtag use is more focused on being a descriptor of the content. Twitter, conversely, is where hashtags tend to be used to focus on topic of conversation or a sector of people that you would like to connect with.

You will find that most of the networks have guides created for use on their platform that you would be wise to peruse. Also, as mentioned at the beginning of the previous point, take the time to discover the most popular hashtags for each network that make sense for your audience. While this is an extra step, this extra time will really pay off for your brand.

Don’t be a hashtag maniac.

Just like with other content, like keywords, do not “stuff” your posts to the point that you are going to alienate your audience. It is common for social media marketers or users to use extensive amounts of hashtags in their posts. When it is an individual user, it may be as a commentary or and ironic joke about the use of hashtagging in business strategy. We get it. Many social media users on Instagram have caught on to the fact that the more hashtags they put, generally mean the more likes they get on their images or videos. Because of this, they overload their photos with the maximum number of hashtags they are allowed to use. This is rumored to be 30. We don’t recommend using 30 hashtags on a single post. Doing this generally dilutes your message and tends to connect you to the wrong kind of follower (spammers who are only interested only in a follow back). It tends to be viewed as desperate in the social media community. This is where your research comes in. Focus on the few hashtags that really make sense for your content. Be specific, so that the audience you are trying to reach are the ones most likely to see your content.

Not everything needs a hashtag.

When looking to make your content discoverable by a wider audience, hashtags are your go-to. Think about whether you post, comment or tweet is adding anything of value to the overall conversation. Just sharing the news that was already put out there by someone else in it's identical form? Leave a hashtag off. If you created a special blog or other piece of content around the topic that talks about the impact from your unique perspective that adds a separate spin, absolutely add that hashtag. The use of hashtags allow you to get your content out there and make an impression on that audience. Make sure what you are sharing will be of interest and not alienate or bore that audience.

You’re so trendy.

On Twitter you will see them on the left-hand side of the screen. Facebook, the right. Staying up on what is trending, however brief that may be, is an opportunity to get that extra oomph you have been searching for. Make sure it is relevant, but if you spot a gem that works for your industry go for it! When a topic is trending that means thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of people have the opportunity to see your content and be made aware of your brand. You have to move fast, and the better opportunity you have to make engaging content that will stand out to these viewers, the better chance of performance you have.

Not everyone “gets” social media, or frankly wants to get it. It is a lot to keep up with, but just posting for the sake of posting is a waste of your time and energy. Find the right team with the experience who will take the time to do the research needed to get some real, quality traction with your content. Contact us today to learn more!