While hashtags may seem like an obvious addition to your post, not everyone understands their purpose and why the importance of using them properly. Hashtags are the core of search and discovery for social networks and are a great way to categorize content. Using them well in your social media marketing campaigns will help you maximize your strategy. Here is a breakdown of using hashtags on every social media network so you can fully optimize your posts and get the maximum potential out of hashtags:
Here is a definition of the word hashtag from Google:
noun: hashtag; plural noun: hashtags
- (on social media sites such as Twitter) a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic."spammers often broadcast tweets with popular hashtags even if the tweet has nothing to do with them"
- the hash or pound sign (#)."Hunt mistook an @ for a hashtag while tweeting derogatory thoughts about him"
Whenever a user adds a hashtag to their post, it is indexed by the social network and becomes searchable/discoverable by other users. Once someone clicks on that hashtag, it goes to a page that lists all posts with the same hashtags.
If a certain hashtag is used repeatedly by several users, it becomes "trending." The topic then becomes visible to a larger audience and in effect more exposure for the brand.
Even though each network has different ways on how to showcase a hashtag, its primary intent is similar across each social channel.
History Of Hashtags
The first recorded hashtag was in 2007 by Twitter user Chris Messina. Chris is a former designer and developer at Google who famously tweeted the use of a pound sign for groups:
how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?— ⌗ChrisMessina (@chrismessina) August 23, 2007
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Messina said that Twitter rejected the idea: "[Twitter] told me flat out, 'These things are for nerds. They’re never going to catch on.'"
And as we now know, of course, Facebook, Instagram, and several other social networks have adopted the hashtag as a news feed sorting mechanism. And right now Twitter would not be as huge as today if not for usage of hashtags.
Hashtags 101: Best Practices
Things to know on hashtag usage:
- If you’re using hashtags to categorize your post, don't string too many words in a single hashtag.
- On most networks, if you use a hashtag on a private account, your post will not be available publicly along with the rest of the posts using the same hashtag.
- Avoid hashtag overload. Use only hashtags that make sense and are applicable for the post.
While participating on trending topics is recommended, make sure to stay true to your brand personality as it can make or break your brand's image. For example, people generally have mixed feelings in terms of how a company should show their support for disaster victims. As a general rule, whatever you do, avoid using these types of conversations as a way to promote your business.
If you are a social media marketer, it is important to do hashtag research to make sure that your content is optimized for the most relevant audience.
There are several tools you can use to conduct your hashtag research. Here are a few worth exploring:
- Hashtagify.me is a free tool you can use to find hashtags based on your target audience.
- Keyhole.co is a real-time dashboard that shows how many people posted with your hashtag, along with the number of Retweets, Likes and Impressions your campaign is generating.
- RiteTag is a search tool for Facebook and Twitter. It provides up-to-date data as to how your hashtag is performing.
- Social Report is an all-in-one social management platform wherein users can track a combination of keywords, hashtags, and phrases across public social domains. Users can also monitor their own network (i.e. comments, replies, reviews) and external resources like RSS feeds.
Several studies shown that the recommended amount of hashtags used in a post varies per social network.
For instance, in a report by TrackMaven, Twitter's recommended hashtag count is 1-2 per post only -- any post with more than that will see a rapid decline in their engagement.
For Facebook, SocialBakers report that the results appear to be similar with engagement declining just after 1 hashtag.
The results are entirely different on Instagram. If you check out the graph below from Louisem.com, the more hashtags you use, the more engagement you see. So if you can, use 11 or more for maximum engagement. Instagram has a max of 30 hashtags per post.
Executing The Perfect Hashtag Strategy
1. Your hashtags should be specific to your target audience.
2. If you're a business, create and use branded hashtags. It can be your company name or a tagline that people know (or will know) about your business. For example, KitKat posts using the hashtag #HaveABreak - their famous tagline. Or Samsung's #GalaxyS8 to promote its latest flagship smartphone.
3. If you are running a marketing campaign, use campaign-specific hashtags. Examples are #ShareaCoke by Coca-Cola, #TweetFromTheSeat by Charmin and #OreoHorrorStories by Oreo.
4. Be as specific as possible. The goal of hashtags is to categorize and/or engage with your target audience, using a broad hashtag will prevent you from achieving that. For example, if you are in the real estate industry and your post has to deal with marketing, instead of using #realestate, you could use #realestatemarketing to reach a more defined audience who is more likely to be interested in the content you are posting.
5. Make sure your spelling is correct. Prevent hashtag fails by reading it twice or thrice before posting it. For example, when Research In Motion (RIM) took to Twitter to announce job openings, they started the hashtag #RIMjobs which had a double entendre causing embarrassment for the company. A good practice is to read the hashtag multiple times out loud to make sure you are not giving a double meaning to your post.
Using Hashtags On Every Social Media Network
If you want to find conversations you want to be a part of, hashtags are the best way to do it. Your profile needs to be public though before other people can engage with your posts.
There are multiple ways to find hashtags on Twitter. You can click on the search bar and use the advanced search features, click on a hashtag you see in a post or in someone Twitter's bio (here is a hint: adding hashtags to your Twitter bio makes it easier for people to discover you in search), or by browsing through the trending topics.
Since Facebook profiles are private, the hashtags are not discoverable to the public and are therefore limited to the people they know (unless they posted it in Public mode). Because of this, most public hashtags belong to influencers or brands.
How to discover hashtags:
- Click on the hashtag to see related posts
- Search using the search bar and all friends' and public posts will appear
The purpose of Instagram hashtags is that they evolve around discovering content and finding users to follow, exposing you to a larger audience. Using a hashtag will make the photo part of a collection which you can view by clicking on the hashtag itself. Did you know that Instagram posts with at least one hashtag have 12.6% more engagement than those without?
So, now that you know how important hashtags are to increase Instagram engagement, the next question is how are you supposed to find these cool, creative, and community-oriented hashtags? Answer: From other Instagrammers themselves. Check what your followers, competitors, and influencers are already using. Remember that the narrower the scope of the hashtag, the more engaged the users are.
To search for hashtags on Instagram, simply click on the search bar, type in # then the hashtag you want to search for and options will appear to click on or click on any hashtag you see in a post to view all other posts using the same hashtag.
Hashtags on YouTube are commonly used to find videos about trending topics. To use hashtags on YouTube, simply enter the hashtag in the video's title or description. These are then turned into links that users can click on to go to that's hashtag's search results page to see more videos.
You can search for hashtags on YouTube by simply entering # into the search bar and typing the hashtag in to see all matching videos or by clicking on the hashtag in the description of the video itself.
LinkedIn has been late to the game with hashtags compared to other social media networks, but they're finally revamping their efforts. Initially, hashtags were only searchable on mobile devices, but you can now search hashtags on your desktop, as well.
In addition to adding hashtags to your posts, you can also add hashtags to articles you publish on LinkedIn. This increases the chances of the article coming up in search results to people who may find it interesting.
After creating a post, you'll find an option at the bottom of the page asking you to add "tags." These tags can be used by other users to discover some of the best content like yours that's being shared and reblogged. Tumblr automatically adds a hashtag to the front of tags you add to your posts.
For Pinterest, hashtags can only be clicked if placed in the Pin's description and they are not clickable on mobile devices (you can only use 1 hashtag for Promoted Pins though). They don't work in account descriptions, board titles, board descriptions or profile names. However, hashtag search results can be filtered to show just boards.
The Benefits Of Tracking Hashtags
If you are serious about improving your overall social media performance, tracking hashtags are equally important as using them. You can track hashtags associated with your brand to see how they are performing, or track hashtags you are considering using in your marketing to see what kind of activity they are getting and in what context they are being used to see if they are worth using.
So whenever there's a hashtag that interests you across the social space, you can track it using tools such as Social Report's Search Agents. We'll show you performance based on the hashtags you are tracking, as well as search results coming in from various social networks so you can engage with your audience and others who are using the actual hashtags you are tracking, as well as key influencers who are using the hashtags you are tracking. This is an example report for #socialreport:
For more information on the benefits of tracking hashtags, check out this blog we wrote on Why You Need To Track & Monitor Your Hashtags.