Hashtags are everywhere. Whether you like them or not, they’re a way of life, and everyone from the major corporate players to your grandma is using them. For a while, they were a gimmicky way for people to inject an extra piece of information into a post (or at least that’s how they were used). Nowadays, things are different. There are reasons why hashtags are important, especially if you manage multiple social media accounts. Before we dive into that, let’s start at the very beginning.
A hashtag is a word, phrase, sentence, or keyword preceded by the # (hash or pound) symbol. They’re used to add a searchable term to a piece of content. Be that a blog, a shared link, a photo, a video, or a post. Hashtags allow users to find specific content that has been tagged with a hashtag simply by searching for the attributed word or phrase.
Content creators use them regularly to get their content into feeds where it might not register organically and target specific audiences that they know will be searching on those terms.
Chances are you will have heard of times when a specific hashtag was trending. This simply means that a particular hashtag has grown in such rapid popularity that it is (momentarily) one of the most searched for terms on that specific network. More and more people want to join in on the topic and conversation, and so the virality of the hashtag grows. Most social media platforms will have a trending section visible, and Twitter was among the first to focus on the trending sides of hashtags.
We’ve already mentioned that hashtags allow you to tag your content with searchable terms. That is already a fairly incentivizing reason why you should look to use hashtags on your content, but there are many more reasons beyond searchability to use them:
Hashtags are an excellent way for brands and businesses to engage in wide-reaching conversations on specific platforms. Keep an eye on what’s trending, share related content, or get involved in discussions, and you’ll appear in searches whenever someone is engaging with that hashtag.
If you’ve got an exceptionally engaged following, creating a conversation around a hashtag of your choosing is a great way to promote your brand. Creating your hashtag is as simple as coming up with a branded word or phrase and putting a # before it. The trick is encouraging people to use it.
The most effective way is to leverage user-generated content. Get people to partake in a challenge or activity linked to your hashtag. TikTok holds the crown for getting engagement around hashtags; you only have to look at viral dance videos (see #SavageChallenge during the pandemic) to see how popular these hashtags can get.
Link your branded hashtag with more generic ones (#recipe #workout #gaming etc.) to potentially get noticed in popular searches.
There will come the point where your social media accounts will have attracted so much attention that other brands will want to work with you in sponsored partnerships. In many countries, it is not just requested but legally required that you disclose any sponsored partnerships, especially when promoting purchasable products. Using hashtags is a simple way to indicate that your post is an advertisement (#Ad) or that you’re advertising on behalf of a particular brand (#insertbrandnamehere).
If you can use fewer words, then you should. Social media platforms limit you to a set number of characters. Using hashtags allows you to give context to your posts without using sentences.
There will be people out there who are your perfect audience, they’d lap up your content all day long, but they just haven’t found you yet. Those algorithms aren’t helping you. Hashtags are a helpful shortcut to an engaged and interested audience. How? When you add a hashtag to your post, a plethora of people search on that term and then have the option of following you after seeing your content. It’s a win-win, you get your content seen by an engaged audience, and the users get to see the content they want to see.
Social media has become a great platform to share and promote social issues. Most movements will also gain related hashtags as they grow an organic following. Take, for instance, the Black Lives Matter movement of 2020 and beyond. The hashtag #BLM immediately grew in popularity and continues to today. If your brand is willing to advocate for a cause, publicly using the related hashtag is a perfect way. You show support, but your support is also visible publicly.
Note: Do NOT ride the publicity coattails of tragedy or hardships. Advocacy is about spreading support and awareness, not personal/professional gains. It’s important not to use hashtags for sensitive topics or movements without contributing to the cause.
There are many standard hashtags that content creators use for each significant category of post (e.g., Travel, Food, Fashion, etc.). The best method is to follow top accounts and note the hashtags they use, then use them on your post if they are relevant. You could also consider the content of the photo/video and create your own. Another option is to look for trending hashtags on the Instagram Explore page. These have the potential to increase engagement on Instagram massively.
Number per post: 3-10
Tip: Many creators use the first comment to collate their hashtags so that their captions don’t look like hashtag spam. You’ll get the same effect as if you’d included them in your caption.
Hashtags are used freely on Twitter. Usually, they feature within the wording of the tweets themselves and look natural. That said, when users want to feature in multiple hashtags searches, some are added at the end of posts. When tweeting about a particular issue or hashtag, some users will start with the hashtag and then share the rest of their tweet (almost like a headline).
Number per post: 1-2
Tip: Remember that Twitter has a strict 280-character limit. Hashtags count as part of this. If you can’t include the hashtag within the tweet’s wording, remember to leave enough characters to use it at the start or end.
Using hashtags on Pinterest is essential for any account serious about growth on the platform. Pinterest is more of a search engine than a social network, and hashtags act as keywords. Add them to your post to show up in user searches. Aim to describe the core content, overall category, and specific interests. Planning ahead when scheduling content on Pinterest is a surefire way to get the most out of your hashtags.
Number per post: 2-5
Tip: Align your thinking to an SEO style. Get into your audience’s mind and consider what they might be searching for.
Number per post: 2-3
On Facebook, you can use hashtags wherever you like, within posts or comments. They’re used as a search term, and explorable theme, and a group search tool. They’re not quite as prevalent on other platforms but should still be used for keywords and brand awareness.
Number per post: 2-3
Tip: Analytically, hashtags are hard to track on Facebook as users often have their profiles locked down to friends meaning you can’t see when they use your hashtag. Bear this in mind when looking at your data.
TikTok content creators will use hashtags to join in on a growing trend, attempt to feature on the discover page and make their content discoverable in search. The Discover page is home to the trending hashtags, which is a great place to find trends that your brand might want to participate in because you’ll get far more followers on TikTok if you do feature there.
Number per post: 3-5
Tip: If you’ve already an established audience, consider creating your own branded hashtag challenge. If the challenge goes viral, you’ll have thousands and thousands of eyes on your brand.
Number per post: 3-5
YouTube hashtags are slightly different in use. They tend to appear in the title of the videos posted and the description. They are then clickable links to other videos that have used the same hashtag. They’ll also act as search terms. Different hashtags will be more popular on YouTube depending on the time of day and the audience searching, so it’s worth considering the best times to post on YouTube.
Number per post: 3-5
Tip: It’s recommended that you only use 3-5 hashtags, any more than 15, and YouTube will blanket ignore every hashtag as a punishment for spam-like behavior.
Using hashtags is a great way to expand your reach, build brand awareness and engage with your audience (and your potential audience). Take time to research the best use cases for each platform and develop their use in your content creation process.
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