How to use hashtags to improve your reach
Not so long ago the humble #hashtag turned 10-years-old. It’s been a decade of scepticism, trial and error, adoption and eventual cultural embedment that now sees hashtags used to help cut through the billions of social media posts published every day.
Little did former Google designer Chris Messina know that his simple yet smart idea would become such an important digital marketing tool as platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook adopted it for their users.
Using hashtags is now essential for businesses if they want to improve their reach and put their content in front of their target audiences. Here are some tips on how to use hashtags as part of your social media marketing strategy:
Back to hashtag basics
Using hashtags correctly can be the difference between sending your messages into a social media black hole or targeting them at people who care. But first, it’s important to make sure you are putting them together right.
Hashtags can be one or more words without punctuation, spaces or special characters. If you’re using multiple words make sure you capitalise the first letter of each word. This will make it easily recognisable and avoid any unintentional and embarrassing word combinations.
Create a hashtag strategy
Understanding which hashtags are in popular use, are used by your competitors, and that relate to your industry is an important starting point for developing a hashtag strategy for your business.
You will also find that some hashtags will gain you more interaction and reach on specific social media platforms. Do your research and make a note of the hashtags you want to use where.
Craft your own hashtag
Creating a completely new hashtag to use with a specific marketing campaign is a great way to draw attention to your brand. It’s a tactic that has been put to good use by companies like Coca-Cola, which used #ShareACoke to encourage customers to post product pictures on social media.
Make your hashtag short and sweet so people can recognise it and reuse it. Add to it a call-to-action, competition or special promotion to generate a buzz around your hashtag and brand.
Get in on Twitter chats
Thousands of Twitter chats happen every day. These are organised social media events that happen for one hour at a pre-agreed time. They cover industries, interest groups and geographical locations. The aim is to have a discussion with like-minded individuals, businesses and entrepreneurs during which you can draw attention to your own Twitter account and brand.
It’s possible to sponsor some Twitter chats and guide the discussion on a subject you wish to highlight. Do some research on the Twitter chats that might be relevant to your business. Click here for a list to get you started.
Tailor hashtags to different platforms
Not every social media platform uses hashtags in the same way – that would be too easy.
On Twitter, even though you now have more than 140 characters you’re still limited by what you can squeeze into a post, so you should keep the number of hashtags down in order to not over-cram your post.
Instagram is a different beast altogether. On here you’re allowed up to 30 hashtags and using a high number will improve your reach. This shouldn’t be seen as a free-for-all though. Pick a good balance of hashtags: some popular ones; some about your industry; and others that are specifically about your post image. To maximise your reach it’s important to interact with other posts using the same hashtags by liking and commenting on them.
After a long hiatus from hashtags, Pinterest has just reintroduced them as a means of searching for content. Add between five and 10 keyword-focused hashtags below your pin description to help people find your content.
Facebook is a funny one. While this platform would like to see more people using hashtags to organise their newsfeed it looks a little strange when you see lots of them at the end of a post. Plus, research has shown that using more than two hashtags can limit your post reach. If you do choose to use them here only do so if it’s specific to a marketing campaign you’re running.