Marketing with social media’s favourite symbol.
We are in the era of a new universal symbol: the hashtag. Once known as the pound or number sign, the figure has experienced a complete renaissance, rising to great heights as a critical social media tool. Hashtags are a dream come true for marketers because they allow companies to reach large and targeted audiences, for free and with ease. By posting with the right hashtags, companies can increase brand recognition and visibility through likes, followers and engagement.
So how can you incorporate hashtags into your marketing strategy? Here are some tips to get you oriented.
While hashtag practices vary across platforms, there are some best practices that apply across the board. In general, a good hashtag is widely used, recognised and related to your brand’s messaging. Virtually all industries have hashtags that are already well-established, so look around your network to find out what people are using. Cruising competitors’ social media accounts can be an easy way to get top hashtags. Before using the hashtags you discover, double check that the hashtag is currently active and that it means what you think it means (i.e. How many users have tweeted using the hashtag in the last days and weeks? Are the majority of Instagram posts related to your industry or is the hashtag being used for something else?). Test out hashtags, and when you find one that increases your engagement, repeat it.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s get platform-specific:
Twitter is among the text-heavier social media platforms. Because of this, the main function of the Twitter hashtag is to streamline conversations from different users into one. Hashtagging on Twitter will integrate your material into relevant threads and make it appear on related user searches. It can be useful for general visibility as well as publicising an event, campaign, promotion or new release. Participating in or leading Twitter Chats (live chat sessions built around a specific hashtag) can also significantly improve your online presence and reputation.
Getting the right hashtag/text balance on Twitter can be complex. A study conducted by SalesForce showed that tweets with hashtags get twice as much engagement than tweets without them. However, engagement diminishes the more you saturate your tweets: tweets with one to two hashtags get 21% more engagement than those with three or more. In other words, hashtag fatigue is a real phenomenon on Twitter, so use them as strategically as possible.
Although hashtagging on Facebook hasn’t taken hold in the way it has on Twitter or Instagram, it is still a good idea to use some of the same hashtags in your Facebook posts to maintain continuity. Be aware that Facebook is another platform where hashtag fatigue is real—a study from Social Bakers found that one to three hashtags was ideal, while any more seemed to reduce engagement. So, as with Twitter, use them conscientiously.
Instagram is an image-based platform. Hashtags tend to focus on the description or general theme of the image rather than a conversation in which users want to engage. For this reason, the most popular hashtags on Instagram are simple words #sunset #explore #love #selfie or long-running themes like #tbt #ManicMonday and #instagood. These popular hashtags are best used in conjunction with the type of industry-specific hashtags you’re using on other platforms. Unlike Twitter and Facebook, hashtags on Instagram can be used quite liberally—Instagram posts with four or five hashtags showed a high level of engagement. Even posts with 11 or more hashtags seemed to fare well. This is likely because the platform allows users to hide hashtags by putting them in the comment section below. Other users can easily find your material without having to look at all your ‘hash trash’. This simple feature makes Instagram a good platform to experiment with different combinations of hashtags.
Hashtagging has become a science unto itself. Used right and in conjunction with other social media best practices, it can boost your brand’s online presence and increase interaction with your target audience. If you haven’t already, it’s time to make this little symbol a big part of your online marketing strategy.