The pound sign followed by a word or short phrase, shared on social media, can make your brand an instant hit. So then, I’ll use this hashtag next time! Of course, it’s not that simple.
The hashtag as we know it was created by Chris Messina, who first introduced it in a 2007 tweet. He said he made it not just for Twitter but for the internet as a whole.
A hashtag is a way to identify and find a specific topic, event or theme on social media. On Twitter, for instance, if you search for #myproduct, you’ll see all tweets with that hashtag. Undoubtedly, it’s an essential tool these days on social media. You’ll find it not only on Twitter but on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, TikTok, Pinterest and most other social networks.
Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs are having second thoughts about hashtags. It doesn’t help that people are using these indiscriminately. You can include a trending tag in your marketing to have your business included and mentioned when others search for that tag. However, a wrong word choice or an ill-timed post can backfire and hurt a business.
Even a hashtag with good intentions can open a Pandora’s Box of unintended consequences. Do you recall #McDstories, a social media by McDonald’s? Since ANYBODY can use your hashtag, using it for negative effects is often called a “bashtag” (for bashing a company). That’s exactly what happened with McDonald’s, when thousands of people used the tag to describe their terrible experiences with McDonald’s.
So the question is, can hashtags really help your business grow? The answer is a definite yes – as long as you know how and when to use these. It can certainly increase brand awareness and get more people to talk about you on the right social media platform.
So, let me share with you what I’ve learned so far from my experience.
What Is Your #Purpose?
When you create and encourage the use of hashtags, you should always have a meaning and strategy behind it. Here are some of the common uses of this tool:
- Make your brand or content discoverable.
- Call people’s attention to your event, campaign, fundraiser or contest.
- Improve visibility in your local area.
- Act as a caption to an image you post on social media.
- Be able to find your competitors’ use of hashtags.
- Celebrate or observe holidays.
- Show and call support for advocacies, sports teams and community projects.
- Start a chat or forum on important issues.
Creating or Using Trending Hashtags
Finding the right hashtag for your business is a process worth thinking about. It’s not just adding words to a hash sign. The first step is putting down your ideas on paper. The second is checking if any of these are already in use. The third is making sure your choices aren’t banned for some reason. An innocent-sounding hashtag may be offensive or slang to a particular group.
I suggest you add your brand name. It’s one way to get people to know you. A hashtag can get them curious enough, so they’ll likely click links to your website.
While you’re brainstorming, here are a few tips that could help you:
- Keep it short, memorable, relevant and catchy. The simpler your hashtag is, the easier it is to remember. It can be smart or funny but should always be about your brand or products.
- You can use trending hashtags like #tbt (Throwback Thursday) or #beautiful, but don’t overuse these. Check first why these are trending. Don’t commit the same mistake DiGiorno Pizza made. They used the hashtag #whyistayed to advertise their business, not realizing it was actually about domestic violence.
- Appeal to your customers’ emotions. Among the top ten trending hashtags are #love and #happy. Your hashtags can include these as long as they’re relevant to your business. A good example is #ilovecoke.
- Check if your hashtag might be misread or mean something different or unintentional. An example would be #Susanalbumparty (“Susan album party”) to promote Susan Boyle’s new album. Remove the “Sus” at the beginning and what do you get? Oops!
- Test it with others. Include people from all walks of life. Ask for feedback from those active on social media.
- Search for related hashtags. These could be more trending than yours. For instance, #vintagecarphotos might be better than #vintagecarimages. It’s also a way of finding your niche and your competitors.
- Make it unique. Type #dognailpolish and you’ll find 2,292 posts on Instagram. The canine jury is still out on whether they really enjoy having their nails colored. But with a unique product, you can get your brand noticed.
- Use hashtags that spread cheer. There are subtle ways to increase brand awareness without having to sell. Not long ago, #staysafe and #lockdownfunny became popular on social media. You can start a conversation with a hashtag like #bestlockdownjokes or #bestquarantinerecipe. Why not turn it into a contest?
- Check on your competitors. Find out what’s trending with your target market by visiting your competitors’ social media accounts. You can follow which hashtags have the most significant number of shares or mentions. These can serve as your guide to come up with your own. Later on I will discuss some tracking tools you can use.
- Ask your followers for suggestions. I’ve seen a business do this and they received tons of ideas in just 24 hours. Getting your customers involved is a fun way to increase engagement and loyalty.
Using Hashtags on Social Media
Use hashtags on this platform to highlight keywords, an event or a call to action. Always keep in mind that a tweet should not be more than 280 characters. Find out what’s trending in your area and in others too. There might be opportunities for your business. Use Twitter trends.
Reuse your hashtags and remain consistent. Once you’ve created one for a contest or a campaign, stick to it. Changing a hashtag midway will only confuse followers and complicate your tracking.
Connecting your tweets with an ongoing topic is one way to being discovered on Twitter. More people will become aware of your brand.
Marketing with hashtags on Facebook is a challenge. Yes, you can add these to your posts or comments. However, most profiles are private, so it’s not easy to track what is currently trending. Like all platforms, search within Facebook groups for used and trending hashtags.
You can use up to 30 hashtags per tweet, but it doesn’t mean you should. But before you do, try following your target audience to find out what hashtags they’re using. When you do, you can engage them more effectively. Don’t forget to use your own hashtag when you comment on their posts. Discover which trending hashtags are relevant to your business and use them.
Instagram has the greatest number of influencers on social media. If you have partnered with some, ask them to use your hashtags, which their followers can share to get your business trending and talked about.
Hashtags work a bit like keywords on this platform. You add hashtags to get your content discovered by people searching for your topic. Once you publish your content, you can not edit your hashtags. Here’s a guide if you want more information on using it for marketing on LinkedIn.
When you post updates on your profile, hashtags work similar to any other social network. Make sure your profile is set to be publicly viewable to anybody if you wish your updates to come up in hashtag searches and trends.
Hashtags work like tags similar to Twitter and Instagram. There is no limit to the number of tags you can use, but with a limit of 100 characters, it puts a practical limit on them.
Users often search for hashtags through the Discover search icon at the top or bottom of the app.
Similar to Instagram, do research to see the most common tags your target audience is using to find content of interest to them.
Hashtag Marketing – What to Avoid
- Tag every word on your posts. When there are too many hash signs on a tweet or status update, it looks ugly, desperate, and actually drives followers away.
- Use them in all your communication. There’s a proper time to use hashtags. If you are conversing on a social media channel with a customer complaining about your product, adding hashtags to your replies is definitely inappropriate. These can be irritating when your customer wants straight answers from you.
- Don’t use generic hashtags. These can be popular but impractical for your brand. It’s the same as marketing without doing any market research. Sure, you may attract the multitudes, but not all of them are interested in your products.
- Use a hashtag without research or testing. Even big firms with social media consultants commit hashtag mistakes. Keep in mind you want to increase awareness, and not be remembered for your errors.
- Giving up too soon. So what if your first tries are not successful? Most get it right through trial and error. In fact, A/B split test by replacing a word or words. Try adding new ones to your mix.
Hashtag Tracking Tools
There are many tracking tools to help your social media campaigns, and listed below are a few that provide essential services. These can monitor conversations and help you find relevant hashtags.
For most of them, you will have to pay for extra features. I suggest using a combination of free services and paid to serve your needs. In time, you’ll find the right one for your business.
- Twitter Advanced Search. If you’re focusing on this platform alone, it has features that give you a wealth of information. You’ll have to manually search and record relevant data yourself. Click on a hashtag and Twitter will show you recent activity.
- Socialert. You can find out what people are saying about your brand on all social media platforms with this tool. For a detailed report, though, you need to apply for any of their paid accounts. The cheapest is $24.95 per month.
- Brand 24. You can sign up with this company and take advantage of its 14-day free trial offer. This tool lets you know how your brand is perceived in the market. You get a real-time alert for any negative mentions.
- All Hashtag. This is one of the top tracking tools, which includes a hashtag generator that can come in handy. Enter your hashtag and with one click, you can find out its popularity. Its list of trending hashtags is updated regularly.
You might be missing out on new opportunities if you don’t try hashtags. Increase your visibility and engagement without having to pay a cent. This is a reason enough for you to start using these now! #businesssuccess