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Hashtags: Everything You Need To Know

Since Twitter introduced them in 2007, the hashtag has continued to grow in popularity. Also known as the number sign, hash or octothorp, this little character was once just used to re-record a message on an answerphone, but social media invented the hashtag and use it for their metadata tags. Tagging posts, searches and trending topics in this way makes it easier for people to find the information they want to see, and it is imperative for brands and businesses to use them in the most beneficial way for effective social media marketing.

How Do Hashtags Work In Social Media?

Hashtags act as the online version of word-of-mouth. You can see what people are talking about and when you post about a promotion, for example, any followers can see hashtags you have used and then if they shared it, any of their followers would see it and when they share it their followers would see it again and again, spreading the word around; all whilst drawing traffic back to the original promotional post.

Hashtags represent what people are talking about and any currently trending topics. It’s key that you keep up-to-date with current and trending news and use hashtags relevant to this to make your brand look knowledgeable and credible. It’s not a secret that using hashtags increases likes and follows, but are you putting the maximum number of hashtags on each post and wondering why you aren’t seeing great interactivity? It isn’t just about using them but how you use them and which ones you choose to use.

Do not leave hashtags until the moment you post, and then just quickly tagging things you think link to your post without researching the connotations of that hashtag, what other companies have used it and its popularity. You need to consider and research each hashtag you use and check the popularity of them within the target audience you are aiming to reach. It is also important to identify any audiences you want to avoid that are not relevant to your brand and what hashtags they are looking at.

When researching each hashtag, you want to see how many results it currently brings up. A hashtag such as ‘#love’ has 2.1 billion posts on Instagram. This hashtag is so popular that, by the time you have posted others would have posted too, pushing you further and further down the search results and reducing visibility.

You need to find ones with a much smaller audience relevant to your brand and the services you provide. Choosing a hashtag that is so specific to your brand it doesn’t have any posts at all can benefit your brand, but this will take time to build up the hashtag, encourage others to use it and then see the results.

A hand holding a hashtag with a yellow background - we discuss everything you need to know about hashtags in social media

If you are creating a new hashtag, make sure that it is short and memorable, and the connection to your brand and the services you provide is obvious. Once established, all content under this hashtag will be able to be seen together under one search, which can be very beneficial for brand awareness and reputation.

If you want to reach a specific audience in a geographical location, due to trialling targeted ads or having a bricks and mortar business that provides services in a particular area, using the hashtag followed by the name of the city, town, address etc is a great way of drawing in a targeted local audience. Also, when done on Instagram, it will pull the post into location-based stories on the ‘explore’ function.

Brands have been known to see an incredible 50% increase in engagement on Twitter posts by using hashtags. Tweets with 1-2 hashtags get twice as much engagement and twice as many retweets. Interestingly, if you use any more than two hashtags on this platform, you could actually then see a drop in engagement of up to 17%.

However, over on Instagram, the highest interactivity was seen on posts with 11 or more hashtags. You can use up to 30 on each post, but just because you can does not mean you should. If you can find 30 hashtags that are relevant to your audience and popular amongst them and you believe will increase interactivity, then use all 30. However, it is more likely to have less than 30 but know that you have researched each one and they are solid hashtags that achieve your goals and benefit the post.

What Else Can You Do With A Hashtag?

Aside from using hashtags to expand your discoverability and post interactivity, there are other ways in which hashtags can benefit you on social media.

When you post, you can encourage people to comment on your posts using a hashtag, whether that be ‘comment #win below’ to enter a competition or something more personal such as ‘tell us about your #throwbackthursday’. This will increase the comments and interactivity on your post, and by using the tag your followers are increasing your chances of being seen in the search feeds of those tags.

Three hands holding up balloons that spell 'WIN' - using hashtags to promote a giveaway

You can also use hashtags to combine online and print marketing. A common example of this is including a thank you note within the parcel of a purchase that includes a note along the lines of ‘Love your item? Show us with #brandname on Instagram’ – this results in free advertising of the product, increased awareness of your brand, more traffic on that hashtag and a feeling that you care for the customers that receive the note.

Another way people are combining online and offline marketing using hashtags is at events. When people attend events, you can ask them to hashtag any pictures they upload with something relevant to what the event is celebrating/promoting or having a nice photo opportunity at the event where people can physically see the hashtag (as a wall adhesive, for example) will encourage people to take a snap and post about the event. This results in free advertising for the event, free advertising for your brand and increased use of the hashtag.

Hashtags are not going anywhere any time soon. Now is the time to be making the most of them in your social media marketing.

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