If you’ve been on social media in the last 10 years, the term "hashtag" is probably part of your vocabulary. Not only are they an important part of social media, but when used properly, they have a huge impact on the visibility of your brand. Use the following tips to build a powerful hashtag strategy that works!
What's a hashtag?
Unlike a hashbrown which is used as a delicious side to your eggs during breakfast, a hashtag is a keyword phrase used in social media marketing. It should be one word, without spaces, without punctuation and should be included within or after your content.
Hashtags bond together public conversation using a single term, which can be searched by clicking on the hashtag or searching for it through a social outlet. They were initially made famous on Twitter, but hashtags are now used on most social platforms.
To save yourself from face-palm-worthy social media mistakes, here's an example: If you're eating breakfast, it's totally acceptable to snap a picture of your plate and post with #hashbrown.
As a business owner, you need to know when to use hashtags appropriately and strategically.
Business vs Personal Use
Hashtags are vital for businesses that do anything online because they connect the public to your company. Using hashtags that are relevant to your brand while having keywords that are commonly searched online, creates that perfect balance.
Another essential factor of using hashtags with an associated business is knowing the analytics of those hashtags - such as how often that hashtag is used, if it's relevant to your brand, community, location, and other demographics.
A VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Dear reader, if you have a personal account and you're posting regular personal stuff (the vacation, the dog, the dinner, etc.), don't even worry about this blog - it's not for you. Personal usage of a hashtag isn't concerned with measuring analytics because there is no investment on which you're seeking return. Don't tell your mom, "Little Bird said you're doing hashtags wrong," if she wants to use the hashtag #favoritebeaniebabies on her posts. We don't condone that type of curtailment, and we won't have your back.
Personal accounts don't even need to worry about the keyword density of a hashtag (which means how often a hashtag or phrase is searched online), but businesses do. If a hashtag is too generic, like the hashtag #hashbrown, it will be hard for people to see your content because it's oversaturated with generic pictures of breakfast.
On the flip side, using a hashtag that is too niche might have lower visibility because people aren't searching for hashtags that are too obscure. Finding the sweet spot of a hashtag's keyword density is the magic of using hashtags for your business.
Event-specific or campaign-specific hashtags can also be helpful for businesses. It's common to see a business doing a giveaway or contest on social media, and they might use helpful hashtags to segment people interacting with their content - "Like for #Hashbrown, RT for #TaterTots!"
While the goal of both personal and professional use of social media is trying to generate visibility and engagement, a business needs to consider a few additional factors - like brand consistency, cultivating user-generated content, their buyer personas and creating a connection with existing and potential clients.
Let's look at an example: Coca-Cola used the hashtag #ShareACoke during their Project Connect Campaign. They printed some of the most popular names on their actual cans and bottles. Consumers couldn’t help but find their own name, as well as their friends, and they literally “shared a Coke.”
This made those consumers post photos of Coca-Cola’s product all over social media, cultivating the user-generated content that we mentioned previously. This is a good example of a proactive way to use a hashtag - creating your own hashtag that’s associated with your brand.
Best Practices per Platform
In the same way that hashbrowns make your breakfast more fulfilling, hashtags make your social content richer. While hashtags might be used on all social outlets, they function a little differently on each of those platforms. Users of a social platform can find and interact with content by searching for a specific hashtag. The platforms actually use them to learn what the associated content is about. However, when using hashtags, there are a few rules to follow to reap the benefits.
For example, you are not allowed to use more than 30 hashtags on a post on Instagram. Doing so will result in your hashtags not functioning properly and other users of Instagram will not be able to see your content, even when users are hunting for the hashtags you posted. With Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, it’s best to keep your hashtag usage between 2 and 4 per post.
Placement is another key factor. On Twitter, you can put your hashtags anywhere within your written content, whereas Facebook and LinkedIn should have hashtags at the end of the copy you post. #LikeThis
Why Use Hashtags?
Hashtags are easy to understand and accessible to most people online. They align with user behavior and connect your content to the rest of the world. Using hashtags can add value to your content and conversations online, but use them sparingly. Using too many hashtags or using them too much can add confusion to your content, and it might annoy other users that interact with you online!
Now that you understand what a hashtag is, it's time to see others who have influence online and ask for their help to reach more potential customers! These people are called influencers. Influencers are people with a large presence and social media following, and they can help create user-generated content (UGC), which helps promote your brand to a wider audience.
Having influencers use your brand's hashtags will help your company's online engagement. Creating a good hashtag helps create high-visibility and searchability for your brand, which creates a higher ROI.
How to Develop a Hashtag Strategy
We all know that strategy is important for any and all businesses. Having a dedicated hashtag strategy should be part of that digital plan. First off, it's good form to use hashtags in every post you make, because it creates more engagement and having that continuity is good for your brand.
Now that you have some ideas of which hashtags to use, next you'll want to create a hashtag funnel - a good way to diversify your hashtags. Start off with industry hashtags as your priority, followed by niche hashtags, then brand, community, location, and event last.
Target every angle of what people will search for, that is relevant to your brand.
After gathering your hashtags for each category, you can organize them by "cloud." A hashtag cloud holds certain hashtags that can be used for certain content - making your hashtag strategy easily accessible.
For example, as a business, let's say the next two pieces of content you post on Instagram are a photo of your business at a community event, and the other is a photo of a product your business offers. The types of hashtags you would use on each post would differ - the event-based content would have more geo-location and community hashtags compared to the other post. Having your hashtags grouped together for specific content, saved into those clouds, and ready to use when the time comes will save you time and energy.
At Little Bird, we have clouds for social media posts we do for our blog promotion, podcast episodes, free resources, office culture, and more!
If you can master these tips, you'll have a winning hashtag strategy! It’s good to remember that hashtags are a living organism in the online world. As social platforms develop newer software and technology - as well as the always-changing algorithms on social channels - hashtags can (and will) change.
Now, who wants some hashbrowns?
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