Ever since Facebook brought in Hashtags there has been a debate on whether businesses should use them and if they are effective.
But lets take a step back from that discussion and firstly look at what is a Hashtag.
What is a Hashtag?
So those of you still getting to grips with Social Media as a business tool will probably be asking this question, I know as I’ve been asked it a lot.
You will probably associate them with Twitter but they have grown into fairly common usage now across many Social Media platforms. In their essence a Hashtag is a link that is preceded by a # sign (can be referred to as a hash or pound sign)
An example of a Tweet with Hashtags (and also a Twitter card)
The basic idea behind them is that any word or group of words after the # becomes a searchable link within the given Social Media platform. It becomes an idea way to basically categorise or organise your content. For example if on Twitter you decide to post about the latest episode of Game of Thrones that you are watching, you would include the Hashtag #GameOfThrones. That means others also watching can search that Hashtag and see your post, you can also search it. Its a way of joining a conversation on Social Media without actually having to direct your post at anyone in particular. Its also great for following live sporting events. By the way Hashtags are not case sensitive so #GameOfThrones is the same as #gameofthrones.
The main things to consider when creating a Hashtag are that there must be no spaces between words and while you can use letters and numbers any other keyboard symbols like punctuation marks are not supported.
The following major Social Media networks all support Hashtags:
How do I start to use Hashtags?
As you can see from the list above, Hashtags are now common across the major Social Media players. Even if you business is not on Twitter I would recommend you use Hashtags went relevant on the content your business posts on all major Social Media platforms. The relevant is important!
First of all do some research in your given industry or business area, what Hashtags are currently being used? It is important that your Hashtags reflect the current conversations that are going on in Social Media, if everyone is using #CheapCarRental and you start using #BarginCarRental then you will be missing out on potential engagement. I see far to many posts by businesses featuring random Hashtags that no one else is using, it really is a waste of marketing message to do this.
Once you have this basic behind you then its time to start looking to join business relevant conversations. You can do this either by searching out Hashtags that are relevant to your business (maybe your SEO keywords as a guide) or looking at trending Hashtags – that is to say popular tags which change regularly such as for big events. Again here its important to stay relevant, though #GameOfThrones might be popular, by including it on a post about car hire your business will look like a spammer and this could hurt your business.
See what hashtags are trending and make use of them — if they are relevant to your business. Using a popular hashtag that has nothing to do with your brand (for example, including #MileyCyrus in a tweet about cheap airfare) makes you look like a spammer and will hurt your credibility. An example could be if you are offering car hire deals for Swiss holidays use #Swisstravel. You could even search for posts with this tag and see if any ask about car hire in Switzerland, this then gives you an opportunity to present your business.
Finally you can start to create your own Hashtags be it for an event, product launch or many more ideas. Its very important though that you then promote this Hashtag on all your marketing platforms to raise awareness of it, this means not just relevant Social Media posts but also email, promotional material and your website.
Check out Hashtagify.me which is a great website that allows you to find other trending tags related to your Hashtag.
Now that you are using Hashtags make sure you use them across all your social media, but don’t go crazy and keep them relevant. At present Hashtags are most effective on Twitter and Instagram less so on Facebook as large portions of Facebook users aren’t that savvy on the concept yet. But Hashtags on Facebook definitely help making your posted content more searchable within Facebook.
One final important matter is the number of Hashtags to use in any given post. With Twitter you are limited by the amount of characters you can use, so I would suggest limiting them to 1-2 per post. This also rings true across other Social Media platforms and really helps keep things relevant. The exception would be Instagram or Pinterest where you can use a few more as descriptions of your images, but even here keep them relevant to the image. Recent research has found that Facebook posts with 1-2 Hashtags fair better then ones with 3 or more in terms of engagement.