A hashtag is a hyperlink between resources; in its common usage, it is a word or phrase preceded by the # symbol inside a message to indicate a keyword or topic of interest and facilitate search.
If you use a hashtag in a message it becomes indexed and searchable so if someone clicks on it, they will be brought to a page with occurrences of that hashtag, which makes discovering resources a lot easier.
Therefore, hashtags are powerful search tools and have become very popular among social media users. Sometimes they are too popular and may become overused: research shows that more than two in a post reduce engagement in Facebook and Twitter (not in Instagram, though, where posts with 8-12 hashtags produce the greatest engagement).
Like most other things, hashtags give the best results when you know what you are doing with them; so here is a short list of rules:
- Don’t overuse hashtags (unless you are posting in Instagram, of course): one is very good, two are good. More is not good. So #don’t #hashtag #every #word #in #your #post.
- Use hashtags which are relevant to the content of your post: some are very popular and receive a lot of hits but if you use them just to try and get attention, you will just annoy people who land on your post and realise it is nothing to do with what they were looking for.
- Don’t be too creative with hashtags; they should serve for categorisation and discovery so use hashtags which someone would actually search for. If you #hashtagaverylongstringofwords no one will search for it and it will be hard work to read it, anyway.
- Don’t be too generic: #music or #food will return too many results to be really useful
- Hashtags are great for creating brand awareness, so they should be concise, relevant and trending; use them to join in social conversations about events (#Worldcup), culture topics (#GameofThrones), days of the week (#TBT) but, in this case, make sure you don’t jump in with a blatantly selling purpose.
- Create campaign-specific hashtags (#ShareACoke, #IceBucketChallenge) if your brand has enough strength to make them go viral.
Finally, there are quite a lot of online tools which allow you to find trending hashtags and manage your campaigns; they are all good but not for everyone’s pockets. Our best advice is to create your own according to your campaign targets and track success using the many analytic tools which social media make available.
Do you use hashtags a lot for your social media communication strategies? Do you have any tips you would like to share?
If you would like help with your digital marketing strategy, give us a call now on +44 (0)1822 618537 for a free consultation.