Although hashtags were first used on Twitter back in 2007, they soon became a social media phenomenon, being integrated into most platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin, etc.
By TOMAS McKENNIE
So what exactly are hashtags, and how can your business benefit from them? Well, let’s go ahead and take a look.
What are Hashtags?
Put simply, hashtags are the “#” symbols followed by a string of words. As you’ve probably seen, hashtags are placed in almost every social media post out there. But why?
Hashtags act as a label for the content users post on social media. Their job is to place these posts under a certain category, making it easier to find content that shares the same topic. And with how cluttered most of our feeds are, hashtags definitely come in handy.
However, are hashtags important for anything besides making your posts easier to find? Well, any digital branding company will tell that the answer to that question is yes. Let’s discuss this in further detail.
The Importance of Hashtags
1. Hashtags grab attention
As we’ve previously said, our feeds are pretty busy places. As a result, we don’t have the time to read every post thoroughly. We’ll most likely scan over the content and continue scrolling down until we find something that piques our interest.
Hashtags are designed to stand out from the rest of the posts, as their text is typically colored. So, how can you use that to your advantage?
Well, if you use hashtags correctly, you can quickly let users know what your post is all about. If it’s a topic they’re interested in, chances are that they will stop scrolling and read your post in more detail, maybe even clicking through it.
2. Hashtags increase visibility
Hashtags in social media work quite similarly to keywords in Search Engine Optimization. Like in Google searches, users will type in a set of words in the search bar to find what they’re looking for.
With that said, if you’ve done your hashtag research correctly, you will find a set of common words relevant to your niche. As a result, people will get to find you more easily, ultimately increasing your visibility.
3. Hashtags give you insights into your competition
Studying your competition should always be a part of your business strategy. After all, you need to know your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses and figure out how to be one step ahead.
Hashtags help you do just that. By typing a few keywords relevant to your niche, you can find the accounts of your competitors, their top posts, and their most used hashtags.
With all of this information, you can measure the audience’s response to your competitors’ posts, letting you know what will work and what won’t in your social media strategy.
4. Hashtags give you insights into your audience
As with the competition, hashtags give you insights into your target audience, allowing you to see what type of content people share.
Not only that, but because hashtags are so widely used across multiple social media platforms, you can see how your target audience behaves on different networks.
This is important because what works for you on Instagram might not go so well on Twitter, for example. Different people use different platforms, and adapting your content based on how users behave is crucial.
5. Hashtags increase engagement
Your audience will think of using hashtags as if you’re taking part in a conversation regarding a relevant topic within your niche. As a result, they are more likely to comment, share and react to your posts.
Even more so, if you manage to partake in a high-traffic conversation by finding trending topics, you are likely to enhance your business’s visibility. And greater visibility means that you’re reaching a broader audience, which ultimately increases the number of customers.
Now that we’ve seen why hashtags are such an important part of social media marketing let’s take a look at how you should actually use them.
How To Use Hashtags
1. Do your research
As we’ve previously mentioned, hashtags are similar to keywords in Search Engine Optimization or SEO. With that said, just as you would do in your SEO strategy, you’ll need to start with the research.
Firstly, you’ll have to find something relevant to your niche. After all, you wouldn’t want users to stumble upon your social media page when searching for food recipes, while your business is all about web design. That will just ruin the reputation of your brand.
Secondly, you’ll need to take a look at your competitors. See what hashtags they typically use and how many of them they place in each of their posts. This will help you understand how your competitors are engaging with the target audience.
And finally, you’ll need to know what’s popular. There’s no point in using a hashtag that no one else is searching for.
2. Don’t use too many hashtags
Avoid packing your posts with hashtags; that’s a big mistake. You don’t want to appear as a spammer in front of your audience. The number of hashtags you should use varies from platform to platform.
For example, studies have shown that you should use no more than two hashtags on Twitter, whereas on Instagram, the optimal number is around 11.
All in all, remember that the primary use of hashtags is to categorize your posts so that they are easier to find, not to try to attract as many people as you can.
3. Keep it simple
When choosing your hashtags, remember that they need to be simple. There’s no point in using long hashtags that are difficult to spell, as that will most likely not bring you positive results. That doesn’t mean you should use generic ones either.
Your hashtags need to be short, relevant, easy to spell, and specific to your niche. You have to find something that your audience will likely be interested in or something that covers a popular topic within your industry.
When it comes to the length of your hashtags, you should aim for something that’s up to 18 characters long, as these generate the highest engagement.
All in all, hashtags shouldn’t be treated as an afterthought. They are as important to social media as keywords are to Search Engine Optimization. If you use them properly, hashtags can increase visibility and help you reach a wider audience.
With that said, to make the most out of your hashtags, you’ll first need to research both your audience and your competitors extensively. That will allow you to find out what your audience is most interested in and understand how your competitors are engaging with the said audience.
Tomas is a digital marketing specialist and a freelance blogger. He is focused on new web tech trends and digital voice distribution across different channels.