Hashtags are found everywhere in social media these days, and have even permeated into our everyday language. The symbol for hashtags was previously only known as the pound sign (#) on telephones. What does using a hashtag mean? Where does that hashtag go once you put it out on the Internet? Do they really serve a purpose? When used well, they are definitely very useful for spreading and finding information online and reaching out to your audience. This blog will go over how to use hashtags for your business while making them fun to use at the same time!
What is a Hashtag?
A hashtag is a word or phrase with no spaces that has a pound sign in front of it. It is essentially a word, phrase, or sentence fragment that has been smashed together. The ‘hashtag’ has become so widely recognized that the Oxford Dictionary added the word to its dictionary in 2010 and Scrabble added it to their dictionary in 2014.
The hashtag was first introduced and most widely used on Twitter, but has since found its way onto Facebook, Instagram, and countless other sites. Now that so many websites use hashtags, the format links them together so that people using the same kinds of hashtags on one site can easily find more information on the other. All this sounds great, but #HowDoIHashtag? Knowing how to use hashtags well is important. The more specific you are with them, the more you reach out to your target audience.
For some formatting basics, you capitalization doesn’t matter too much when using hashtags for reach purposes. Here, we’ll capitalize each word to make them easier to read, which is a good thing to do for longer hashtags or ones that can be read multiple ways without clarification. Many people only capitalize the first letter, no letters, or whatever they feel like capitalizing in the moment. No capitalization is just fine for shorter hashtags. Also, remove any punctuation from the sentence, including commas and apostrophes.
So you think you are ready to use hashtags to start promoting and marketing your business. Great! First off, you need to know your target audience. Imagine that your service is dog grooming. You could use the hashtag #Dog, but that is way too general. By using something more specific like #DogGrooming, you would get a more targeted audience to what you are actually wanting to sell. If you are trying to promote something other than a specific product, such as a photo, make sure the hashtag is specific to that as well.
When you are using hashtags for your business, try and come up with ones that have yet to be claimed by another business. This is where it can be tricky. You do not want to use your actual business name as the hashtag, but you want something that is relevant to it. However, tons of hashtags have already been claimed by businesses around the world.
As an example of good branded hashtags, many cities use official hashtags for tourists to use when they are posting pictures from a vacation. This is a great way to promote travel to their city using people who have been there and are posting their own pictures. A few examples of this are:
- South Dakota uses #HiFromSD
- Florida uses #LoveFL
- Disney World uses #DisneyWorld
By doing this and asking audiences to use these branded hashtags when posting to social media, everything from baseball teams to travel destinations to small businesses can reach a target market while creating a good research tool for its viewer base. It also gives them follower-generated content to use on their website and social sites. The initial branding may take some time and research, but will be a powerful tool in the long run.
Short and To The Point
It can be fun to get witty and creative with hashtags, but make sure you do not make them too long. For example: #DontMakeAHashtagAnEntireSentenceLong. Even with capitalization, is that pleasant to read? Sure, a longer hashtag may target a very specific audience and provide lots of information, but it will not trend or search well at all. Pretty much no one would think up the same long sentence in a search. Also, no one wants to type in that many characters, and this hashtag would take up most of the character limit on Twitter.
Being too clever in your hashtags may hurt you as well. You want people to naturally search for your hashtag, not have to be super clever to even find it. Being simple and short with the hashtag will get you more searches and more eyes towards your business.
More Content than Hashtags
When you are posting to social media, no matter which platform, make sure you have more content in your post than you do hashtags. A post crammed full of hashtags overwhelms and annoys many readers. Just because Instagram reportedly lets you use up to 30 hashtags in a single post, does not mean you should actually do that! It is hashtag overload, and often leaves you looking desperate. Sure it will gain you more viewers, but with this many hashtags, the visitors you gain will most likely be spammers rather than real people or people who are not in your target audience. If you like to use many different hashtags, make a list and spread out their use in several different posts over time.
If your post just repeats information and does not add to the general conversation of the topic, it is sometimes best to leave hashtags off entirely. When you are just reposting a breaking news story or a DIY idea you found online, there is no need to hashtag, since you are essentially just repeating something that isn’t your own content that was already out there.
Cater to the Social Media Sites You Use
Each social media site has its own preferred way to use hashtags to get the most out of them while using the platform. Do the research for each site to find the best way. Instagram tends to be more focused on the content description, while Twitter is more focused on the topic of the conversation. Take the time on each social media platform to look into what is the most relevant hashtag for your topic and go from there. If you use LinkedIn, keep in mind that that site does not like hashtags, so using them there can actually hurt your posts.
Hashtags on Twitter
For Twitter, the hashtag is used widely to tie everyone together in an ongoing conversation. For example, if you use #2016PresidentialDebate and click on the hashtag in Twitter, it will pull up all posts for that hashtag. This connects people who are not actually friends and allows them to all be a part of the bigger conversation. There is a hashtag stream that Twitter uses that allows you to connect with people in several ways within the same hashtag. It goes something like this:
- Top: This is the stream of tweets that have seen the most engagement, usually those that have the most recent followers.
- Latest: This is the live stream of those tweeting out a hashtag at that very moment.
- People: This is a list of the top Twitter accounts that you can follow relating to the current popular hashtags.
- Photos: This a collage of photos that are included in the tweets that use the trending hashtags.
Knowing this system for Twitter can help you find your best target audience and help you in figuring out the best hashtags to use. You can see what kinds of hashtags become the most popular and formulate your own hashtags in a similar way.
Hashtags on Facebook
Hashtags on Facebook are much like Twitter, where they tie together people who do not know each other. Unlike Twitter, Facebook profiles can be private, so when the hashtag is clicked on, the person’s information and posts may not be visible. Most hashtags used on Facebook are by brands, publishers, and influencers rather than individuals using them to connect to strangers.
Hashtags on Instagram
Hashtags have the same effect on Instagram as they do on Twitter and Facebook, but the search for a hashtag is much easier. Just go to the search bar in Instagram and type in the hashtag you are looking for to find results including that word or phrase.
Hashtags in the Offline World
Can you use hashtags outside of the Internet for your marketing? Sure! They can be great on fliers to help with a promotion or fundraiser drive you might have. They are also great for weddings, since guests don’t all know each other but will all be posting photos. Having a unique hashtag will create an album of sorts for all customers, guests, or clients. The research may take awhile, but your business will reap the benefits of a good hashtag in the long run. #ExploreHashtags
Hopefully this blog helps you develop your strategy for how to use hashtags for your business or event. If you want more information about social media, check out Virtual Market Advantage’s other blogs. This one goes over how to use social media to promote your blog posts!