Have you made social media hashtags a part of your marketing strategy yet?
You may have already come up with a hashtag for your business or product. You think “that’s good enough” and go with it. You use it in a few posts, and that’s it right?
Hashtags aren’t a laissez-faire type of thing. And they aren’t just a trend that needs to be adopted. They’re a means of communicating and expanding your business on social media.
The topic of social media hashtags deserves more attention from marketers, which is why we wrote this post.
Consider this to be your ultimate guide to using social media hashtags for business.
This comprehensive guide is written for people of all experience levels, from hashtag novices to experienced hashtag users. There should be some useful information here for everyone.
Here’s what we’re going to cover in the guide:
- What are hashtags?
- How do social media hashtags work?
- Different marketing strategies involving hashtags
- The different types of hashtags
- How to create your hashtag
- Tips for using hashtags
- How to find good hashtags for your business
What Are Hashtags?
If you’re reading this guide, then you might be wondering “what exactly are hashtags?”
A “hashtag” once represented a simple pound sign or hash mark, then came along social media and it made this mundane mark its own.
A hashtag on social media is a keyword or phrase preceded by the hash symbol (#). A hashtag is spelled out without spaces.
People search hashtags on their favorite social media websites to discover more of what they’re interested in.
What Was The First Hashtag?
Twitter was the first major social media site that used hashtags and where hashtags are most widely used today.
Here’s the first ever Twitter hashtag in all its glory:
Now, whatever social media website you go on, hashtag usage is common.
But this is hardly a reassuring fact if you aren’t familiar with hashtags. In fact, you might be weirded out by how common they’ve become.
At one point you might’ve decided just to avoid them like the plague.
After all, as far as you’re concerned, hashtags and the people who use them are from another world. A world that’s optional to be a part of.
But this couldn’t be further from the truth. If you’re trying to market your business on social media, then social media hashtags simply can’t be ignored.
After you finish reading this post, you’ll understand their importance. And then you’ll want to master using them.
How Do Social Media Hashtags Work?
First of all, you have to understand the usefulness of hashtags. They aren’t just a cool trend. There are many practical uses for social media users.
Hashtags are used to group together posts about a particular topic.
For example, any post that includes the hashtag #sportsapparel will appear in social media search results for the search term #sportsapparel. This helps the searcher find and participate in discussions about sports apparel.
Hashtags also have many practical uses for your marketing.
- You can categorize your social media posts based on topic, purpose, or marketing campaign.
- You can create your own branded hashtag to help you monitor your visibility on social media. This way you’ll be able to see how many people are posting with your hashtag.
- You can raise awareness of your business and get more customers!
A perfect example of a branded hashtag in action is #givesyouwings.
The company REDBULL raised massive awareness of their brand on social media by using the hashtag #givesyouwings. Cool and memorable isn’t it? Doesn’t everyone wish they had wings and could fly?
Of course they do.
REDBULL capitalized on this and now #givesyouwings is synonymous with the energy drink Red Bull. Whenever someone clicks that hashtag, they’ll be bombarded with posts about the energy drink.
Finally, think about this: there are thousands of images posted every minute on social media. Therefore, your post isn’t likely to be seen by anyone except your followers.
This is where social media hashtags come into play.
And the best part is: it’s all free! There’s no cost to using hashtags, except for the time it takes to learn the trends and to learn how hashtags work on each different platform.
With the strategies below, you can gain access to potentially thousands of people outside your current social following.
6 Strategies For Using Social Media Hashtags
#1 Boost Your Social Media Outreach
- Organic reach: hashtags are searchable on social media. So, using them in your posts makes your business more discoverable. Here’s a bonus benefit of using hashtags for organic search: some sites like Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram let profile page biographies show up in hashtag searches!
- Linking opportunities: hashtags are similar to hyperlinks on most websites: they’re clickable and take the user to another page. When someone clicks on a hashtag , they’re taken to a sort of “newsfeed” page for that specific hashtag. For example, check out the destination page for the hashtag #barcamp.
There you can see all the latest posts using the hashtag #barcamp, with the most recent posts at the top of the page. Think about the opportunities this presents. You could get free exposure when someone clicks a hashtag on someone else’s post. How cool is that?
When someone clicks onto that hashtag, they might see your post on the hashtag’s page if you used that same hashtag in your post!
- Reach Your Target Audience: you’ll want to keep lists of hashtags for each of the following hashtag categories: popular hashtags in your industry, content related hashtags, and popular hashtags your target audience uses.
#2 Find and Join Conversations on Social Media
One way to take advantage of hashtags is to search the trending ones and join in on conversations people are having.
You can find these hashtags by simply checking the most discussed topics on a social media network. For instance, on Twitter there’s the Trends For You list or the Worldwide Trend list.
Think of hashtags as social gatherings. It’s your chance to shine, to show off your personality, and to gain name recognition.
But like any kind of social gathering, you need to know the do’s and don’ts and the social norms ahead of time.
So you’ll have to research the trending hashtag before jumping in.
Don’t just use a hashtag for the sake of joining the bandwagon. Keep in mind that you need to provide valuable content together with a trending hashtag.
Make things easier for yourself and choose the right hashtags from the get-go. Start by searching for hashtags you think would be a good fit for your business.
You can also find hashtag ideas by researching your competitors on social media. In fact you can even find your competitors by searching popular hashtags in your niche!
#3 Social Listening/Research/Product Development
Another one of the benefits of social media hashtags for business owners is that you can read conversations your target audience is having. This is otherwise known as social listening. Use this tactic to figure out their pain points. You can then create specific content, solutions or products to address their pain points/needs.
#4 Create Your Own Branded Hashtag
As we mentioned earlier, creating your own branded hashtag with your business and/or product name can help you monitor your visibility on social media.
But that’s not all that branded hashtags can do.
Your branded hashtag will also allow you to:
- Reinforce your branding.
- Track the success of your various different marketing campaigns – track your “reach” and “brand awareness” campaigns separately.
- Keep track of user generated content – this is basically free content that you can repost in the future.
#5 Drive Event Engagement
Whether your event is offline or online, event hashtags work great for driving engagement. Here’s how:
- Every event attendee can use the same event hashtag. They can use it in their own post, or they can search the hashtag and find posts others have created already. The hashtag enables everyone at the event to participate in discussions and create new discussions centered on the event.
- You can take advantage of your event hashtag by creating questions and polls. Not only do these help drive more engagement, but you’ll also gain a lot of valuable insights that you can use for your marketing.
- Events give you the chance to visually represent your hashtags. A visually exciting hashtag will help drum up more excitement for your event and business. And, don’t forget to take full advantage of the event by adding a visual call to action as well!
#6 Build Your Community
After reading the previous section, you can understand how people might find each other and form relationships.
Social media platforms are embracing this phenomenon. Instagram lets you follow specific hashtags like you would follow friends or companies.
Twitter Chats allow people to join in, learn, and discuss ideas.
So, take advantage of these social media trends, and build up your own hashtag communities!
Different Types Of Social Media Hashtags
Now that you understand how using hashtags can benefit your business, let’s discuss the different types and when you should use them.
There are 3 categories of social media hashtags:
Brand Specific Hashtags
The main problem with other types of hashtags is that your posts can get lost in a sea of other posts.
Not so with branded hashtags. You’ll want to use these bad boys for promotions, events, contests, and marketing campaigns.
When creating branded hashtags, be sure that the following requirements are met:
- No one else is using it (duh)
For your general branding hashtags, try to make them like a short motto or tagline.
Now let’s talk about your marketing campaign hashtags. These can give your business a lot of publicity.
You’ll want to give your followers an extra incentive to use them. For example, you could give them a discount or the chance to win a prize when they use your marketing campaign hashtag in comments and posts.
Trending hashtags are often popular among millions of users. Sounds great right?
But wait, not so fast. Before using them in your posts, ask yourself if your post will add any value to the ongoing discussions.
Value can mean many things. It could mean unique information, a unique viewpoint, or even just a funny image that might become a meme.
But, if your post has no value, then it will be lost in the sea of other posts that are trying to hop onto the popular hashtag bandwagon.
On the other hand, if your post has that unique spark, then it will go viral. A viral hashtag post will be seen by thousands of people and get shared over and over again. Thus raising massive awareness of your business!
These hashtags are best used by someone who is new to using hashtags.
Unlike with trending hashtags, it’s harder to mess these up because you won’t have to do as much research into trends.
And brand specific hashtags will become more effective over time as you build a following on social media. Which is why content hashtags are best for those just starting out.
It’s also easier to come up with and use content hashtags. Simply look at keywords related to your business or area of expertise, and use these hashtags in your posts. If your post has value, then people who see it might decide to follow your page to get future updates and posts from you.
How To Create Your Hashtag
It’s easy to make a hashtag. But it isn’t so easy to create a good one.
Follow these steps to create effective social media hashtags.
- Use capital letters at the front of each word to help clarify your message.
- Don’t try to be clever with your hashtag. After all, if no one searches for your hashtag, then it won’t benefit your marketing!
- Keep your hashtag as short as possible. Using too many words in your hashtag will lessen the impact of your message. And it can give also people a headache!
- Don’t hashtag just any word. For example, your post might relate to eating candy at the movies. But using #candy in your post is likely a waste of a hashtag. After all, the odds of getting seen among millions of other people who are using the hashtag #candy are slim to none. On the other hand, your post is much more likely to get noticed if it uses a specific hashtag, like #CandyAtTheMovies.
As you can see, not all hashtags are equally as effective. You already knew that. But what you didn’t know is how to use them effectively.
How To Use Social Media Hashtags Wisely
You now know what hashtags are, the different types, the strategies involved in using them, and how to choose good ones. Now it’s time to learn how to use them effectively!
Here are the most important tips to know about using hashtags on social media:
- Don’t overuse hashtags – don’t mindlessly hashtag every word in your captions. Instead, you should only hashtag the significant words. Also, keep in mind that the number of hashtags you’re allowed to use in a post depends on the social media platform.
- Don’t use hashtags in every post. Use them only when they can stimulate conversation and interaction.
- Mix your hashtags. This means using more than one type of hashtag in your post. For example, you could mix content hashtags with trending/popular hashtags. Content hashtags are often used by other brands. Which is good since it means that other people will be searching for them. But that also means that they’ll be oversaturated with posts. You can overcome this weakness of content hashtags by including a smaller, trending hashtag in your post. Trending hashtag posts are more likely to get picked up on than posts with just content hashtags. So if your trending hashtag post goes viral, then it will become more visible in the bigger content hashtag searches too! This whole method basically comes down to one simple idea: mix specific, less used hashtags with the bigger ones. That way your post can first get noticed in smaller niche social media communities and then get noticed in the bigger hashtag searches.
- Watch your competitors. They’re probably already using hashtags in their social media strategy. So pay attention to how much they’re engaging your mutual audience. Also see how much or how little they use hashtags.
How To Find New Social Media Hashtags
Finding hashtags that aren’t too general, but also aren’t too complicated, can be a challenge.
The best place to start is to pay attention to what hashtags the influencers in your niche are using.
Influencers are influential people in your online niche: YouTubers, bloggers, and celebrities.
If you’re brand new to a niche and don’t know who the influencers are, then the best place to find them is on Buzzsumo. On Buzzsumo you’ll see the top writers and the top content in your niche.
There are also other tools and websites that are geared specifically towards coming up with new hashtags.
- Ritetag: offers instant hashtag suggestions in real time for a variety of subjects.
- me: lets you search for hashtag trends and their popularity over time.
- org: provides info on how many messages were sent for any specific hashtag and the timeframe in which they were sent.
- Tagboard: shows all hashtags that are used across all the different social media networks including Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram.
- Tweet Binder: shows you similar hashtags to your search query. You can also click on the results to see recent tweets that contain those hashtags.
- Keyhole: compiles real time results for a hashtag in an easy to digest visual dashboard.
For more tips on how to do hashtag research, check out our other article here.
If you’re really stuck on coming up with hashtag ideas, then there’s no shame in hiring professionals to help you out.
Hashtags are unfortunately an underrated marketing tool. But we feel that we’ve done the topic proper justice in this guide. You now you have all the info you need to get started using social media hashtags.
Please spread this article far and wide to help small business owners succeed, and use the hashtag #SocialMediaHashtags.
If you need more help coming up with hashtag ideas, give us a call. We’d love to help you come up with the next viral hashtag!