Once a lowly pound sign, the hashtag has metamorphosed into the easiest way to categorize content on social media. Having not only made its way into ranks of Dictionary.com, but classically “legitimate” sources like the Oxford Dictionary and the Scrabble Dictionary (as a 14-point word, no less), the hashtag is now a prominent part of our everyday lives. Surprisingly, many people still don’t know how to use hashtags to properly leverage their social media clout. In this article, I’ll be showing you how to use hashtags in the optimal way, and common hashtag pitfalls you should avoid.
Hashtags connect social media users and allow them to engage each other and discover relevant content. The problem is, there are so many people on social media at any given time, and an infinite expanse of content that already exists and that continues to be made. How can you make sure your content is seen by and engages your target audience?
Some people try to find unique ways of incorporating trending hashtags in their posts, hoping that they’ll attract more attention. The more people seeing your content, the better, right? Think again.
The whole purpose of a search is to find information and answers that are relevant to your query. Isn’t it annoying when you open a link only to find that it had nothing whatsoever to do with your topic? Don’t alienate potential consumers by pulling the same bait and switch. Remember that it’s not about how many people see your content, but that therightpeople see it: the people who may be looking for it.
Let’s say that you’re a breeder of champion Abyssinian cats. One would think that it would be a good idea to incorporate the hashtag #cats when promoting your business. In fact, using such a broad hashtag could be counterproductive. With the sheer number of content hits a user would get for a hashtag like #cats, someone navigating to your post would be like finding a needle in a haystack.
Think of more specific hashtags, such as #abyssiniancats, #cattery, #catbreeders, or even #exoticcats. Your content will pop up for people who are actually looking for or interested in exotic cats, not just people who love cat videos and pictures of kittens.
As people become more Internet and social media savvy, they develop expectations about what makes a good post, including how many hashtags are used. On most of the large platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, using too many hashtags can lead to fewer interactions. It would be like picking the next book you want to read based on its first sentence. If the sentence is oversaturated with adjectives, it isn’t particularly fun to read, and may even project pretentiousness — or worse, desperation. The same sentiment applies to social media posts. Users are more engaged by concise messages with a few relevant hashtags.
Unless I am posting on Instagram, I aim for 1-2 good hashtags — 3 at maximum. Likely because of the nature of the platform as a repository for purely visual or photographic content, Instagram users don’t seem to be as finicky about the number of hashtags you incorporate into your post. In fact, posts with 10 or more hashtags seem to attract the most interactions.
Many success stories arise from companies creating their own hashtag – like #DoUsaFlavor, which Lays Potato Chips used as part of a promotional contest — or taking a previously existing but unbranded hashtag and making it theirs, like McDonald’s did with #ImLovinIt. If you can come up with a fresh, catchy hashtag and connect it to your brand in users’ minds — and even better, invite users to generate content using that hashtag, you could create a movement fuels your brand even further.
Got some ideas or want to know how you can best leverage your hashtag and your content? Talk to our team of marketing and social media experts!
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