If you are not using hashtags in your social media posts, you don’t get social media. Sounds harsh, but it’s true.
If you don’t know what a hashtag is, then you probably just finished redecorating that rock you’re under. For the sake of reducing redundancy, we’re going to assume you know what they are. (If you really don’t know what they are check out this article.)
The point of social media is to be social. Hashtags are the number one way to be social on social media. One of the reasons they are so great at facilitating social interactions is that they are extremely versatile. Hashtags are search terms, content aggregators, and indexers all at the same time.
Hashtags: More than meets the eye.
Hashtags are the search terms of social media, connecting users to content and other users via a common theme. Utilizing popular hashtags can put you in front of a broad new audience that may not have been exposed to your content previously. Likewise, using niche specific hashtags can increase your visibility to a more specified customer. My recommendation is always to utilize at least one or two popular hashtags with a couple of niche hashtags in order to both maximize, and qualify exposure.
Hashtags are not only search terms; they are also great content aggregators. Utilizing a hashtag is a great way to centralize the conversation about your brand or event. They make it easier to sift through the noise that is generated on social media channels every day. For example, you are throwing an event, and want to keep track of the sentiment and conversations surrounding it. Utilizing a specific hashtag is probably the best way to generate, centralize, and review content surrounding that event. For your next event try picking a unique hashtag, preferably something with very little, to no interaction on it, and use it to promote the event and let event goers know they can post photos and tweets using that hashtag. When you search the hashtag after the event you’ll see the entire crowd sourced content that would have been impossible for you to obtain without the use of the hashtag. Use a site like tagboard.com to display all activity surrounding a specific hashtag, from most social channels, in one place.
Once you’ve established hashtag use as a basic function of your social media strategy, you can use those same hashtags to create a project index. This is a little trick of mine that I use to help track campaigns inexpensively. Use tagboard to create a board for every event or campaign that has a hashtag associated with it; this should be every event or campaign. Next, set up an Excel spreadsheet or Google doc with the names of each campaign in one column, the total number* of hashtagged posts in another column (this is why it’s important to use a truly unique hashtag, or at least one that hasn’t been used in a while), and the url to the tagboard in a third column. You can add other info as your campaign analytics require.
*Tagboard aggregates hashtagged content from Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Google + as of this posting. In order to find the total number of posts for a particular hashtag use this free method and go to each social network to search your hashtag. The number of posts related to each should display. Write that number down for each platform and add [see Table 1]. While this isn’t the most scientific formula, it works for getting an understanding of how campaigns and hashtags are performing.
|Campaign Name||# Of Hashtagged Posts||Tagboard url|
Words to the Wise
First, understand that creating a successful hashtag is not a science. If one particular hashtag is not getting traction the solution may be as simple as changing the wording of the hashtag. Not every hashtag is created equal. Some lend themselves to being shared more than others so don’t be married to any hashtag.
Second, do not over hashtag! This is a huge problem right now. Many people think that by adding 20-30 hashtags, their content will suddenly receive thousands of likes. I blame this, primarily, on apps like Hashtags for Likes, which take advantage of the searchability of hashtags and get people to flood their posts with tags thinking it will get their content more views. The problem is this looks like spam to some social networks and users. Think about over use of hashtags similar to click bait titles for digital ads. Sure you may click the ad, but when you get to the content and see that it is either irrelevant to the title, or full of other useless stuff you’ll leave immediately. Same thing goes for too many hashtags. The majority are irrelevant to the content or provide no value as a search term. Stick to using 4-5 well researched, relevant hashtags per post.
Lastly, research your hashtag before jumping on it. There have been far too many brand embarrassments because of a lack of research. Recently DiGiorno, and a little less recently Kenneth Cole, had major social media embarrassments because they did not research the hashtags they were using. Don’t let this happen to you.
If you are looking to take your social media marketing to the next level then you definitely should be using hashtags. With the many uses for hashtagging, from social media search terms to content aggregation and project indexing, it only makes sense that it should become a staple of your social media strategy and analytics. If you haven’t realized by now, hashtags are truly powerful digital tools. However, with such a powerful tool comes great responsibility on your part. Be sure you are researching before using. Happy hashtagging!
**Useful tip: Try capitalizing every word in your hashtag. It makes it easier to read.
What ways are you using hashtags? Did you find this post useful? Have something to add? Leave a comment below.