Are you Using the Right Hashtags?

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What hashtags should you use? Are you using the right hashtags to grow your business? When sharing content on social media, we all want to get the most reach possible. Otherwise, we’re just talking to ourselves! That’s just silly. So, how can you use hashtags to get the most bang for your buck on social media? First, it’s important to understand that hashtags have two primary purposes:
  • Categorization
  • Emphasis
Categorization on social media is what’s really important, because when you use a hashtag, your content becomes searchable.

Categorization = Searchability

The main reason you’re using social media in the first place is to expand your audience and attract new followers, right? Hashtags expand the reach of your tweet, hook, photograph, or video beyond the people who already follow you. Anyone who is interested in the hashtag that you’re using can use it as a keyword to find you. So, using hashtags that people are actually searching for is the key to expanding your brand visibility. If your content isn’t searchable, then you’re only reaching the people who already follow you. So really, hashtags are essential to widening your audience.

Emphasis = Limited Searchability

Unfortunately, there’s a trap that entrepreneurs and businesses fall into with hashtags when they only use hashtags for emphasis. #thishashtagemphasizesmypoint You may think that a hashtag is cute or funny, but the only people who will see these hashtags and be amused by them are the people who already follow you. I like to use the example of #BenBarkerforPresident. Sure, it’s mildly amusing, but it’s not helpful in building our audience; the chances of #BenBarkerforPresident catching on and becoming something that people would actually search for is close to zero. Unless you’re talking about something that’s related to a trending topic, creativity is less important in hashtags. Most unique hashtags simply aren’t helpful because nobody is searching for them. #nobodyissearchingforyourhashtag This is also true of proprietary hashtags. Many businesses think that they should have a proprietary hashtag to reinforce their brand. For example, in our case, something like #BarkerTips. Our brand name is Barker Social, so the “Barker” name has meaning for us. However, we aren’t an enormous, mainstream brand—we’re a small social media marketing agency. The chances of anyone searching for #BarkerTips (besides ourselves) is next to nil. If we were to use a proprietary hashtag on Twitter, we’d be wasting valuable characters on a hashtag that would be pretty much useless. On Instagram, you can use up to 30 hashtags, but it would still be a waste since no one would be searching for it.

Hashtags for Events

When you’re running an event, it makes sense to have a hashtag for the event as long as you clearly publicize the event hashtag. In this case, you should share the hashtag in advance, not just at the event, so that people can start to use the hashtag to announce that they’re attending. “I can’t wait for #Frankie100 in NYC next week!” If you have an annual event, you might put the year at the end. Alternatively, you might decide to keep things easier for your audience (and for any print materials) and leave the date off. For example, we do the social media marketing for the Ride for SickKids fundraiser in Ontario; the hashtag for the event is #RFSK without the year. We decided to leave the year off because it’s easier for the audience; it could be confusing for people to remember if it’s #RFSK17 or #RFSK2017. The potential result of this confusion? Multiple hashtags being used, making it easy to miss the buzz the organization is looking for. Our advice about proprietary hashtags is that if you’re going to use one, make sure that you have a darned good reason to do so, and that the hashtag is as easy as possible for people to remember, use, and find.

Trending & Active Hashtags

It’s very beneficial to utilize hashtags that people might actually be looking for or that are already trending. Those hashtags are also more likely to be shared and retweeted and will help to attract more followers.

Volume & Placement of Hashtags

As a general rule, use fewer hashtags on Twitter (two is the magic number). On Instagram, the more the merrier—up to 30 hashtags. However, we like to hit enter a few times to leave some white space between our description and the hashtags. On Facebook and LinkedIn, just one or maybe two hashtags is enough. What about where to put the hashtags? On Twitter, it’s okay to put some hashtags in the middle of sentences if you’re running out of room, but this can be annoying on the other platforms. On Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, we put the hashtags at the end.

Searching for Hashtags for Engagement

When you’re looking to build your own audience, you can search for hashtags that your target customers are using to find the right people to engage with. This is a great way to find the people that you should be conversing with and following. Leveraging hashtags is a fantastic way to expand your reach, build your brand visibility, and grow your business. What are your go-to hashtags? Re-evaluate your own hashtags regularly and check to see if there are any new hashtags that are becoming prominent in your industry.   Mandi Gould, Barker Social LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/mandi-gould/ Twitter: @barker_social

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