Let’s Hash Out the Importance of #Hashtags
Before the hashtag was commonly used across social media platforms, it was simply known as a pound or hash symbol. Now, this simple mark has a storied history of its own in the digital space, and it’s hard to escape.
Some think hashtags are dead, but they’ve just evolved. Most accounts now use them more sparingly, place them in post comments, or hide them creatively. The evolution of hashtags and how they’re used today has led to some common misconceptions, such as:
- “The more hashtags the better.” False.
- “Using hashtags in the caption of your content is disruptive.” Also false.
- “Using more popular hashtags will increase your reach.” Again, false.
So, let’s dive in and debunk these misconceptions as we hash out what hashtags are, how to effectively use them. and why they’re important!
What is a hashtag?
A hashtag is a short phrase or keyword preceded by the symbol itself, which is highlighted and clickable within a social media post or comment. Users can then discover your post if they’re following that particular hashtag or if they search for it in the discovery function on the platform. They can then join the discussion by using the same hashtag too! As Hootsuite stated, “Hashtags are a way to connect social media content to a specific topic, event, theme, or conversation.” Millions of posts use hashtags across Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn daily.
How to effectively use hashtags
Simply put, if your company is using social media platforms, hashtags should be a part of your strategy. But how, you ask? Let’s break it down.
- In order for the general public to see your content and be able to click on your hashtags, your company profile must be PUBLIC. To check if your profile is public, go to your user settings on the platform and review your profile privacy settings. Adjust if necessary.
- When typing out your hashtags, make sure not to use spaces or punctuation or they won’t work. A lot of times, if you are stringing a phrase together verses using a single word for a hashtag, you will see a title case structure like so: #ThisIsAHashtag. That’s easier to read than #thisisahashtag. You can put hashtags at the beginning, middle, or end of your posts. You can also use them in comments on posts, whether they’re your own or someone else’s. Ultimately comes down to the character limit. Hashtags work well in comments because it saves the character count in the post for your regular copy, so most brands post hashtags in their comments to maximize their post copy.
- Know what type of hashtags you are looking to add to your content. There are content hashtags, trending hashtags, and brand hashtags:
- Content hashtags relate to your product or service in a general sense. Be wary of adding too many of these, as they are commonly used and will not always increase your reach. Instead, they sometimes bury your content in a sea of thousands of similar posts or they connect you to an audience that isn’t your target market.
- Trending hashtags are ever-changing, but make sure the content is adding value to the bigger conversation behind the trend. You can find these by clicking the magnifying glass or explore icon on most social media apps that will populate trending posts and topics. On desktop, the word explore shows on Twitter and TikTok actually highlights various trending categories along the left-hand side of the browser.
- Brand hashtags are especially valuable because they can be used across all content as branding, used specifically for current promotions, or to even track a social campaign. For example, you may recall some of these well-known campaign hashtags: #ShareACoke, #LikeAGirl, #IceBucketChallenge or #LetsDoLunch.
- Limit how many hashtags you use. This applies whether you are adding hashtags directly to your post or as a comment. If you add too many hashtags, it comes off as “spammy”-looking, and can turn your followers away. So make sure the hashtags aren’t forced and are adding value to the message. For most social media platforms, a good rule of thumb is one to three hashtags, but Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags (and clever ways to hide them, as noted above). TikTok initially shows only the first 150 characters of a caption, so I encourage you to hide as many hashtags as you can at the end of your caption within reason and relevance to your band.
Why hashtags are important
Now that we know the “how,” let’s address the all-important “why” of hashtags. Hashtags are a great, easy way for users to find your content on social platforms, opening you up to not only your existing audience but to future consumers and followers.
By including a handful of hashtags in your posts (or comments) you are joining a conversation or starting one.
Being a part of a larger conversation on social media can lead to a higher reach, more impressions, greater engagement, and new followers, by driving traffic to your content. The key is to use them strategically in coordination with your content and make sure you are appealing to your target audience. The Digital Marketing Institute urges brands to use hashtags strategically in coordination with their content and make sure that they are appealing to their target audience(s), and I couldn’t agree more!
So whether you’re a social media expert or new to managing a platform for your company, use hashtags wisely to help ensure an effective social strategy. Need help? Reach out to see how EPIC might be able to support your efforts.