The Beginners Guide to Using Hashtags
Hashtags can be a great way to get your content seen by more people, to find and connect with people relevant to your business, and to join in with trending conversations on social media. However, there are a lot of misconceptions about their use – and when used incorrectly they will, at best, do little or nothing for you – or at worst, risk annoying or alienating your customers. In this blog, I will give you the tips you need to start using hashtags like a pro.
What is a Hashtag?
First used on Twitter in 2007, a hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by the # symbol, and used on social networks as a way of grouping content and conversations on a particular topic. Using the # symbol turns your word or phrase into a clickable link which, if followed, will then link to all other appearances of that hashtag on the same network. Although hashtags originated on Twitter, they are now used on other social networks – most particularly Instagram, where they are central to the experience of the platform.
If you are not using hashtags, then you are missing a great way of increasing the reach of your posts and connecting with more people.
Which social networks use Hashtags?
Hashtags are not used in the same way across all social networks. Let’s take a look at the “Big Four” and consider how to use hashtags on each:
- Facebook: this is the one platform where hashtag use really hasn’t taken off. People don’t tend to search by hashtag on Facebook, and using them doesn’t increase the reach of your post. Generally, the recommendation would be not to use hashtags in your Facebook posts, unless you have a brand hashtag which you are using across social networks and want to draw attention to.
- Twitter: using 1 or 2 relevant hashtags will increase the reach of your tweets, although they are less important than they once were as Twitter’s search function will now search text. Still very good for joining in with trending topics, awareness days, and tweetchats (where people gather on Twitter at a particular time to engage in a conversation using a hashtag).
- Instagram: hashtags may have originated on Twitter, but Instagram has taken them to the next level. You can use up to 30 hashtags per post, and using the right hashtags is crucial for getting your content seen by new audiences. Users can follow hashtags or click into a hashtag “feed” to look at and engage with other posts using that hashtag.
- LinkedIn: using 2-3 hashtags per post on LinkedIn can help your post get seen, particularly if it starts “trending” in a particular hashtag. Company pages can also comment on posts which use hashtags which they are following – which is helpful as, otherwise, company pages on LinkedIn can’t comment on other people’s posts.
Common Mistakes with Hashtags
- Peppering your copy with hashtags- I often see businesses putting a hashtag before every other word in a post – making the post difficult to read, and not achieving anything!
- Using hashtags which are too generic. For example, #love may have been used 1.7 billion times on Instagram (yes, really!) but that doesn’t mean it is a good one for your business to use! In fact, using smaller and more targeted hashtags will give you much better results.
- Putting generic hashtags in your bio on Twitter and Instagram – this will not help you get found in search, and if anyone looking at your bio clicks on the hashtag, you will lose them in the general hashtag feed.
- Confusing the # symbol with the @ symbol. The @ symbol allows you to “tag” an account (business or individual) by name, and they will be notified that you have mentioned them. Using the # symbol before a name indicates that you are joining a conversation about that individual (e.g. a celebrity) or business, but does not directly tag them.
Common Questions About Hashtags
How many hashtags should I use?
- On Twitter and LinkedIn, ideally one or two per post (maximum three). On Instagram, up to 30, but there is some evidence that using around 11-15 is best for reach, while Instagram themselves have recently suggested using less than 10. The best advice on Instagram is to use only as many as are highly relevant to your post, and not just add more hashtags for the sake of it.
How do I find the right hashtags?
Finding the best hashtags can take time. Looking at hashtags used by influencers or competitors in your niche is a good place to start, as well as looking at what is trending. However, for more indepth hashtag research you may want to use a tool. Hashtagify and Ritetag are examples of useful tools. On Instagram, if you search for a hashtag the other, related hashtags will be suggested.
How do I create my own hashtag?
You can create a hashtag at any time just by adding the # symbol to a word or phrase. However, if you want to create a hashtag which will be associated with your business, keep it short and catchy, and ensure it doesn’t have any unfortunate connotations (such as the infamous #susanalbumparty). Include your branded hashtag in your bio and your social media posts to create a way of finding and organising your content. Encourage customers or clients to use the hashtag in their posts if they are referencing you or your products – a great way for you to get user-generated content to share.
What about using Hashtags for humour?
Hashtags are used sometimes, particularly on Twitter, to add a comical or sarcastic aside to a post – e.g. #sorrynotsorry. It can be a great way of adding humour to your posts if this fits with your brand voice – although don’t overdo it!
Hashtags – should I use them?
- In a word, yes! Hashtags have become a vital part of social media sharing and conversation – and if you want to get the most out of your social media, you really need to be using them properly. Using them in the wrong way, or on the wrong platform, can make your posts look unprofessional – but get it right and you could see your reach and engagement rocket.
- Follow the tips above and you should be well on the way to using hashtags like a pro! Get in touch with me if you have any questions, and please share this article if you found it helpful!