What are hashtags, anyway?
Hashtags are a popular way for users of social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube to connect around a theme, like a news story, event, pop culture topic, or even a feeling. You can use hashtags in an effort to boost engagement with your posts by getting them in front of of a particular audience. But how do you use them effectively? It helps to begin by understanding their original purpose.
How did hashtags become a thing?
Way back in the infancy of the internet, hashtags were used in Internet Relay Chat to indicate topics and groups. In 2007, former Google developer Chris Messina Tweeted an idea to apply this to the modern forum of Twitter: “How do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?” While Messina says he had many doubters in the beginning, he was confident this was the simplest way to bring users together who were interested in a common topic. As it turns out, he was right, and hashtags are now a vital part of the social media landscape.
How can I use hashtags to engage my audience?
Following a few basic guidelines can help you get the most out of hashtags for your social media posts.
Find your niche.
Identify passionate communities within your target audience. What excites people about the industry you’re in? If you run a vet clinic or pet supply store, for example, hashtags like #rescuedogs and #adoptdontshop could help you cultivate engaged followers. Patagonia, the well known outdoor gear retailer, has aligned itself with its environmentally conscious customers with hashtags like #bearsears, #ourchoicesdefineus, and #climatemarch. While broad, general hashtags like #marketing or #retirementplanning might get you a wider audience, it is likely to be less engaged and excited about the topic than followers of more specific hashtags.
Discover or create engaging hashtags.
You can discover hashtags that already have a following by looking over posts from some of the leaders in your industry and by scrolling through posts connected to your industry and noticing which hashtags appear often. You can also create your own branded hashtags, like Nike’s #breaking2. Just make sure to keep it short and memorable so people are inclined to type it in.
Know your platforms.
Keep in mind that the various social media platforms have different hashtag conventions. While on Twitter, hashtags are largely focused on topics or groups, Instagram hashtags tend more to describe the posted image. Spend some time on the platforms you intend to use to get a feel for how hashtags are used on each.
Don’t go overboard.
Finally, don’t overwhelm your posts with hashtags. Although attaching as many as the platform will allow may get your posts more views, the spammy look of an avalanche of hashtags can turn audiences off.
If you use hashtags judiciously, they can help you grow an engaged audience for your brand on your social media platforms. No time to deal with social media? Blue Frog Marketing can work as an active extension of your business to build and manage your social media presence. Click below for a free consultation to find out how we can help your business grow!