One of the questions I’m most commonly asked when holding social media training sessions is “how do I use hashtags for my business?”. These days, I think most of us are familiar with the concept of hashtags, but how to use them effectively, well that’s another issue.
To recap…. What is a hashtag?
A hashtag can be recognized by the use of the # symbol, ie. #socialmedia. A hashtag is a curation device and is most commonly used on Instagram, Twitter, and more recently, LinkedIn. It allows any piece of content that features a specific tag to be seen when anyone searches or clicks on the tag in a post. Think of search results as a bucket. If someone using Instagram searches using a specific hashtag, eg. #applepie, then all posts on that platform that feature the hashtag #applepie will be put into that bucket. If your post features 10 different hashtags, your post can appear in 10 different buckets.
How can I use hashtags for my business?
Hashtags are a great way for getting your content seen by people who are most likely to interact with your business and hopefully become your customers. I like to group tags into a few different categories:
- Industry and content related. This group will include tags that relate to who you are and what you do and what the specific post is about. For example, in my business, I use tags such as #socialmediastrategy and #socialmediatraining and more specific ones, depending on the nature of the post, such as #contentcreation or #facebooktraining.
- Geographic. If you’re a business that operates in a specific geographic area, then this group is particularly important. Let’s say you’re a coffee shop located in Melbourne suburb of Mentone, you’ll want to include tags that reference your location, eg. #melbournecoffee #mentone #melbournecafe etc.
- Your own hashtag. Creating your own hashtag is a great way to encourage engagement amongst your followers as it allows anyone who searches or clicks on that specific tag to see all the content featuring that tag. It can also be a great way to run a promotion on Instagram, eg. “upload your post to Instagram using the tag (insert your specific tag) to be in with a chance to win….” . If you do create your own tag, check that it doesn’t already exist and be sure to make it relatively short and easy to spell. Also check that multiple words when combined into a tag doesn’t create an unfortunate combination .?
- Trending hashtags. These are the tags that are most popular at any given time. This list can change very quickly. It’s great to get involved in current trends, but be careful with this one. Don’t use a trending tag just because its popular unless it has direct relevance to your business or post. If you can find a way to tie in a popular tag to your business, then go for it. This one here from our training clients, Heatbeads, is a great example.
How do I know what hashtags are best to use?
It’s important to be across the tags that are most relevant to your industry and your location. There’s a few different ways you can research hashtags. Firstly, using the platform itself. Twitter shows a list of trending topics customized to your location or you can use the search function to explore possible tags and see how they are being used.
You can also use the search function on Instagram to get an idea of what tags are being used. Try entering a word you’re considering and it will bring up relevant tags and show how many posts feature that particular tag. Try looking at posts that feature a tag you’re considering using and see what other tags are also featured in that post. Often one tag will lead to another.
There are specific web pages and apps that also help with your tag search. Try hashtagify as a starting point.
I like to keep a list of hashtags by topic in a Word file or similar so that I can dip into the list and pull out the relevant tags. This saves reinventing the wheel for every post.
How do I use hashtags on Instagram?
Instagram is all about the hashtags. You can use up to 30 on any individual post although research shows the sweet spot for maximum engagement is around 9-15 tags per post. When using tags, you can either:
- use them in the body of the post
- put them in the first comment
- separate them from the body of the post by putting a row of dots (or other character) between.
This is just personal choice, it doesn’t affect the functionality of the tags.
How do I use hashtags on Twitter?
The key thing with hashtags on Twitter is that tags do count towards your 280 character limit so you need to choose wisely. I’d suggest using no more than two, or possibly three, tags on any one post.
As the Twitter stream moves so quickly, hashtags are a great way to keep an eye on a specific topic. Following a breaking news story? Find its hashtag and follow events as they happen. Hashtags are also fantastic for events. Let’s say you’re at a conference. Following the conference hashtag can allow you to have real time discussion with other attendees and keep track of what is happening across the conference.
How do I use hashtags on Linkedin?
Just as with Instagram and Twitter, LinkedIn hashtags are searchable so should be used strategically to help put your content in front of your potential customers. LinkedIn itself does suggest hashtags based on your content, however, be mindful that their selections are automated and not always relevant. Bear in mind that LinkedIn is a professional platform so keep your tags professional and relevant to your business and audience.