If you’ve never used them before, hashtags may seem an odd, even useless, concept. In fact, hashtags are incredibly useful tools for businesses who want to take full advantage of social media. But what is a hashtag and what do you use them for?
On social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, hashtags serve as a method of organization. When you use hashtag a in a post, you are essentially categorizing it. Whenever someone searches a hashtag, all posts featuring that hashtag will appear. This allows users to easily sift through tweets and post to find what they are looking for. Best of all, the “top” section will display the most relevant and popular posts featuring said hashtag, even if you don’t follow the users who made the posts.
How are hashtags used?
Hashtags are great but you have to get it right. Here are some basic tips you need to know when using hashtags:
- Do not use spaces in a hashtag. Hashtags only work with letter and numbers. If you put a space in hashtag, the tag will break.
- Hashtags only work on public profiles. If you have a private Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook profile, your hashtag will be useless.
- Make your hashtag relevant. The point of using a hashtag is to be found in search by other users. Some people use hashtags to be sarcastic or in a parenthetical manner such as #hahaimusingahashtag — while this is fine for teenagers, it’s not a good use of hashtags for business marketing.
- Use popular hashtags. If you’re looking to get found by using hashtags, use popular hashtags to get you found. You can find popular hashtags through hashtag search.
- Don’t over do it. Too many hashtags will make your post difficult to read, and even make it sound slightly spammy.
Hashtag Marketing for Small Businesses
Hashtag marketing is a effective way for businesses to expand their reach to audiences who might not otherwise be aware of the businesses’ social media accounts. By piggybacking on the success of a “trending” hashtag, you can bring more online followers to your company.
Hashtags have proved very valuable for businesses promoting campaigns, events, or various initiatives. Businesses can both disseminate information and encourage customer participation through hashtags. For example, if you visit Twitter’s main page, you will notice a live list of “trending” hashtags.
Trending hashtags are the moment’s most used hashtags; the ones getting the most buzz. The famous ice bucket challenge, for example, which raised awareness for ALS by having people dump water on their heads, made excellent use of the hashtag, #IceBucketChallenge. Alternatively, you can make use of common popular hashtags to get found more by user searches.
Where You Can Use Hashtags
You can use hashtags on almost any social media platform, but some platforms are better for using hashtags than others. The best social media sites for using hashtags are Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. While you can use hashtags on YouTube and Pinterest, you’ll have more success utilizing hashtags on the following sites.
How to Use Hashtags on Twitter
Hashtags began on Twitter. As the birthplace of modern hashtag usage, Twitter’s hashtags are more versatile than those of other websites. They are used both to designate topics of conversation and to indicate promotions.
Use hashtags on Twitter to categorize your tweets based on promotions or topic like #marketing or to capitalize on trending events. When you search a hashtag on Twitter, you have three options for filtering results. You can sort by “Top,” which displays the most liked and retweeted posts, including those from people you don’t follow. You can also sort by “All” which displays every tweet using the hashtag in real time, or you can view posts from only “People you follow.”
How to Use Hashtags on Facebook
Noticing the popularity of hashtags kicked off by Twitter, Facebook has only relatively recently joined the hashtag bandwagon. Clicking on Facebook hashtags will navigate you to a list of posts containing the same hashtag. Like Twitter, the results are not limited to people you know. While Facebook hashtags are not as well-used as Twitter, the practice is certainly picking up pace over time. Wondering how to get more visibility on Facebook? Hashtags are one of many great free ways to promote your page.
Related: Facebook Marketing in 2016
How to Use Hashtags on Instagram
Instagram is a platform that’s all about hashtags. Hashtags are used to complement photos shared on Instagram and to categorize them. There is no other way to search through posts; one can only sift through hashtags.
Hashtagging on Instagram allows you to discover new accounts and pick up new followers. By finding the hashtags most indicative of the nature of your business, you will have instant access to a relevant audience. Additionally, by making use of popular hashtags, such as #tbt (throwback Thursday) or the fitness community’s popular #eatclean, you’ll appear in more search results, drawing people to your company’s Instagram profile.
While the above are the most commonly used social media platforms for business marketing, you may wish to expand your business’s reach to other social networks as well. Rest assured: the hashtag is popular enough that it is available on nearly every single platform. You can also use hashtags on Vine, Google+, and YouTube but they’re not as commonly used.
Tag, tag, tag! Tagging is a great way to personalize messages and increase social media engagement, whether you are broadcasting over Facebook, Instagram, or another social media platform.
Rules for Hashtags
Remember, in using hashtags, try not to go overboard.When crafting a custom hashtag for a campaign or promotion, try to make it clever, concise, and unique to your business. Aim to keep your hashtag one to three words, as well. Too long of a hashtag and it won’t be used, too general, and it will be used too much by the wrong people.
Find your brand’s voice
The possibilities for hashtags are greater than mere organization. Beyond simply organizing your posts or tweets, hashtags can help you craft a brand voice, especially if you use a custom hashtag.
Hashtags not only serve an express marketing purpose; they can be used to flavor commentary as well, serving as a sort of, in the words of New Yorker writer Susan Orlean,“muttered into a handkerchief” aside. Hashtags can provide context and convey sarcasm, humor, or other emotion to a post.
Sometimes, swimming upstream with the rest of the fish pays off. See what hashtags are trending and make use of them. Hashtags should be as relevant to your business as possible, but if you can find a creative or humorous way to incorporate a less relevant trending hashtag into your posts, don’t be afraid to give it a shot!
If you want to reap in revenue and customer engagement, don’t let your hashtags sit idly. Creating a contest, raffle or promotion centered around a hashtag is a great way to get people talking about your brand online.
For example, you could offer a free prize to the first 30 users who tweet using a pre-specified hashtag. Or you can encourage users to submit photos of them using your product by encouraging them to tag photos with your company’s unique hashtag. Hashtags unite businesses with their customers, allowing them to connect on a more personal level.
For more tips on creating hashtags, check out our guide on custom hashtags. Hashtags are fun, free, and a must for the 21st century!