What do personal mottos, Mars rovers, global leaders, and dancing pandas all have in common? They all use #hashtags to attract followers, boost engagement, and develop their image. Hashtags are the way that internet users categorize content, and if your business isn’t using them, your content may be getting lost in the shuffle.
The hashtag revolution started over 10 years ago when Google’s Chris Messina decided to use the “#” sign to label groups. Since then, hashtags have been used to market just about everything, as well as organize global movements, ignite hip-hop feuds, sway elections, and to discover, once and for all, who wore it better.
The hashtag is an incredible marketing tool for your business, but to truly take advantage of it, you have to understand that it is a lot more than just a marketing tool. Hashtags are an integral part of the internet itself. They allow you to instantly categorize, search for, and discover content. Hashtags are also a part of the digital and real-world language, and as such, each one has its own personality.
The team at iProv has been following hashtags and researching how users interact with them for over a decade. As one of Little Rock’s most experienced online marketing companies advertising on social media, we have organized campaigns, grown communities, and built stories using hashtags on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and in the real world.
In this guide to hashtags, we are going to let you in on what our years of research have revealed so your business can become a #successstory.
What is a #Hashtag?
A hashtag is a “#” symbol followed by a word or a phrase. If a phrase follows the “#,” no spaces are placed between words. Some hashtags are very simple, such as #happy, while others are longer and more complex, like #donttellmehowtodress. Notice that no punctuation is used in hashtags either, though numbers and emojis are commonly included.
How do Hashtags Work?
Hashtags are used to categorize content posted on social media.
Imagine that all the content on the internet is in a filing cabinet. Each folder inside that cabinet is labeled with a hashtag. Therefore if you search #cats, it’s like pulling out the file with all the cat content that has been posted. If instead, you search #orangecat, it’s like opening another folder with more specific content.
This means that if your company isn’t using hashtags on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks, your content is not going to show up in hashtag search results on these sites or on search engines.
You might be asking, “Isn’t searching for #cats just as effective as simply doing a Google search for the word “cats”?
Not exactly. Making a search on a search engine will give you a bunch of content from the web based on the words you have entered into the search bar. Doing a hashtag search will give you content that people and businesses have put on social media and labeled with that hashtag.
While doing a hashtag search is essentially a search limited to the most popular social media sites, the hashtag itself has grown in popularity for another important reason. Hashtags arose because search engines are not able to distinguish the meaning behind words. Hashtags connect words with a specific identity. In this way, each hashtag is a brand.
Here is an example. I am going to start #whereishe, a hashtag dedicated to Where’s Waldo enthusiasts. If someone who wants to join the fun types “where is he” into Google, it is unlikely they will find anything to do with Waldo or my community. If instead, they type in #whereishe, they will be taken directly to all the Waldo content they could ever dream of.
In the same way that the word “Pepsi” is inherently meaningless, so are many of our online searches. Hashtags make online content creation and discovery much easier.
How to Use Hashtags
Using hashtags has allowed countless brands to broaden their reach, improve engagement, and boost sales. But, as hashtags are packed with depth, meaning, and personality, they can’t be taken lightly. The key to using hashtags correctly is understanding your brand’s personality, as well as the reach and intention of each hashtag.
Where to Post Hashtags
There are many ways to use hashtags, but they are most commonly used on social networks. This makes sense, as posting a hashtag means that you want to identify with other users who have posted the same hashtag.
This means that adding a hashtag to an article on your site will not be particularly effective, but posting your article on your brand’s Facebook page and adding a hashtag to the title of the post will be effective. This will allow users searching for that hashtag to see your content and visit your site.
The best places to use hashtags are Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This is because hashtags on all of these sites work the same way—once you create a post with a hashtag, your post will be categorized with all the other posts using that hashtag. As these are the most popular social networks, a hashtag search on Google will almost always list these sites on the first page of the search engine result pages (SERPs). If your content is highly ranked for a certain hashtag, it means your content and brand will be on the first page of the search results, too.
How to Post a Hashtag on Social Media
Posting a hashtag is incredibly easy. All you need to do is create a new post on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, and include the hashtag somewhere in the post. You can put the hashtag at the beginning of the post, within the text, or at the end. The location of the hashtag in the post does not matter.
You can also post the hashtag as the only text in the post. For example, someone might post a picture of a sunset with the hashtag #summer and nothing more.
You are not restricted to just one hashtag per post. Instagram allows for up to 30 hashtags per post. Twitter has no limit on hashtags, but hashtags do count toward your 280 character limit. Facebook lets you use as many hashtags as you want. Keep in mind that using too many hashtags will likely annoy your followers.
Which Hashtags to Use
When deciding how to capitalize on hashtags, you have two choices. You can either use a preexisting hashtag and jump into a thriving community, or you can create a new hashtag and build your own. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
Using Preexisting Hashtags
When adding a preexisting hashtag to your post, you will automatically be discoverable to thousands or even millions of users around the world, even if they are not following you. This is a great opportunity to reach out and gain some new followers and leads.
At the same time, you will also be faced with some tough competition. If you choose a popular hashtag but do not have very many followers or very good content, your post will be pushed way down in the ranks and may not be seen by many people.
The content with the most shares, retweets, or likes, and content by users with the most followers appears at the top of the page.
Creating New Hashtags
Creating a new hashtag allows you to guide the conversation and moderate the community that starts to associate with it. This is a great opportunity to become an influencer, and to feature your content front and center. Once you have gathered some followers and spread your hashtag around the world, you will be able to search it and see how everyone is interacting with it. This alone has saved companies millions in research costs.
The benefits may sound attractive, but remember, this takes work. Creating a hashtag means you have to start from scratch. Try to incentivize your followers to use the new hashtag if you want it to stay relevant.
Creating a hashtag does not guarantee success. Once it is out there, it becomes public domain, and if you have not solidly associated your brand with it, it could evolve or change the meaning. It is also possible that another, stronger brand could adopt it and reap your rewards.
We recommend using a mix of preexisting and new hashtags in your posts.
#winning with a Solid Hashtag Strategy
Planning a solid social media strategy takes a lot of work. It requires constant research and analysis, regular posting across various mediums, advertising on social media, and getting those hashtags down to a science. Making just one #mistake can be disastrous for your brand.
Collaborating with a social media marketing company like iProv is the best option for most Arkansas business owners who do not want to devote countless hours to developing a social media strategy. With our two decades worth of expertise in healthcare marketing and beyond, we can create evergreen hashtags, grow a base of valuable followers (those who convert), and turn your brand into a social media mogul.
Contact iProv today for a free consultation on how to make hashtags, and make the biggest social media platforms work for your brand.