Knowing how to properly use hashtags shows you know how to navigate the intricate world of social media. Hashtags are the currency of social media; the lifeblood, even. That’s true for all users, whether you’re using Instagram to build and establish your brand, or you’re just looking to pass the time. Before you can properly use them, it’s best to learn what they really are and what purpose they serve.
So what is a hashtag?
A hashtag (#) is like a micro search engine. Putting it in front of a word or a phrase tells whichever social media app you’re using to place your post alongside others using that same hashtag. For example, if you wish to create brand awareness by linking your core competency to Twitter, you would write a tweet like, “We make the best #hamburgers in all of #Nashville.”
Any user interested in hamburgers, or looking for anything associated with the city of Nashville, can search for those terms on Twitter and come across your post.
The key to using hashtags is recognizing both the art and science behind the process. Sometimes, you’ll use very specific terms aimed to boost and promote your business to get in on the topic your customers want to discuss or learn about. Other times, you’ll use them in a clever or creative way that’s not specifically designed to reach an end result of finding a user via specific topic search.
For example, if you took a picture outside your storefront as heavy rain is falling, you might post that picture to Facebook with the caption, “It’s pouring down rain here, but we’re still open! Come on down and have some freshly baked apple pie! #RainRainGoAway”
Balancing both the targeted, specific hashtags along with the lighthearted ones creates a stronger impression that there’s a human behind your account, and not a faceless advertising machine. That impression makes a huge difference.
Which hashtags should I use?
Identifying the correct hashtags for you and your business is very simple on the surface and very detailed below it. Applying your own consumer-based instincts will show you the right way. If you’re in the business of selling cars, using hashtags before brand names like #FordMustang or #KiaSol makes sense. Depending on what message you’re looking to send, it’s perfectly acceptable to use different hashtags in each post. Perhaps that same car dealership is offering a free oil change to customers who come in to get a trade-in valuation on their vehicle.
“This weekend, West Hills Motors is offering a #FreeOilChange to customers! Come in for a trade-in valuation on your car, and the oil change is on us!”
You know your business and your customers. When it comes to using hashtags, think like them! What would they be looking for in social media? What appeals to them? Tools like HashtagifyMe can make finding trending hashtags a snap.
When should I use a hashtag?
You should have a hashtag in most, if not all, of your posts. The key is finding the specific meaning of your message and broadening that meaning to fit with your audience’s tastes and habits. Putting hashtags in front of general words that don’t specifically connect your audience to your business isn’t a good look. But finding something that stands out, or directly represents your business, will resonate with your audience.
This is doubly true for content you’re creating to promote your brand simply as a worthwhile follow in social media. Fun posts play really well with audiences, even if it has nothing at all to do with your brand. Life events, things your readers can directly associate with, create a critical connection. Positive association with the community in which you live is good business.
“#HappyHolidays from all of us at Ma’s Kitchen!”
“Root hard for the #Rangers tonight, then stop in afterward to celebrate their victory!”
“Best of luck to the #EastHigh #Cowboys dance team tonight! #State2017”
The 5 commandments of using a hashtag:
- Personality plus. Every brand worth its salt will have its own voice. Use this to keep your audience engaged and coming back for more. Do not be afraid to use humor or wit if that plays into your brand. Check out our #JuxtADay tag for some inspiration!
- Be in the know. Check sites like #TagBoard to make sure that the hashtag is fresh and not last year’s news. A little research is a quick and easy way to make sure which hashtags will get noticed and convey that you have your finger on the pulse of social media.
- Throw grammar rules out the window….sort of. A hashtag is a necessity in most tweets to get your full message across. The ability to remove spacing, smash words together, and use numbers instead of spelling gives you more room and space to tweet a complete thought. As in most written communication, it is still important to make sure that the hashtag is spelled correctly, but anything goes when it comes to capitalization. Two such examples of this would be #motivationalmonday or #TellASadStoryIn3Words.
- Don’t force the issue. When you are setting up a new tag for branding purposes, it is easy to want to attach it to every post. Avoid this temptation. It will become stale to your followers really fast and you will be nullifying that tag’s main purpose of pointing to relevant content.
- Know your platform etiquette. When it comes to a tweet, hashtags should be the cherry on top, not the main ingredient. Stick to one to three per post; you do not want them to replace the flow and dialogue of the tweet itself. When it comes to Instagram, the point is to pile on the sprinkles, if you will, to make your image searchable under as many different hashtags as possible. For instance, a tweet of a picture of the user’s favorite chocolate chip cookies would look like, “Can’t get enough #ChocolateChipCookies, yum!” While the same post on Instagram might read : #ChocolateChipCookies #MyFave #WhereIsTheMilk #Treats.
When it comes down to it, hashtags are there to make your life easier. When in doubt, take a few deep breaths, do a little research, and just have fun.
Written by Jenni Coolong || Social Brand Manager