Years ago, the one social media platform that made hashtags a priority was Twitter. Specifically, it was Chris Messina, a social technology expert who lead the charge. In fact, he got us using the terminology “hashtag” instead of “pound sign.” Since the early days of Twitter, the hashtag has crept into a large number of social media platforms including Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook. As social media continues to evolve, so does the hashtag. Hashtags are becoming more and more important to your posts and your visibility. This Ultimate Guide to Hashtags is going to help you understand and master the use of hashtags in your social media world.
What Exactly Is A Hashtag?
With all the hype around the word “hashtag” its purpose and exactly what is used for has gotten lost. In the simplest of terms, a hashtag is this symbol: # Anytime a hashtag precedes a word, a phrase, or a string of words, the post becomes searchable. For example, if I were to use #Instagram or #SocialMedia within a post, the post becomes instantly searchable and will show up with all the other posts or content using the same hashtag.
Why You Should Use Hashtags
When you use hashtags within your content, you are accomplishing the following things:
- VISABILITY: Your content becomes visible to people who have an interest in the same idea or concept. For example, if I were to post a picture of my shih tzu dogs on Instagram and I used the hashtag #ShihTzus my post would end up in the category bucket (also known as a hashtag hub) #ShihTzus along with all the other posts tagged with #ILoveShihTzus. Anyone who has an interest in shih tzu dogs can type #ShihTzus in the search bar of the social media app to see all the posts about shih tzus.
- BRANDING: Creating hashtags around a word or phrase that brands your business is a great way to build brand awareness for your company and it makes it easy for your customers and fans to find you. For example, I use #LoraShipman, #InstagramMadeEasy, and #TheLoraShipmanShow as branded hashtags for my business. When people search for any of those three hashtags, my specific content will be displayed.
- ORGANIZATION: Hashtags are a great way to keep your content organized for your followers. For example, if I want my audience to have easy access to anything related to my podcast, all I need to do is use the hashtag #TheLoraShipmanShow in any post referring to the show. When anyone interested in learning more about my podcast types #TheLoraShipmanShow in the search bar, a huge selection of posts appear (see image below).
- FOLLOWS: Instagram gives its users the opportunity to follow hashtags that interest them. Much of my audience follows me because I train and teach people through my social media posts. If I use the hashtag #SocialMediaTraining in my posts, anyone who follows that hashtag will see my content in the #SocialMediaTraining hashtag hub/pool.
- PROMOTION: Hashtags work really well to promote events, products, shows, etc. and they help to keep the conversation flowing. If you are organizing or a part of a conference or event, most likely the event organizers will create a specific branded hashtag for those interested in the event to follow. This is a great way for people and event-goers to learn about developments of the event, stay in touch, create a community around the event, get late breaking news, agenda reminders, networking opportunities, and the list goes on.
- COMMUNITY: Hashtags are largely based on interests. More than likely, the hashtags you are using are followed by your possible target market – THOSE ARE YOUR PEOPLE! That means you have a built-in, nicely organized audience you can start connecting and networking with right inside a hashtag hub!
How To Start Using Hashtags
Now that you know what a hashtag is and how they can help you, it’s time to learn how to start using them. Below is a list of ways you can start growing a databank of hashtags:
- Google Sheets: I like to use Google Sheets to organize and keep track of all the hashtags I use for my business
- Create categories of hashtags for your business. This will take some brainstorming and you will need to always be adding to the list. Here are some examples you can start with:
- Branded Hashtags – hashtags that describe your business and brand
- Product/Service Hashtags – hashtags that describe the products and services your provide
- Target Audience Hashtags – hashtags that describe who it is your are trying to attract, their interests, what they identify with, their struggles, their goals
- Local Hashtags – hashtags used by your local community
- If you run out hashtag ideas/terms, do some research! Check out what types of hashtags your industry leaders are using
Hashtag Best Practices
There are definitely some right ways to use hashtags and some wrong ways to use them. Use this list as a guideline
- DO use all 30 hashtags that Instagram allows you to use – you will reach more people
- DON’T crash-tag. Crash-tagging is the practice of using someone else’s branded hashtags just to get their followers attention. For example, someone other than me using the hashtag #LoraShipman would be doing so in bad taste.
- DO mix it up! Don’t use the same hashtags over and over. Failure to mix it up runs the risk of you showing up in front of the same eyeballs over and over. The goal is to get in front of new people all the time!
- DON’T use hashtags as your only caption. I see this a lot and it makes me cringe. People will post a picture and then fail to write a caption and instead only put hashtag after hashtag as their caption. This sends a couple of messages to your audience:
- You’re too lazy to take the time to put something meaningful and valuable as your caption – even if your image is a quote. Take the time to go deeper with your audience in the caption.
- It’s spammy. When you see a string of hashtags without meaningful commentary it looks as though all you are trying to do is collect vanity likes instead of connecting with your audience and making a difference.
- DO GO NICHE! Many times people will want to use popular hashtags – those hashtags that have 1 million plus posts because they think they will get more eyeballs on their content. The truth here is that your posts will be buried unless you are a huge influencer. It is good to have a few big hashtags in your mix but don’t make that your entire hashtag strategy. Instead, go niche! Be a BIG fish in a small pond.
Hashtags are your friend! Use them on the BIG 4 social media platforms:
- Facebook – yes! Facebook! It’s not as popular which is good! You and your brand will stand out from the competition.
What was your BIGGEST take away from this post? Let me know in the comment section.