How Do I Use Hashtags?
Do more than just use hashtags, understand them!
Many of us use hashtags every single day. But are we really considering the way we use them? Today, we’re giving you the lowdown on the how, when, and why of using hashtags in your social media strategy.
Let’s start with some examples.
Perhaps you’ve used hashtags to accompany an Instagram post:
Or, maybe you use them to feel connected to a community:
Maybe you join in on a weekly Twitter Chat:
Or, perhaps you use a hashtag to project humor:
So yes, you know hashtags. There are so many ways to use them, but today we’re talking a bit about how you can use them to help your business.
How to Use Hashtags
The best social platforms for hashtags
Hashtags are most commonly used on Instagram and Twitter, but Facebook and Google+ also use them conservatively. Currently, it’s a bit of a faux pas to use hashtags on LinkedIn.
How many hashtags to use per post
Theories vary on how many hashtags you should use with each individual post.
Some say there should be 2 on Twitter and others say 3. Instagram is the same story. Some experts, like Chalene Johnson, think you should use the max of 30. Others, like Alaa Hassan, say that using fewer, yet relevant hashtags is more appropriate to bring the engagement you need. Hilary Rushford agrees and also mentions that too many hashtags can bring the impression that you’re desperate.
What’s the final say? Experiment! Use hashtags in the way your heart tells you to and soon you will find out what works on your social accounts.
Where to use hashtags
It’s easy on Twitter. You place your hashtags in the heart of the post in place of words like this on from the @NantucketYogini:
But where should you place hashtags on Instagram? Should they be in the post content attached to the image (a.k.a. the first comment), or in the comments below the post?
Here’s a little history… It turns out that the practice of putting hashtags in the second comment is not applicable anymore. The idea was to place your hashtags in the comment so you could delete the original comment after they had become stale (i.e. your post had become covered by more recent posts with the same hashtag).
When this practice was popular, it was at a time when adding a new comment with hashtags would cause your original post (perhaps from quite a while ago) to pop into the highest position under each of those hashtags. Wow! That’s certainly ideal – it’s like a fresh start! However, Instagram made a change that made the practice obsolete. Now when you add new hashtags to an Instagram post, that post stays where it is in the chronological lineup within each of its hashtags.
The point: the order of the posts is determined upon when the post was published, not when the post was edited. You have one chance to add the right hashtags, and that’s when you first publish your post.You have one chance to add the right #hashtags-- that's when you publish the post. Click To Tweet
Why you Should Use Hashtags
Tie a community together
Some businesses create their own hashtags, either to aid in a contest or to create a spot for like-minded people to come together. Some examples are schools: #UCLAAlumni, Twitter chats: #ContentChat, courses: #InstagramWithIntention, conferences: #SmartSuccessLive and values: #ChoosePositivity
Find potential customers
Let’s find them! Find who? Customers! A common technique on Instagram is to court potential followers by engaging with their content. You can find potential followers who might be most interested in your content by searching for hashtags that relate to your content. Seems simple, right? Let’s get the number one mistake out of the way now: The hashtags must be terms that potential customers, not other professionals in your field, would search for.
For example, if you are a Revlon hair care representative, you likely wouldn’t want to search for #Revlon. If the person already knows about Revlon, he or she might already have someone they work with or they might even be a representative.
Instead, you might try to search hashtags like #BadHair or #LoveMyHair. Maybe you’re a Revlon representative who is focused on expanding your male clientele. If that’s the case, you might search for hashtags you anticipate your target demographic to use, like #BeerThursday , #Movember or #ManlyMonday.
I’m not convinced Riccardo needs any help with his hair, because it’s looking pretty suave (no pun intended). But who knows! He might be someone great to follow.
You can also find potential customers by searching hashtags on your ideal customers’ feeds.
We just chatted about searching for hashtags that you think will be applicable to your ideal customer, but what if you did a bit more strategic digging? For example, as Road Warrior Creative, we serve mainly small businesses. I can look up any small business or perhaps a customer of ours to see what hashtags they’re using (and are likely also searching). Let’s head over to The Pink Moose’s Instagram feed.
The owner of The Pink Moose, Jennifer, posts all about home decor, which isn’t particularly in-line with what Road Warrior Creative does. However, if we’re hoping to have more clients in the furniture refinishing business, The Pink Moose’s Instagram feed would be an amazing place to find some of the hashtags to investigate.
Let’s go a bit further.
Let’s say we are hoping to do more work with the home decor crowd. Taking this post from The Pink Moose’s page:
When I click on #generalfinishes, I’m taken to a page full of recent posts from furniture refinishers:
From here, I can do a bit of investigating. Do they compare to the avatar I’ve put in place for my business as my ideal customer? Does it look like I can help them in any way?
You’re likely thinking, ‘Sheesh! This is a lot of work for a customer!’ It sure is IF that was your focus. Your focus is to gain more exposure, to learn more about what potential clients exist on Instagram, and to build relationships. You likely won’t find instant customers, but you might find followers who start to enjoy your Instagram feed and you theirs.
After having enough positive interactions, they might think of you when they need a service you provide.
Stay up-to-date in your industry
You can stay up-to-date on the latest hashtags by searching for hashtags you believe are related to your industry and finding what other hashtags folks are using in conjunction with them. For example, if I do bridal hair and makeup like Annaliese & Co., I might search #MyWedding, #ImEngaged and #WeddingPlanning to get a gauge on what customers might be using alongside the hashtags I’m already comfortable with.
I might also try to search hashtags like #WeddingPros, #WeddingInspiration to get cues from other professionals in the wedding industry (not specifically in the bridal hair and makeup sector of the wedding industry).
Going a little deeper, you can also look at companies who are competitors. What hashtags are they using on the posts of highest engagement? Perhaps you can strategically adopt some of them yourself. While you do this, take note of whether you believe these hashtags are influencing potential customers to click, or if you think that maybe only other professionals in your industry are clicking on them. Aim to lean heavily into the former.
Find out what works for others in your industry
Sticking with our example of Annaliese & Co., if I’m trying to get a handle on why my competitors are doing to have an advantage, I might search #bridalhair and #bridalmakeup to see what tricks they have up their sleeves.
When browsing their Instagram and Twitter feeds, I can see which types of posts are bringing in the engagement and which aren’t. Are quote images hitting it out of the park, while behind-the-scenes images are falling flat with little engagement? All of this research can be tucked away for when I create a strategic plan for my social media.
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Investigate the results for hashtags before you use one.
Before adopting any hashtag, it’s important to see how well it’s doing on Instagram. By ‘well’, we aren’t necessarily talking about the number of uses of that hashtag. If you use something super popular (i.e. #love, one of the most popular hashtags on Instagram), your post might be buried under 20 posts one minute after posting! On the flip side, if you see only a few folks using a hashtag or find that there are months between posts, it’s likely the only effect it will have is that it’ll clutter up your post.
It’s not wrong to use either the heavily used or the rarely used hashtags, but it’s best to find a happy medium between the two.
Do you feel like your hashtag game is about to start? What’s one thing you’d like to do to start or re-energize your hashtag effort? Send us a tweet or an email with your thoughts!