The Hashtag Question
To hashtag or not to hashtag—that is the question.
While once unique to Twitter, the hashtag has infiltrated all major social media platforms—including the DIY world of Pinterest. You might find them marking major holidays like #4thOfJuly or #HappyHalloween. Or maybe they’re sharing someone’s mood like #happy or #blessed. But what exactly are hashtags? And when and where should your business’s social media use them?
What is it?
Let’s start off with the basics.
No matter what platform you’re on, hashtags are a classifier. So when you use #happy with your Facebook status or Instagram image, that post automatically gets clumped with the thousand other posts using that hashtag. With one hashtag, your business becomes a part of a bigger conversation in social media. More conversations lead to more engagement and wider reach. Pretty neat, right?
Still, the question remains, should hashtags be used on all platforms?
Tweets and hashtags are like peanut butter and jelly.
Hashtags on your tweets bring your business into the conversation. Just be wary of what conversations you’re stepping into.
When you find those hashtags to use, your tweets will see more engagement. In 2014, Twitter conducted a study showing that on average, tweets received a 16% boost in engagement when used with hashtags. Depending on your industry, your tweets might even see more engagement:
- TV: 39% increase
- Sports: 37% increase
- Government & Politics: 30% increase
While your brand page might be public for all to see, most Facebook members have private pages. When searching for a hashtag, only those statuses that are shared to the public will show up. So I wouldn’t recommend a Facebook campaign encouraging users to vote or submit entries via a hashtag on a personal status. More than likely, you’ll have trouble finding those posts due to maxed out privacy settings.
But you can use hashtags.
Just keep these three tips in mind:
- Use relevant, simple hashtags targeted to your audience.
- Use hashtags across all of your social networks (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instragram, etc.)
- Be unique! Facebook hashtags get their own unique URL, meaning you can drive traffic to that URL and build a community on a particular topic.
Hashtags on Instagram will connect you with other likeminded users posting similar content. If you’re trying to reach a particular audience, make sure the hashtags you’re using resonate. Ask yourself: What hashtags are your target audience using?
Then there’s another question you should ask: How many hashtags should I use?
With Instragram, you can use up to 30 hashtags in a post. That’s a bit excessive. No one wants to read a post that’s a wall of little blue links.
Our magic number is 7.
With 7 hashtags, you can bring your posts into the right amount of targeted conversations and audience. There’s also some flexibility. You don’t want to include 7 hashtags for the sake of having 7; you want them to be quality too.
If your brand is using Pinterest, you may be wondering how hashtags work on this platform.
Hashtags aren’t as much about joining conversations as they are about keeping track of your content.
While they can be used in titles and pin descriptions, they only have power in descriptions. When added to a description, a hashtag acts as a tool to keep track of who re-pins your content. That’s helpful, from a research perspective.
From a social media marketing perspective, hashtags aren’t really necessary. If anything, they are best used if it is a hashtag being used on other social platforms like Facebook or Twitter.
Beware of Trends
Just because #HumpDay is a popular choice to mark the middle of the week, it doesn’t mean your brand should be using it. Some of those conversations are questionable and downright inappropriate. Save your PR team the hassle, and avoid the association all together.
With four major social media platforms using hashtags, it’s important to know the rules of each. But it’s also important to know your brand, your audience, and the conversations that are a fit for both.
So if you’re working on how to incorporate hashtags into your social posts, keep the rules above in mind. Or if you’re already using hashtags, but don’t know if you’re using them right, feel free to contact us! Our Social Team can guide you down the path to a better strategy and better social conversations..