SOCIAL MEDIA / JUL. 06, 2014
version 5, draft 5

Your Guide to Using Hashtags on Social Media

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The beginning of the hashtag concept came with Twitter when Chris Messina brought it to the social network as a way of grouping conversations back in 2007. Today, it continues to work in the way it was intended, and it’s even spread to other social media networks. We now see the hashtag being used on Instagram, Facebook, and on a number of other social media networks. 

Hashtags are powerful tools and can make your content a hit overnight. It’s why businesses are so eager to use them in their marketing strategies.

Let’s take a look at hashtags and how you should be using them on social media.

Why are Hashtags so Important?

It’s easy to look at hashtags as nonsense. For a long time, this is exactly how people viewed them. They were considered a fad destined to disappear into the abyss. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact is hashtags are here to stay, and companies invest heavily in making their hashtags visible.

According to Steve Cooper from Forbes.com, the big advantage is anyone can see what appears on your hashtag. They don’t have to have been following you and they don’t have to have heard of you before. This automatically increases your reach. It’s an ideal tool to introduce people to what you have to offer.

How Many Hashtags Should You Use?

We’ve seen people spamming twitter with hashtags on a daily basis. Those are the people who use up to five of them after a simple, mundane post. The sweet spot is a single hashtag.

Let’s look at some key data from Buddy Media to find out more:

Firstly, a Tweet with a hashtag gets twice the engagement of a Tweet without a hashtag. It’s easy to think this continues as you add more hashtags. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, you encounter diminishing returns as soon as you go over one.

People who use over two hashtags discover a 17% drop in engagement. The reason for this appears to be down to spam. Tweets with lots of hashtags look like spam, and so people don’t respond to them.

Although this is the case with Twitter, it doesn’t work the same way on every social media platform. Instagram appears to buck the trend. It was found photos with more than 11 hashtags had the most engagement.

The reason for this is clear. Instagram deals in image-based content. The hashtags won’t interfere with or diminish the quality of your content, unlike with Twitter where you’re using text-based content.

On Facebook, don’t use them at all. Posts without hashtags get more engagement than those with them.

Of course, every social media platform has a different sweet spot, so don’t try to use your Twitter strategy on Google+.

Finding the Right Hashtag

The choice of hashtag is essential. Unrelated content still won’t succeed. Communicating in business and marketing is all about following the current trends. Luckily, this is easy because all you have to do is start by monitoring the big hashtags.

Firstly, start by looking at the best of the best hashtags. What are people talking about right now? If you have content related to what people are talking about, use these hashtags. If you don’t have anything related, you need to search for something more relevant to you.


There are a number of third-party tools you can use to tailor your trends, and Twitter has its own built-in tool for doing this. Some of the recommended third-party tools include: RiteTag, Twitalyzer, and Trendsmap.

Try out different tags and monitor your engagement levels. In the long-term, you’ll discover what works and what doesn’t. You need to test different types of content and alternate what hashtags you use alongside it. It can be time-consuming, but you should start seeing results quickly.

Where Should You Use Them?

Another aspect you have to consider is how and where you use hashtags. Certain platforms require different content and hashtags to achieve success. Here’s a quick rundown on how you need to use hashtags on each social media platform:

Twitter

  1. You only have 140 characters, and hashtags are included in this limit. Use no more than 1-2 hashtags.
  2. Hashtags are traditionally used at the end of a message, or in the middle if Tweeting on a humorous subject.
  3. Always use hashtags. Studies prove engagement always increases when using a hashtag.

Facebook

  1. Hashtags aren’t recognised as a viable tactic on Facebook. They aren’t used to categorise topics and conversations.
  2. Engagement decreases when they’re used. Avoid them at all costs.

Pinterest

  1. Use specific hashtags. General hashtags, such as #marketing, will lead to your post appearing as one amongst thousands.
  2. Branded tags enable users to easily find your other products. They help users connect with your organisation.
  3. 1-2 hashtags is acceptable on Pinterest.

Tumblr

  1. Understand Tumblr tags are entered in a special tag section, therefore they appear differently.
  2. Use branded tags to help track your social media campaigns. The more specific the hashtag the more accurate the results.
  3. Use 1-3 hashtags per post.

Instagram

  1. Stick to specific hashtags to make your photographs stand out.
  2. Up to 11 hashtags can be used in your posts.
  3. Instagram hashtags can be used to generate photo contests, which can increase exposure.

Google+

  1. Use hashtags in photo posts to better optimise them.
  2. Between 1-2 hashtags generates the most engagement.
  3. Following hashtag trends on Google+ works better when you use them in the middle of a trend, as opposed to when the conversation is just about to end. It’s all about timing on this social network.

The hashtag is the tool you need to target your posts effectively. Without a hashtag, a post is just aimlessly drifting around newsfeeds. Use the right hashtags and the right people will see your content. You have to use them whenever you post or you’re lowering your engagement levels.

Every social media platform has different rules when it comes to the number of hashtags and where you should use them. This shouldn’t frighten you. It’s simpler than you think. It’s a matter of a few tweaks to each of your posts and you’ll soon see more people engaging with your posts. Use the above guide as a way of keeping track of each social media platform.

Although hashtags remain essential tools for marketing and promotion, this doesn’t mean you can use them to promote any old rubbish. Focus on high-quality content. Hashtags are designed to boost the power of high-quality content.

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