A hashtag is meant for categorizing your content into different buckets using “#” symbol, essentially a type of text-based label or Meta tag which enables users to find your conversations online with ease. Any combination of characters led by a hash symbol makes a hashtag. This was first proposed by Twitter in 2007 and ever since then, it has evolved from a means of identification to having a complete tweet chat or a conversation with enormous numbers of web audience in one go. In this blog, I will talk about How to Use Hashtags!
Hashtags – A Communication Tool for Marketers
Effective communication utilizing smart and focused content, technology with suitable channel mix connects better with your consumers. The hashtag is a powerful search tool, one can utilize it to search the content of choice, people, companies, brands and posts of their interests. Utilizing a hashtag enables communication with masses at the fraction of a second, this is very similar to ATL, above the line advertising without reaching every audience in general.
Hashtag which trends the most, easily gets noticed on sidebar of your twitter feed, that means conversations involving top trending hashtags have more chances of being noticed, one, because users want to know why it’s trending on top :), and two, because it conveys a message and people are really talking about it loudly on social media. Thus, Hashtags create conversations leading to engagement which is the primary need for marketers in the Digital Marketing world today. It is an important marketing tool for effective communication across the masses, identifying conversations pertaining to your interests and engage with your target groups accordingly. It is measurable, impactful and everlasting.
Marketers, today, are using hashtags for engagements across events promotions, customer services, satisfaction surveys, broadcast media including opinion polls, sentiment analysis, deal based marketing to recommended next step for their brand, social media listening, and social media monitoring as well. Thus, it is indeed a powerful communication tool for marketers.
Let’s look at platforms where you can use hashtags as a communication tool today:
Platforms that support hashtags
- Twitter – It’s important to take Twitter’s name first and I consider them to be king of hashtags. #kingofhashtags , this is the social media platform which brought hashtags to life and made them so popular today. Twitter was created in March 2006.
- Facebook – A late entrant, FB announced its support for clickable hashtags in June 2013. Ready for marketers to leverage now.
- Instagram – You can use hashtags on Instagram to complement photos you share.
- Google+ – Hashtags behave a bit differently in Google+, upon clicking a hashtag in google plus, the results include the hashtag you wanted the trends for along with similar hashtags.
- Tumblr – Posts here, have a special feature called “tag”, this works pretty much like a twitter hashtag
- Pinterest – Ideal use for hashtags here is to mark and search content.
- LinkedIn – It was dead on LinkedIn earlier, they tried using it for a while, but abandoned them in 2013. The good news came in Aug, 2016 wherein Linkedin enabled Hashtags again with improved features for Search
Apart from the few important ones above, hashtags are also used in Vine, Flickr, YouTube comments etc.
Best practices for using Hashtags
- Decide your Brand Hashtag – Arriving at your brand hashtag is the key for longevity, its evergreen and will continue for the lifetime of your brand. This can be your brand name, your brand positioning or similar. Brand name should definitely be at least one of your hashtags if not more. Be sure that it’s not used by someone else already. Try using this across your brand conversations or campaigns, For instance, my brand hashtag is #steptoinbound
- Research and research – Obvious step before arriving at your brand hashtag, while it’s very easy if you decide your brand name itself as a hashtag, equally time-consuming and difficult if you are using it for a campaign specific promotion, thorough research is the key to get this right.
- The right placement – There are multiple ways to use a hashtag in a post or tweet, however, the good approach is to use them into natural language flow of your posts and tweets, if not, try using them on a separate line after your tweet and post. This usually works better and gives unique place to your favorite hashtags.
- Tactical hashtags – These are short terms ones or the hashtags which are a subset to your main brand. You may use them for campaign specific initiatives such as events, online campaigns, polls etc. It will be good to keep them short crisp and with a clarity on its meaning. #ShareaCoke is a well-known example as such with clear meaning.
- Avoid too many hashtags – It’s good to have a maximum of 3 hashtags in a tweet, one, you have 140 characters to match, Secondly, you need space for the key message to be written too, more than 3 hashtags might become confusing and lead to the loss in brand recall.
- Shout them across – Please use them the viral way, it’s good practice to shout with them across your mailers, landing pages, website pages (wherever offering relevant) and across all your campaigns, this gives easy recall, people can associate with you easily, and in the long run, no one else will take it 🙂
- Advertising amplification – It’s good to amplify them across your social media campaigns too. E.g. FB ads
- Avoid abusive or offensive hashtags – Twitter often censors trending hashtags. For instance – Twitter censored the #Thatsafrican and #thingsdarkiessay hashtags after users complained that they found the hashtags to be offensive. This has reached a new high level this month (Apr 2016), traditionally Twitter users have been flagging abusive tweets separately, while users can now, flag multiple abusive tweets in a single report. Instagram goes up to a level of banning the hashtag itself. For instance #EDM , #curvy were banned by Instagram due to dual meanings and offensiveness associated with #curvy in specific. Thus, please avoid such hashtags.
Ideal character limit for the king of hashtags, Twitter – 140 stands intact
Twitter limits Tweet length to 140 characters making the definition of a “character” and how they are counted central to any Twitter application. Of late, there were multiple speculations in the online market that Twitter will change the current limit and was considering 10,000-character tweets. In my opinion, this would have killed twitter’s own uniqueness and existence, it’s good to continue with what you have been doing since years until and unless you have a threat in particular. Good news is that in Apr 2016, Twitter officially confirmed no change to the character limits.
The bottom line
Whether it is about providing customer satisfaction or influencing a buyer behavior, hashtags are evolving since 2007, users, today are adapted to hashtags more than ever before. People want to be heard in noisy online social media. People of all age groups are using multiple hashtags within a post to make their voice heard. News channels are conducting live debates which have changed from having TRPs alone to being trending number 1 in the Twitter feed, direct influence is relational.
However, Using multiple hashtags in one post may not be the right approach, for marketers, the next step will be to use them more strategically, in line with their marketing goals and leverage them enough across years to come. It is going to be a key metrics to measure your social media performance. With increased usage of hashtags and users choosing all good ones, phrases, word mixes and the easily memorable hashtags, the choices will eventually become limited like you have currently, for choosing a domain name for a new website for instance. The hashtag you decide In general for a conversation, most likely would have been already existing and may not give you exclusivity over it, having said that branded hashtags are something you need to own, decide quickly for leveraging in the long run. Marketers also need to have a suitable mix of strategic hashtags for their brands which is in line with their brand name, vision or a unique offering which they will continue for years to come , Simultaneously they need to create tactical hashtags which they can utilize for short-term marketing campaigns, event promotions, tweet chats and so on. Hashtags, therefore, will continue to be a tool to enable more engagements, increase your brand awareness and make your presence felt in a loud online market as a means of differentiation.
What are your thoughts about Best practices for social media/ hashtags usage this year? Please let me know in comments section below.
Read More about such practices in Social Media : Best Practices for Social Media Usage in 2017