A hashtag is meant for categorizing your content into different buckets using the “#” symbol, essentially a type of text-based label or Meta tag that 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 an enormous amount of the web audience in one go.
Hashtags – A Communication Tool for Marketers
Effective communication utilizing smart and focused content, alongside technology with a suitable channel 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. Employing a hashtag enables communication with the masses in a fraction of a second.
Hashtags that trend the most are easily noticed on the left-hand sidebar of the Twitter feed, LinkedIn feed, or trending topics in your area. It also means that 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 loudly talking about it on social media at any given point in time. 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, as it identifies conversations pertaining to your interests and engages with your target customers accordingly. It is measurable, impactful, and everlasting.
Today, marketers are using hashtags for engagements across events promotions, customer services, satisfaction surveys, and broadcast media, including opinion polls, sentiment analysis, deal-based marketing to recommend next steps for their brand, social media listening, and social media monitoring.
Platforms that Support Hashtags
Twitter – It’s important to list Twitter’s name first, as hashtags are used most prominently here. As #kingofhashtags, this is the social media platform that 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. It is now ready for marketers to leverage.
Instagram – You can use hashtags on Instagram to complement photos you share.
Tumblr – Posts here have a special feature called “tag,” which works pretty much like a twitter hashtag.
Pinterest – The ideal use for hashtags here is to mark and search content.
LinkedIn – They were not supported on LinkedIn earlier, and although they tried using it for a while, hashtags were abandoned in 2013. The good news came in August 2016, when Linkedin enabled hashtags again with improved features for searching.
Best Practices for Using Hashtags
Choose your brand hashtag
Arriving at your brand hashtag is the key to longevity, as it’s evergreen and will continue for the lifetime of your brand. This can be your brand name, your brand positioning, or something similar. Your 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
This is an obvious step before arriving at your brand hashtag. While it’s very easy if you decide your brand name itself will be a hashtag, it is equally time-consuming and difficult if you are using it for a campaign-specific promotion. Thus, 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 best approach is to put it into the natural flow of your posts and tweets. If not, try using them on a separate line after your tweet or post. This usually works better and gives a unique place to your favorite hashtags.
These are short-term ones, or hashtags that are a subset of 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 clear in meaning. #ShareaCoke is a well known example with a clear meaning.
Avoid too many hashtags
It’s good to have a maximum of 3 hashtags in a tweet, because first, you have 280 characters to plan content, and second, you need space for the key message to be written as well.
Shout them throughout
Please use them in a viral way; it’s good to employ them across your mailers, landing pages, website pages (wherever offerings are relevant), and throughout all your campaigns. You could use tools like Convertkit or Constant Contact for email marketing. This creates easy recall, meaning people will easily associate the hashtag with you.
It’s good to amplify your hashtags across your social media campaigns, too. (I.e. 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 so far as to ban the hashtag itself. For instance, #EDM and #curvy were banned by Instagram due to dual meanings and offensiveness specifically associated with #curvy. Thus, please avoid such hashtags.
Character limit for Twitter
Twitter previously limited tweet lengths to 140 characters, making the definition of a “character” and how they are counted central to any Twitter application. In late 2017, it was confirmed to be 280 characters. Initially, brands were reluctant and questioned the creativity of Twitter; however, it is being seen as a positive trend now.
The Bottom Line
Whether it is about providing customer satisfaction or influencing buyer behavior, hashtags have been evolving since 2007. Today, users are adapting to hashtags more than ever before. People want to be heard in noisy social media. People of all age groups are using multiple hashtags within a post to make their voices heard. News channels are conducting live debates that have changed from having TRPs alone to trending as number 1 in the Twitter feed; direct influence is relational.
With that being said, using multiple hashtags in one post may not be the right approach. For marketers, the next step will be to use them more strategically or in line with their marketing goals, and to leverage them enough for years to come. It is going to be key to measure your social media performance. The hashtag you choose for a conversation will most likely already exist and may not give you exclusivity over it; branded hashtags are something you need to own and choose quickly to leverage in the long run. Marketers also need to have a suitable mix of strategic hashtags for their brands that are in line with their brand name or vision, or with a unique offering that they will continue for years to come, Simultaneously, they need to create tactical hashtags that they can utilize for short-term marketing campaigns, event promotions, tweet chats, and so on.
What are your thoughts on the best practices for social media/ hashtags this year? Let me know in the comments section below and please don’t forget to share this post.
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Neeraj is a Tech Marketer with 9+ years of experience in B2B Sales and Marketing. At StepToInbound, Neeraj writes about Website, Search, Social Media and Marketing Automation practices.