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.
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.
Hashtag which trends the most, easily gets noticed on 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 really talking about it loudly on social media at any given point of 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, identifying conversations pertaining to your interests and engaging with your target customers 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.
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 as they are use more prominently here. #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.
- 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 not supported on LinkedIn earlier, they tried using it for a while, but abandoned them in 2013. The good news came in August 2016 wherein Linkedin enabled Hashtags again with improved features for Search
Best practices for using Hashtags
- Decide your Brand Hashtag – Arriving at your brand hashtag is the key to longevity, it’s 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 – The 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 favourite hashtags.
- Tactical hashtags – These are short terms ones or the hashtags which 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 with a clarity of its meaning. #ShareaCoke is a well-known example with clear meaning.
- Avoid too many hashtags – It’s good to have a maximum of 3 hashtags in a tweet, one, you have 280 characters to plan content, Secondly, you need space for the key message to be written as well.
- 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 offerings are 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 Twitter – It’s 280 Now
Twitter limited Tweet length to 140 characters making the definition of a “character” and how they are counted central to any Twitter application, earlier. In late 2017, it was confirmed to be 280-characters. Initially, brands were reluctant and questioned 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 a buyer behaviour, 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.
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, 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. The hashtag you decide in general for a conversation, most likely would have been already existing and may not give you exclusivity over it,branded hashtags are something you need to own and decide quickly for leveraging it 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.
What are your thoughts on the Best practices for social media/ hashtags usage this year? Please let me know in comments section below.
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.