Social media has made it much easier to keep in touch and communicate with friends, family, and even strangers, and nothing brings conversations together quite like a hashtag. What was once just a quirky feature on Twitter, has grown so much in popularity that even Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest have integrated it into their platforms. It’s no surprise then that companies and brands use hashtags as a way to reach their audience and generate an online buzz. To help you make the most of your social media campaign, our web developers have put together some business tips for using hashtags.
1. The #basics
So what exactly is a hashtag? A hashtag is a word or words that are preceeded by a hash symbol (#) in a status update. The hashtag is used either within the update itself or as a sort of footnote to the comment (for example, “It’s another #ManicMonday at Cite because we’ve got several websites launching soon.” versus “It’s busy in the office today because we’ve got several websites launching soon. #ManicMonday”).
Hashtags are used to help people find and participate in topics they are interested in. Once added to a status update, the hashtag is dynamically linked to any other comment on that social network with the same hashtag. If users click on the hashtag, they are taken to a page where they can see all public status updates that use it. So, if your status update uses a hashtag, it can be viewed by anyone interested in it.
Starting a social media campaign can be intimidating for some companies and one common practice is to avoid using hashtags altogether. While it may be daunting at first, we recommend trying to use hashtags in one-third of your status updates. To start off, companies may want to use hashtags that are relevant to their industry (in our case, things like #Facebook, #WebDevelopers, etc) or their location (#Leicester, #EastMidlands, etc). Not only are these a safe introduction to using hashtags, they will also help your company appear when people do a search on that particular service or location.
Hashtags are also a great way for businesses to get involved in an ongoing conversation, or create a new one that they want others to join. It is important to remember that when using a hashtag you should make it relevant to your status update, otherwise your update risks looking like spam. It’s also important to consider what hashtags your target audience will be searching for, and try to integrate those into your updates. For example, if you are trying to target an older demographic, hashtags about teen celebrities wouldn’t be appropriate.
When using a phrase within a hashtag, try to keep it between one to three words that are short and easy to remember. This is because long hashtags can often cause confusion as readers try to figure out what they say. Numbers and capitalization can be used as needed to help indicate where each word starts. The latter doesn’t affect the search results and can in fact can make your hashtag easier to read; ‘#ILoveTwitter’ is clearer than ‘#ilovetwitter’.
4. Find out what’s #trending
Using a hashtag that is currently trending is a great way to reach a large audience and join in a popular conversation. Twitter provides a list of trending topics on users’ main feeds, so it’s easy to see what conversations might be worth joining.
One common mistake businesses make is to use a trending hashtag without knowing why it’s trending. Make sure to spend a few minutes reading through updates that are using that hashtag, and do a quick Google search, before putting up your company’s post. Case in point, fashion brand Kenneth Cole tweeted this during the uprising in Cairo, clearly unaware of the full scope of the situation that was brewing, and received a huge backlash from Twitter users:
5. How much is #TooMuch?
Overuse of hashtags can make your posts difficult to read, so we recommend using no more than two hashtags per post. Too many hashtags can also make your posts look like spam, and can hinder your marketing efforts. Think of a hashtag as a way to highlight a specific word in your post, the fewer hashtags that are used means those words have more emphasis placed on them and are more likely to get your readers’ attention.
6. Hashtag #hijack
It is quite common for businesses to encourage their customers to use a specific hashtag to reference a campaign. While the intention is to promote the brand, increase awareness of the message, and engage with people, sometimes social media users can rebel against what they feel is an artificial hashtag conversation, and will hijack it for their own purposes. One example of this was when McDonald’s tried to use #McDStories to put a positive spin on its suppliers. The hashtag was quickly hijacked by the public who used it to tell horror stories about the fast food chain’s poor practices and unhealthy food. That’s not to say all marketing hashtags will be hijacked, in fact many go on to be very successful, but businesses need to be aware that it is a possibility.
The use of hashtags in your social media strategy will allow you to reach a larger audience and engage with more people. If your hashtags are well-thought out, brief, and relevant, you’ll be well on your way to connecting with your target audience and implementing a successful campaign.
Do you need help with your social media strategy?
Contact our team of social media consultants today to find out how we can help your next campaign. Whether you need a Facebook app or community management, we’re here to help.