How to Make the Most of Hashtags in Your Social Media Marketing

Lance Concannon Lance Concannon, Marketing Director, Europe

Hashtags have been around for quite some time and people mostly take them for granted. Many businesses, however, fail to take advantage of this very simple yet powerful social media tactic. Let’s look at why hashtags are so important and how to get the maximum possible leverage out of them.

Why Hashtags are so Powerful
Hashtags are one of the simplest social media techniques of all. All you need to do is place a #hashtag symbol followed by a relevant word or phrase. Hashtags have become a kind of social media subculture of their own, with new ones appearing daily.

What not everyone realizes is that hashtags aren’t just a way to appear on the pulse but also a way to get more attention to your posts. Social media users often click on popular hashtags. When they do this, you have a chance to pick up new followers. In fact, it’s one of the only ways to do this without reaching for your wallet and paying for ads or sponsored posts.

Hashtags are all about trending topics. However, the practice of using hashtags is more than a trend; it’s fundamental to the way social media works. That’s why anyone who’s trying to promote a brand or product can’t afford to overlook this powerful form of marketing.

Where to Use Hashtags
Hashtags are most commonly used on Twitter and Instagram. However, you can also use them on Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Initially Facebook didn’t have clickable hashtags the way Instagram and Twitter did. But they quickly realized how hashtags are useful and encourage engagement with friends and followers. Additionally, many people connect their social media accounts. For example, if you post a photo to Instagram with a hashtag, it will automatically post it to Facebook and the hashtag will follow.

Pinterest started off like Facebook regarding clickable hashtags. But it became apparent to them that hashtags were now an integral facet of social media. So, while coming to the party late…the hashtags are now clickable on that platform too. You can also use hashtags on LinkedIn. The main difference is that you should respect the fact that this is a B2B platform that’s not as concerned with popular culture. With that in mind, it is recommended to stick with business-related hashtags for the most part on that platform.

Using Popular Hashtags
One of the easiest ways to benefit from hashtags is to tie your wagon to ones that are already popular. For example, the TV series Game of Thrones or GOT was a popular hashtag for weeks as everyone was talking about the ending of this extremely popular TV series. Even if you’ve never watched it, there’s a good chance that many of your customers do.

Movie hits such as The Avengers, sporting events such as the Super Bowl or World Cup, trending celebrities and politicians are all ripe topics for hashtags. With such broadly popular topics, you can freely use them even if you or your business has no direct connection to these subjects. It’s a way to cash in on a trend and get more views to your posts. If you want to insert yourself into a popular discussion, do a search for top hashtags on Twitter or Instagram and add some replies.

Create Your Own Hashtags
You can also create hashtags based on your own products, upcoming events, or perhaps a social media contest. If you run a contest on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you give your followers a motive to share your hashtag. This, of course, gives you a chance to pick up new followers. If you happen to create a hashtag that sounds catchy and that appeals to your followers, it might even go viral.

Hashtags for Fun and Inspiration
Some very broad and popular hashtags such as #Fun, #Love, or #Fitness, which are all widely used on Instagram, can help you evoke a certain mood. These hashtags may not get you tons of new followers but they can add personality to your posts as long as you don’t overdo it.

Use Hashtags for Research
You can directly benefit from using popular hashtags. Another way to benefit from them is to study them as part of a social listening strategy. Hashtags are more than random words. They reflect what people are thinking about, talking about and, in some cases, buying. Look at the hashtags used by your target audience to find out more about their interests and needs. You can also check out which hashtags your competitors are using. This may help you identify additional topics you can cover, not only as hashtags but in your blog and social media posts.

Avoid These Hashtag Mistakes
While the whole point of this article is to encourage you to use hashtags as much as possible, you still need to use them mindfully. It is possible to make mistakes if you start copying every hashtag you see without giving it much thought.

  • Using hashtags without knowing what they mean. Always research a hashtag if you’re not sure what it means. Some hashtags have political meanings. Others are acronyms for profanity. You know best what works for your brand. However, you should at least be aware of what you’re saying so you don’t offend people without realizing it.
  • Overusing hashtags. Using a long list of hashtags can make your posts confusing. As a general rule, it’s best to limit yourself to between one and three hashtags with every post. If you use too many hashtags, they end up diluting your content and annoying people.
  • Don’t openly promote when responding to hashtags. People won’t appreciate it if you try to turn a discussion about a movie or sporting event into promoting your latest sale. Simply by commenting, you have a chance to pick up more followers and have people check out your profile. Of course, when you create your own hashtags you have more leeway when it comes to self-promotion. If it’s your hashtag, you can use it the way you want. Don’t, however, try to hijack other people’s hashtags. Use them in the spirit in which they were created.

Keep Up With the Latest Hashtags
Hashtags are an important aspect of social media marketing. They cost nothing to use and give you a quick way to extend your influence. It’s not difficult to track the latest trending hashtags. On Twitter, for example, you can look at the list of trending topics. Provided that you use them sensibly and consciously, there’s generally no downside to including a few strategic hashtags in your social media posts.