How to use hashtags on social media

Hashtags can make a big difference to your social media marketing. If used correctly, they have a power to make your social media posts and profiles more visible and popular.

What is a hashtag?

A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by a hash sign (#) used on social media to identify content on a specific topic. When you add a hashtag to a post, it can be indexed by the social media network and be searchable by other users; and when clicked, a hashtag will bring you to a page with aggregated posts with that hashtag.

A recent research shows that almost 75% of people on social media use hashtags, however when used inappropriately, hashtags can have a negative impact on your small business – on Twitter, tweets using more than two hashtags see a noticeable drop in engagement.

How to use hashtags?

Even though over 70% of people on social media use hashtags, not that many know how to use them correctly. Here are a few things to remember:

  • Avoid using too many words in one hashtag – people use hashtags to discover your content so keep them short, using keywords people are likely to search for
  • Use space between hashtags – sometimes posts will merge a number of hashtags, making these impossible to index
  • Keep your hashtags relevant – only use hashtags where it makes sense and pick those that are most relevant to your post
  • Hashtags are public – people don’t need to be your followers in order to find your content
  • Avoid turning every word in your post into a hashtag
  • Make your hashtag specific to the audience you are trying to attract
  • Be specific, even if that means that you are restricting your reach – it’s more important to be found be the right people than focusing on volume
  • Double check the spelling – don’t just focus on the grammar, also add capital letters when you are creating longer hashtags

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How to find the right hashtag?

Similarly to incorporating keywords into your content, to improve search engine rankings, it’s important to use the most relevant keywords to optimise your social media posts to reach your target audience. To help you find the most relevant ones for your social media updates, you can try Hashtagify.me, a free tool that helps you find hashtags, provides data on hashtag use and helps you to map a hashtag in relation to other similar options.

You can also look through similar accounts to see what hashtags are they using and when you click through you will be able to see how other users are using those hashtags. Make your hashtags specific to your target audience – the more targeted the audience, the more likely they are to engage.

Additionally, you can consider creating your own branded hashtag and using it across all your social media profiles and posts. A branded hashtag doesn’t have to include your business’ name, it can be anything that helps to identify your brand. Tom’s hashtag #shoesfortomorrow is a well established hashtag associated with the brand’s message.

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Be careful with too generic hashtags which are likely to get lost within the high volume of posts. Sometimes creating your own hashtag can go terribly wrong – you might remember Susan Boyle’s album launch party campaign and the unfortunate #susanalbumparty hashtag which was read as something completely different as intended. Capitalising first words in this case can help to separate individual words and help you avoid a PR disaster.

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