Social Media Tips on How And Where to Use Hashtags

October 22, 2014

4 steps for proper use of hashtags

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What’s This?

In the past few years, hashtags, a word or phrase prefixed with the hash character #, have become a social media phenomenon on the Internet. In fact, because of its widespread use, the word, hashtag, was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in June 2014.

Words or phrases with a hashtag used on microblogging and social networking services such as Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Twitter, and others, allows grouping of similarly tagged messages, and also allows an electronic search to return all messages that contain it.

In 2009, hashtags became part of the writing style for Twitter posts, and Twitter began to hyperlink all hashtags in tweets to Twitter search results for the hashtagged word. In 2010, Twitter introduced “Trending Topics” on the Twitter front page, displaying hashtags that are rapidly becoming popular. Since then, hashtag usage has spread to Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Google search, and more.

Because of the widespread use of hashtags, their inclusion in social media such as Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus, Pinterest, and Tumblr, will expand your reach beyond just those who follow you, but also to anyone interested in the hashtag phrase or keyword you’re using.

According to data compiled by Buddy Media, tweets with hashtags get two times more engagement than tweets without. And Twitter’s research suggests individuals can see a 100 percent increase in engagement by using hashtags, while brands can see a 50 percent increase.

Engagement includes clicks, retweets, favorites, and replies. Tweets with one or more hashtag are 55 percent more likely to be retweeted.

On Google+, posts are given hashtags automatically based on their content, but you can edit them or add your own. You can also add hashtags in your comments on Google+ as well as your post. And since Google+ is Google’s social network, hashtags are now included in Google searches.

Conversely, Facebook posts without a hashtag do better than those with a hashtag. Research from EdgeRank Checker found that using hashtags on Facebook has no effect on reach. Posts without hashtags outperform those with hashtags.

Misuse of Hashtags

Buddy Media’s research also indicates that one or two hashtags are the maximum that should be used. When you use more than two hashtags, your engagement drops by an average of 17 percent.

And the misuse of hashtags can lead to account suspensions. Twitter warns that adding hashtags to unrelated tweets, or repeated use of a same hashtag without adding to a conversation, could cause an account to be filtered from search, or even suspended.

Instagram seems to be an exception, since interactions are highest on Instagram posts with 11+ hashtags.

4 Steps to Finding the Right Hashtag, courtesy of Buffer’s Kevan Lee

steps on how and where to use hashtags in social media.

1. Learn from the best: What hashtags are influencers using?

Twitalyzer can give you a good foundation of where to begin for your hashtag search by showing you how influencers are using hashtags. Grab a handful of usernames of people and brands in your industry whom you admire, and input the accounts into Twitalyzer. At the bottom of the results page, you’ll see a section for their most commonly-used hashtags. Add the relevant ones to your list of potential hashtags.

Let’s say I wanted to find some hashtags to use in promoting social media marketing content. I might start with a list of names like Jeff Bullas, Jay Baer, Mari Smith, and Ann Handley.

2. Cover all your bases: Are there related hashtags you should be considering?

Armed with an idea list of hashtags, you can then hop into Hashtagify.me to see which related hashtags might also be worth pursuing. While you’re doing this exercise, take note of the circle size on your results: The larger the circle, the more popular the hashtag.

Not every hashtag listed here will be relevant to you, but it does help to see some that you might not have previously considered. In the case of our example, I might add #business, #infographic, and hashtags of specific network names like #twitter and #facebook.

3. Identify the all-stars: Which hashtags are the best to use?

Popularity and volume can be good indicators of the value of your hashtag, but you may wish to go one step further. Hashtagify.me has advanced, premium tools that let you go deeper into statistics on individual hashtags. In a pinch, you can also get some solid data from RiteTag and their visual expression of how much each tag can boost your post’s reach.

Among posts that contain the word “marketing,” RiteTag shows these tags as the most likely to be great, good, or overused.

4. Double check: Could your chosen hashtags mean something else entirely?

One last check before you finalize your list of hashtags should be whether or not the hashtag you’ve chosen is being used elsewhere in an entirely different context.

The worst thing that can happen when using a hashtag is to realize after it’s tweeted that the same hashtag is used for an entirely different topic.

Jawbone tried a #knowyourself campaign on Instagram, only to find that the hashtag was already being used generically by thousands of users in all sorts of different contexts. This didn’t necessarily ruin Jawbone’s campaign, but it may have made life a little more difficult for the marketing team.

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