The ultimate goal for most companies participating on social media platforms is to convert an audience member into a consumer. One of the best ways to accomplish that task is by providing your audience with a simple, fun, and effective way of interacting with your brand. Enter hashtags.
Hashtags originated as an organizational tool on Twitter, but have exploded into a social media pillar. Hashtags create unique value because of their ability to increase reach, engagement, and interactions within a social community that is not limited to a brand fan following.
Engagement rates remain a driving force for brand marketers. But, with proper use, hashtags are valuable weapons when aiming to expand reach, awareness, interactions, and curate content. Hashtags are a brilliant tool for organizing content, campaigns, conversations, and trends, as well as building brand recognition. However, it is important to remain methodical when utilizing hashtags to make sure that your implementation aligns with your overall brand marketing strategy and company persona.
Additionally, it’s important to have a good understanding of hashtag usage (how, when, number, types) because the use of hashtags varies from platform to platform.
The platform still remains a valuable location for utilizing hashtags, but brands have to remain cognizant of the 140 character limit. Typically, because of the limited available space, it is important to tweet to 1-3 highly specific and relevant hashtags.
The addition of hashtags to a Facebook post in some cases can create added benefit and engagement, but overall is not mandatory. Recommended best practices states not to include more than 2 hashtags, and brands should typically tie to them to a branded campaign that they are monitoring or tracking.
The utopia of the hashtag world, Instagram remains at the forefront for hashtag utilization and sharing. The platform allows for up to 30 hashtags to be used on any given post and is an invaluable source of brands looking to curate content, increase engagement, and expand reach.
For Pinterest, the inclusion of hashtags in a robust description of an image offers value because the hashtags are clickable and searchable directly from the description itself. However, Pinterest will penalize for spamming hashtags, so be sure to limit use to 2-5 highly relevant hashtags.
1. Keep it Simple
Use hashtags that are short, memorable, and easy to spell, but also trigger relevance of your brand to followers who read them. Additionally, be sure to use capital letters when appropriate as it makes it easier for audiences to read and identify as a branded hashtag.
2. Create Your Own Hashtags
Generic keywords may put you in front of a larger audience, but usually will do little to help you in building valuable connections or loyal followers. But the creation of unique hashtags will typically inspire your current followers to participate in the use of the hashtag. As a result of their participation you are provided with categorized content and additional exposure to those non-fans that are part of your followers’ social community.
3. Use Keyword Driven Hashtags
Similar to your website, you want to create organic visibility for searches and keywords that are relevant to your products or brand. Through search engine optimization (SEO), brands determine which words are most relevant to them for visibility within the search engines. Think of these social platforms as a search engine, and you will have a great basis for determining which keywords to utilize in your hashtags. But do your research. Search for your “targeted” keywords on these platforms. See if the content produced is relevant or applicable to your brand and the types of things you will be posting or sharing.
4. Be Trendy When Relevant
Keep a close eye on popular hashtags, trends, or campaigns on social media platforms. While a majority of these hashtags may not have relevancy to your brand, on occasion you may find one that does which you can integrate into your social media conversations. Do not simply try to capitalize on a trending subject if it lacks relevancy, but don’t be afraid to jump in the conversation if a clear connection between the hashtag and your brand/products can be seen!
5. Hashtag Savvy
One of the key steps in determining which hashtag(s) to use is to do your research. Be sure to enter each term into each platform and review the results. If the hashtag itself is ambiguous, or could potentially be interpreted negatively, you will want to avoid use as it may result in being harmful to your brand. Be smart. Research to make sure you’re avoiding any potentially negative situations through the use of particular hashtags. Additionally, as a brand you will want to monitor and track branded hashtags to gauge their performance and production. Determine whether or not these terms are producing value through reach, engagement, ROI, or content.
6. Call to Action
As a brand, you’ve put a lot of time, thought, effort, money, and strategy into deciding what hashtags to incorporate. So you better make sure they are used! Whether you are holding a contest, looking for product reviews, running an awareness campaign, or simply hoping to acquire some new content, brands need to give followers and the broader social community a reason to utilize hashtags. Encouraging followers to utilize hashtags for additional incentives is a great way to build a loyal social community and expand the brand’s reach.
Take a look at some of the buzz and statistics Esurance was able to generate during the Super Bowl in 2014:
- 5.4 million uses of the #EsuranceSave30 hashtag
- More than 200,000 entries within the first minute
- 1.4 million hashtag uses in the first hour and 4.5 million in the first 24 hours
- 2.6 billion social impressions on Twitter
- 78,000 retweets and 40,000 favored an Esurance tweet
- 332,000 views of the Esurance commercial on YouTube
- 261,000 new followers
- A 12x spike in visits to the Esurance website in the first hours of the sweepstakes
- The hashtag Esurancesaves30 was used more than the hashtag for the Seattle Seahawks (3,717,464 to 3,119,173) and more than the combined total for Toyota, Go Daddy, RadioShack, and Maserati
7. Relevancy Reigns Supreme
Whether it is a branded hashtag or a more generic keyword that is currently trending, relevancy is an absolute must! The key to building a loyal and involved social community on social media is to include and inspire the use of relevant hashtags. Being generic, yet relevant, on occasion is acceptable and can help to expand your reach a bit. However, the constant pursuit of irrelevant and generic hashtags in the hopes of reaching more people will result in a very poor connection with your followers. The old adage, “having 4 quarters is better than 100 pennies” is a perfect thought to keep in mind when trying to build your online community. As a company, 4 active users that have sincere interest and connection with your brand are far more valuable than 100 generic users that only followed you because you included a popular or trendy hashtag.
8. Do Not Spam Hashtags
This best practice ties directly in with the practice above. The idea of reaching thousands, even millions, of people is extremely tempting to companies looking to expand their reach and community size. However, placing generic and popular hashtags in content with zero relevance will usually backfire and deter users from interacting with that particular photo and potentially the brand as a whole.
There is a proven direct correlation between engagement/interactions and the number of hashtags a post includes. Higher number of hashtags equals lower amounts of engagement. General best practices recommend that all photos include a caption and no more than 3-5 hashtags. Obviously, this depends on the platform itself, but the recommended best practice is to limit use to 3 hashtags to avoid looking like a spammer. Also, refrain from stringing together too many words to create a hashtag.
By collectively following the hashtag best practices outlined above, a brand or company can drastically expand their reach and following with little to no additional spend. The success of these best practices is evident by the brands and companies that elect to implement and follow similar strategies.