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Hashtags – What are they for and when should I use them?

Hashtags are a bit of a mystery to many people I speak to and while scrolling through social media sites I see them used in ways that are completely pointless. This blog post sets out to demystify the hashtag and help you to use this helpful tool more effectively.

The long story short is that they are basically a categorisation tool – a way of bringing together social media content on a related topic. They make your content easier to find and they work in slightly different ways on each of the main social media sites. Here’s a summary:

Twitter
Even if you aren’t connected to someone on Twitter, if you both are having a conversation on a topic and use the same hashtag, your posts will be pulled into the same feed. Twitter even allows you to ‘explore’ trending hashtags so you can hear the latest chat surrounding a popular topic. This is hugely useful when running events. For example, in my previous job I was involved in the marketing of a major awards night and my goal as the lead marketer was to get the hashtag to trend on twitter (i.e to put my companies brand in the spotlight to more than just the people in the room on the night!). You can also use hashtags to join in conversations about your area of expertise. For me, that might be a matter of searching #graphicdesign or #marketing and I could get involved in the chat. You can also get involved in twitter hours. For example, in my city of Belfast there is the hugely helpful #BelfastHour on a Thursday evening at 9pm where likeminded business owners can network, converse & help each other out.

Facebook
For hashtags to work on Facebook, they have to be public. This is why hashtags are pretty pointless when used on a private facebook profile. You can use the Facebook search bar to search for a hashtag. For example, if you’re a fan of Crufts you will be served the latest post from Crufts themselves, videos of what took place at the event and conversations from others that include the hashtag. Like Twitter and Instagram, it can be used to form a conversation about something that’s important to your brand and you can join in conversations that you may not otherwise have seen by keeping an eye on a particular hashtag that interests you. Whether or not the general public actually use Facebook in this way is another matter. I’ll be honest, I personally don’t ever do this – to me it’s not what I use Facebook for but there’s no harm done if you want to put some into your posts as long as they are relevant! 

Instagram
Hashtags are a huge part of instagram. It’s how I find the majority of the people I follow as I use instagram to view imagery from likeminded people; for example fellow female entrepreneurs, mumpreneurs, fellow designers, artists or home decor ideas (I’m a bit obsessed with interiors!). The same thing is true for instagram as it is for other platforms – the hashtag ties conversations together. It’s a great way to gain genuinely interested followers, increase engagement rates and build a community around your brand. As long as your account is public (I’d like to think so if you’re a business!) then people will see the content linked to your hashtag. I recently did a sewing class and I’ve now started following the hashtag sewing to see what other people make! So, if you were a business that sells sewing classes or fabric that would be an excellent way to start to attract potential customers that may otherwise not have found you. You can use up to 30 hashtags on instagram but that’ll look messy and a bit desperate so I’d suggest choosing about 6 carefully researched hashtags instead. Adjust your hashtag usage to include the ones you get the best results with. Of course, it’s not enough to just use hashtags, you need to genuinely engage with fellow instagrammers and build relationships with them through chatting about your mutual interest.

A few things to remember when using hashtags

Do NOT include spaces. Your hashtag will not work. For example #self employed will make ‘self’ be your hashtag which isn’t going to help you be part of many relevant conversations!

Think strategically. There’s no point using hashtags for the sake of it. If you’re a business that only sells to people in one geographical area, you might want to research what the top hashtags are in that area so you’re shown to the right audience.

Don’t use punctuation It won’t be picked up by the system and therefore you won’t list under relevant feeds

Check your spelling – If you don’t spell it correctly, it renders your hashtag pointless as again, it won’t be picked up.

Don’t over use hashtags – One or maximum two is fine for twitter. You can get away with a few more on instagram but maybe put them as a post under your photo rather than in your main caption.

Want to know more? Get in touch today via email and I’d be happy to chat about all things marketing for your business.

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