Like them or loath them, hashtags have become an unavoidable part of the social media experience. And for good reason. While seemingly frivolous and easy to dismiss, hashtags can play an integral role in conveying your social media message. However, like anything on social media to get the most out of hashtags there are a few caveats to keep in mind.
A hashtag is a type of label which adds a tweet, Facebook post or other social media message to a broader conversation. For example, when searching #socialmedia on Twitter, we see a stream of all the posts with that hashtag. This is a simple way of indexing your social media messages, and giving them more exposure. While all social media content is searchable, adding a cleverly chosen hashtag makes it that much easier for your audience to find.
How to choose the best hashtags
We like to think of hashtags as spices. They’re the ingredients that can make the difference between a Michelin style meal and fast food. You need to know which ones to use, and in what quantities. Too many hashtags and your final social media message will be irritating to read. Too few and poof … your message will get lost in cyberspace!
The trick is that you need to choose them carefully, judiciously and strategically. That’s the best way to ensure your social media message is something people will want to share and engage with.
Before you choose your hashtags be sure to evaluate your specific goals for the social media message you want to send. Here are some questions to consider before choosing your hashtags:
- Is this social media message part of a bigger social media campaign?
- Are there hashtags currently associated with your brand ?
- Are there any trending hashtags relevant to your social media message?
- Are there any popular hashtags that could enhance or strengthen your message?
- What does your message deal with? Example: #socialmedia; #growthhacking
How to use hashtags effectively
For anyone who is new to social media, hashtags can be a bit overwhelming at first. Not only is there the issue of which hashtags to use, but many are also unsure how to use them. To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of the most commonly asked hashtag questions.
1. How many hashtags should I use?
For best results, you should aim to use no more than two hashtags per post. In fact, there is research which suggests that the effectiveness of hashtags decreases when more than two are used in one post.
Takeaway: Stick with two hashtags per post.
2. Can I make up my own hashtags?
Yes! Keep in mind though that this may not be as effective as when a popular or trending hashtag is used. Fun hashtags like #justsayin or #mytwocents, can be used for humorous effect or to add emphasis to your post. We recommend using these kind of hashtags sparingly.
Takeaway: Be strategic about any hashtags you use and be sure not to overuse them.
3. What are trending hashtags?
This is generally used to refer to hashtags on Twitter. These are the most popular and frequently used hashtags. Trending hashtags give you a good sense of the issues that matter most to people on Twitter at any particular moment. The handy thing about hashtags is that you can view what’s trending in different geographic locations.
Takeaway: Check what’s trending daily to see if there any popular hashtags you can incorporate in your tweets.
4. Where can I find trending hashtags?
You can view trending hashtags within Twitter. Once you’ve logged into your Twitter account, you should see the trending hashtags below your profile information. You can also customize these trends to see what’s trending in different parts of the world.
Takeaway: Take some time to customize the trending hashtags your or your target audience’s geographic location.
5. Should I add a hashtag to every tweet or social media message?
No! Remember, the key with hashtags is to use them sparingly and strategically. Choose your hashtags wisely. We recommend only adding hashtags which are popular. They don’t have to be trending, but there is no point adding a hashtag that no one searches. Of course the exception to this is if you’re attending a conference or an event where a hashtag is being using for live tweeting.
Takeaway: Spend some time researching 4 main hashtags you want associated with your brand. For example, we might choose the following: #growthhacking; #socialmedia; #twitter; #contentmarketing. Once you’ve decided on your main hashtags, you can then add them to every other tweet.
6. Where should I use hashtags?
It’s most common to see hashtags added to the end of social posts. However, there are no hard and fast real rules about this. Regardless of where you add your hashtags, if they’re strategically chosen they’ll still do the trick. You can play around with where you position your hashtags. Sometimes you might want to hashtag a word within your post and other times at the end of the post.
Takeaway: Have fun playing with the position of your hashtags. You can use analytics to see if any trends emerge. You may find that your audience responds better to certain hashtags in specific positions.
7. How can I monitor hashtags?
There are many ways you can track hashtags. You can use Twitter’s search tool to track specific hashtags. For example, by typing #socialmedia in the Twitter search bar you’ll find all the mentions of the hashtag. Twitter also breaks this search down into news, photos and videos, making it easier to find content. Additionaly, Commun.it offers a comprehensive monitoring tool which can be used to track hashtags, keywords as well as search strings.
Takeaway: Login to Commun.it and click on the ‘Leads’ tab. Here you’ll be able to add the terms or hashtags you’d like to monitor. The useful thing about this is that in addition to getting a good understanding of the users talking about these terms, you have the option to interact and switch between ‘top’ and ‘recent’ users.
What tips do you have for getting the most out of hashtags? Share your thoughts and advice in the comments below.
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