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Hashtags: Find The Right Ones And Use Them Well

Hashtags: Find The Right Ones And Use Them Well

Hashtags don’t simply allow social media users to find the signal amid the noise, however. They are also a way to connect people and businesses based on content where they have shared interests.

There is now a whole generation of people who will probably never look at the “#” symbol and think “number sign,” or simply “pound.”

While the rise of social media introduced a lot of features that were barely used and then disappeared, it’s pretty safe to say hashtags are here to stay. And for businesses that want to be seen and stay connected to their customers, hashtags are like the digital bread crumbs that draw them in and leave a trail on how to find them again.

If you’re still relatively new to social media or have been primarily focused on services like Facebook, hashtags might still seem like a bit of a mystery. They’re everywhere on platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn. On services like Instagram, where promoting a specific URL is limited to an account’s bio area, hashtags are essentially the only way to market content.

This means you not only have to think about hashtags a little differently based on where you’re connecting with an audience, but what kind of volume and placement makes sense.

Although it has since expanded beyond 120 characters for posts, for example, you still won’t want hashtags eating up too much of your tweets. Should hashtags be re-used consistently, though, or should you mix it up with each post across LinkedIn, Instagram and the like? Should you come up with your own hashtag for a particular campaign or theme, and if so, what are the best practices?

These are all issues and questions that sometimes seem to lack concrete answers. That’s because social media is a creative landscape, where experimentation is encouraged and people come up with new ways to express themselves all the time.

It’s almost a cliche now, but if you think of social media as an ongoing conversation with customers rather than a one-way advertising channel, you should expect best practices to evolve as organically as a stimulating discussion with a friend.

Maybe the best way to approach hashtags is by how you can use them to listen first. Then we’ll get into the nuances and specifics of each platform:

What you can ‘hear’ through hashtags

Hashtags became a way of labelling, categorizing and classifying content because there’s so much to sift through on social media. If you’re interested in the latest in science-fiction, for instance, a quick search on Twitter for #scifi will bring up tons of tweets about films, books and more.

On LinkedIn, hashtags like #leadership might bring up posts from well-known CEOs, upcoming conferences and even some potential career opportunities. If you’re not sure what to wear as a leader, meanwhile, you could follow #OOTD on Instagram and see all the images where fashion influencers showcase their “outfit of the day” for inspiration.

Hashtags don’t simply allow social media users to find the signal amid the noise, however. They are also a way to connect people and businesses based on content where they have shared interests.

A consumer might use a hashtag like #DIYgrouting to ask for help about redoing their bathroom floor. A company that offers products in that space could use social listening tools to quickly identify posts with that hashtag and then reach out directly with instructional content or even contact information.

Monitoring hashtags can help companies stay on top of potential customer service issues, influence topics and themes for their content marketing assets and sometimes identify people who are thinking about making a particular purchase.

Even if you’re not posting a lot on social and using hashtags right now, they can be a highly effective way of researching what’s top of mind within your market.

Once you’re ready to use hashtags yourself, however, here are a few platform-specific guidelines to keep in mind:

Using hashtags on Twitter

Lots of people still use hashtags as a way of indicating what a tweet is about, sort of like the way you might weave particular keywords into a blog post as part of a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. This can work well if the hashtag isn’t a real word, like #USpoli at the end of a tweet that discusses politics in some way.

More often, though, you’ll want to think about how you can insert hashtags more naturally into a tweet itself, using real words that connect to a popular subject. “We’ve got great advice on growing via #socialmedia and #contentmarketing in our latest eBook,” for instance, might work well for an organization like Salesforce. Try something similar based on the product categories you’re marketing and selling.

Using hashtags on LinkedIn

LinkedIn has only recently been encouraging hashtags in posts, but they’ve quickly become a great way to have posts rise up in the feed, or even in the “Trending” area of the service.

LinkedIn suggests using several hashtags directly underneath the main content of a post, though you can also insert it more organically a la Twitter. The service even sometimes has hashtags automatically come up as suggestions based on what you’ve written. Always keep your audience in mind, though, and what they might hashtags they might be using for their own content.

Given its more business-oriented nature, for instance, you can often see a lot of hashtags related to conferences and industry events. Use these on both LinkedIn and Twitter to help customers know your firm is sponsoring, exhibiting or attending in case they want to connect directly.

Using hashtags on Instagram

This is an inherently more consumer-oriented and playful social service, but that doesn’t mean companies can’t use hashtags on it effectively.

Showcase not only your products and services but your culture and your people. Hashtags here can include not only what’s in the image but tie into themes that have proven popular over time.

Use #tbt, for instance, and post a picture of your firm’s original office to get seen among the other “Throwback Thursday” posts. If you’re focused on a local market, you can also try hashtags that reflect it, such as #VancityFood if you’re a restaurant or #IGersHalifax if you’re marketing to customers in Nova Scotia’s biggest city.

The key to winning with hashtags, regardless of platform, is to constantly track and measure how posts perform, continuing to try new things and to always focus more on what your customers are saying on social first. #Protip

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