There’s no denying that hashtags have found a home in the world of social media. And it’s not just the millennials taking pictures of their Saturday breakfast or photo junkies letting you know their most recent pic was #nofilter. As part of the social currency, hashtags turn up in business posts, ads, and other social marketing efforts. Which brings up the question, should digital marketers jump on the bandwagon wholeheartedly, or proceed with more caution?
Sure, hashtags are fine if you’re a college student posting about your week of spring vacation at the beach, or a football fan talking about the latest news. But for marketers, what benefit is there, if any, from using hashtags?
Digging even deeper, what’s the purpose behind using hashtags? Do they make a meaningful contribution to your post? Or are they slapped on to marketing efforts as random words without thought, out of a misled notion that if it’s on social, why not include hashtags?
If you use hashtags in your social media marketing efforts, it’s time to make sure you have a well-thought out strategy.
A Quick Guide to Help You Get a Handle on Your Hashtags
Ask ten different marketing gurus about how to use hashtags, and you’ll probably get ten different answers. There’s no 100% right or wrong way to approach the issue. But here are some guidelines and things to think about:
Consider avoiding hashtags…
> Just because you can use them, or because everyone else is. It should be intentional and thoughtful.
> #For #every #single #word. Think of hashtags in a post like grains of salt in a dish. They can help add flavor, but too many can ruin the meal.
> That aren’t related to your post. Seems obvious, but if you’re talking about something specific, don’t attach a generic hashtag to the end because that’s how the cool kids do it.
Now that we’ve looked at some not-so-great reasons to use hashtags, let’s explore the other side of the coin.
Consider using hashtags…
> If you have a specific reason to. For example, hashtags are useful for events, conferences, marketing campaigns, and so on. They bring a sense of unity, keep your followers in the loop of what’s happening, and allow social tracking.
> For branding purposes. Creating a custom hashtag is an excellent way to differentiate your posts and create consistent messaging for your business or around a particular campaign.
> To make the content for a topic easily accessible. Use your knowledge of your industry and target audience when considering a few relevant hashtags to include in your posts. Those targeted hashtags will increase visibility and help people discover your content on social media.
> If the hashtag is specific to your business or products. That way, when people search, they won’t find a rabbit trail of posts with the same hashtagged word that lead to dozens of other sources. You want your posts to drive people to your site or lists with your specific hashtags, not everyone else’s.
Additional Tips for Using Hashtags
When you do include hashtags (because they have a useful place), here are a couple things to keep in mind:
- Know the different expectations for each social platform. For example, Facebook posts with hashtags receive more engagement.
- Brevity is your friend. Don’t drive readers crazy with ridiculously long hashtags that will break their concentration, or worse, cause them to keep scrolling.
- Consider capitalizing every word. It’s a small thing, but some letters, like a capital “I” and lowercase “l” are identical. Capitalizing the first letter in a word will make the hashtag easier for people to read quickly.
- Beware of placement. Some people stick every hashtag at the end of the post, others sprinkle them throughout the post copy where they make sense, and others do a combo. Do what makes the most sense and doesn’t detract (or distract) from your message.
Hopefully this post has equipped you to navigate the world of hashtags. Instead of being bogged down by unnecessary hashtags, proper usage will help your posts be crisp, direct, and meaningful. Used correctly, hashtags are a powerful tool to build your branding and voice on social media.
What’s your take on hashtags? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!