What is a hashtag and why should you use it?
A hashtag (symbol: #) is a way for social platforms such as Instagram to organize content and distribute it to right the people. You can either use hashtags to discover content or to contribute to an already existing conversation.
In this sense, hashtags can serve a variety of purposes if you use them well. And by using them well, we mean adding value to the conversation. This can’t be stressed enough. The north star of your social media approach should always be to deliver more value than you take. This is the only way that you’re going to create a loyal engaging community.
Using hashtags properly will:
- Boost your engagement
- Grow your audience by reaching the right people
- Form relationships, build trust and loyalty with your following. (Discover related accounts that you can interact with Creating or tapping into an existing community)
That sounds great and all, but you might be wondering…
How do you find the best hashtags?
There is no secret formula for this. You have to become a practitioner and spend time researching/testing. Some people like to use apps that claim to gather the most popular hashtags. We personally like to use the IG app to discover which hashtags are more relevant to our posts.
Keep in mind that the more popular a hashtag is, the harder it is to rank in it. When you’re first starting off, it’s better to go for tags that are specific to your niche. Doing so will give you a better chance of becoming relevant in that tag and hitting the explore feed.
You can use a maximum of 30 tags, but we recommend that you refrain from using too many. Based on our data at the agency, you can use up to 9 tags before seeing a dip in engagement.
We recommend starting with one or two and adding more as you go in order to measure which hashtags bring you the most impressions/reach. You can tap into the insights that are available in the Instagram app if you have a business account. Setting up a business account is a piece of cake. Just create a Facebook page and link it to your IG account.
Understanding the end goal of hashtags
Too often do we see people using popular hashtags just to get more likes. Don’t fall into vanity metrics. It does no good for your account. Don’t sacrifice long term upside for short term likes. You’re better off using tags that are relevant to your niche to cultivate meaningful conversations.
Most generic tags are targeted by automated accounts that use third-party apps to like, comment, follow/unfollow. You don’t want to add tags like #follow, #followme, #likeforlike because you'll get low quality engagement. The goal is and will always be to interact with real people in order to create strong communities.
Now that we’ve defined what hashtags are, what purpose they serve and how to find the best ones, let’s dive into the different types of #.
The easiest way to categorize your content is to use a hashtag unique to your brand. People will be able to find your content by searching for that specific hashtag. When you’re first starting off the hashtag won’t bring you that much traffic since nobody actually knows about it. But in the long run having your posts tagged accordingly will help people discover your content.
Regardless of your industry, your business probably offers a range of products and/or services. Hashtags relevant to a particular product can help narrow the search and give customers easier access to specific information that they may be looking for. Think of this approach as a way to sub-categorize a post. Brands can use both branded and product hashtags in a single post.
You can think of this one as an extension of the branded hashtag. Community tags serve as gateways to engage with your audience and get them to talk about your brand on social media. For example, Nike has its original branded hashtag #nike but the community uses #mynikes to showcase how they rock their sneakers. Getting your audience to participate in user-generated content can help strengthen the brand and increase loyalty over time.
Using this type of tag can help create a sense of camaraderie around the brand and potentially facilitate the interactions between like-minded community members. Ideally, as the brand, you should also engage in the community hashtag to show appreciation and contribute to the conversation.
Whether you’re doing a traditional marketing campaign or a quick giveaway, hashtags can be extremely helpful when it comes to tracking community engagement and campaign entry. Campaign tags have a start and end date. Making one can be as simple as your brand hashtag + giveaway. From that point, it’s easy for you and your marketing team to stay on top of social conversations and pick a winner.
In case of special events such as conferences, the organizers can prompt attendees to post about the gathering. This helps create conversations around the event and give the brand an opportunity to engage in questions that participants may have. It’s an efficient way to build connection and spread brand awareness.
A great way to gain exposure for your brand is to jump on a trending hashtag. Be careful with this as it can backfire if you are not prepared to deal with the conversations that might unfold. Make sure that your brand is actually a good fit for the hashtag.
Anything related to holidays such as #newyear, #halloween can be an opportunity for your brand to express a different side of your culture. As always, make sure that the context is relevant to your audience. Don’t just jump onto the bandwagon if your brand doesn’t actually seem like it would celebrate the holiday. Using culturally relevant hashtags can help your brand gain more exposure in search results.
All in all, we’ve talked about using hashtags from a standpoint of bringing exposure to your content. Don’t forget however that hashtags are not just for people to discover you. You can and should use them to tap into an existing community.
Social media isn’t just about talking. It’s also about listening.
Make sure you don’t neglect the importance of jumping into conversations that are already happening. One of the best ways to grow your audience is to participate in an already existing community.