Importance of Using Hashtags
The use of relevant, highly-viewed hashtags should be a huge part of your Social Media Marketing strategy. And, although almost all Social Media platforms have a hashtag function, the two platforms that make the most use of the system are Twitter and Instagram.
Twitter and Instagram users often follow a large array of hashtags that represent topics that interest them. By utilizing hashtags on your content, you have the opportunity to reach an audience that is organically interested in the content you share.
Avoiding Hashtag Mistakes
One of the biggest mistakes when it comes to using hashtags is to spam irrelevant topics. If you use Twitter or Instagram, then you can probably spot hashtag spammers a mile away. Their content is almost relevant to the hashtag they’ve decided to include, but not really and as a result it looks out of place.
Many marketers will use the most popular or trendy hashtags on their content regardless of relevancy. Although this is effective at getting their content in front of a wider audience, there are a few drawbacks:
- Spamming reflects poorly on the company, and decreases consumer trust
- The content, being irrelevant, will not be remembered
- Because of issues 1 and 2, there is will be a very low conversion rate
The best way to use hashtags is ensure that they are relevant to your post so that you are adding to the conversation rather than selfishly detracting from it.
How to Develop a Hashtag Strategy
There are several ways to develop a hashtag strategy. What I’m going to share here is just one of those ways. It reflects a method that we’ve seen work time and time again with our clients.
Step 1: Decide on Your Theme
Your content, as a whole, should have a few themes. This theme will largely rely on your company value, mission, and vision. It will also rely on your customer persona and understanding the customer buying stages.
Try to think of 3 – 5 broad themes. As a simple example, a shop that sells health smoothies, might have themes such as: health, weight loss, fitness, nutrition, and exercise.
With 3 – 5 themes established, you’re ready to move on to Step 2.
Step 2: Follow the 80/20 Rule
With your themes defined, you can then begin to elaborate on them to find your core hashtags. To continue with the previous example, “nutrition” could reasonably be expanded into things like: #nutritiontips, #nutritionmatters, #nutritioncoaching, #nutritionfacts, #nutritionplan, etc.
The 80/20 rule is a simple concept. It’s an expression of the Pareto Principle, and is a good place to start when it comes to developing your hashtag strategy:
- Core Hashtags (the 80%) – these hashtags should be related to your themes via elaboration. As long as you stick to these themes (which you should) you can re-use this 80% of hashtags
- Content-Specific Hashtags (the 20%) – these hashtags could be related to your themes, but they should be related directly to your content.
For an example of this, consider a small business that sells health smoothies and is sponsoring a local 5K race. Core Hashtags could include those listed above (nutritiontips, #nutritionmatters, #nutritioncoaching, #nutritionfacts, #nutritionplan, etc.) while Content-Specic hashtags could include things like: #5K, #race, #jog, #run, #support, #charity, etc.
Step 3: Apply Your Hashtag Strategy to Twitter and Instagram
Instagram has a very generous character limit of 2,200 characters. With this in mind, it’s quite easy to fit in some very useful content into the caption, as well as several hashtags. As of this writing, the hashtag limit in Instagram is 30.
If you follow the 80/20 rule, that means that means a split of about 24 Core Hashtags and 6 Content-Specific hashtags, with plenty of room for variation and experimentation.
Because of the character limitations of Twitter, it’s much harder to implement a large number of hashtags. It’s also less appropriate to do so. Rather than the 30 that Instagram allows, you’ll be limited to 3-5. However, within that smaller scale, the 80/20 rule should still be observed. That is, 2 hashtags should be Content-Specific and 3 should be Core Hashtags; allowing for flexibility as needed.
This limitation, however, also means that you’ll need to be much more thoughtful and purposeful in which hashtags you use, and you may need to cycle through several Core Hashtags in order to make sure that you’re reaching as wide as an audience as possible.
Using hashtags is a great way to reach a new audience. It has the benefits of targeting people who have demonstrated interest in your topics. As long as you use relevant hashtags, and resist the temptation to spam, it represents a great opportunity to generate awareness and engagement around your brand.