Recently, I have had a lot of clients ask me about hashtags. What are they? Why do I need to use them? What do hashtags do for my business?
Explaining the use of hashtags can really be a whole other meeting in itself. But lets be honest, no one wants to schedule a separate meeting just for hashtags. I wrote this blog post so I can go more into depth in explaining why businesses should use hashtags on their social media networks, instead of just telling you, “Well, everyone else is doing it.”
First of all, the hashtag is now so recognized, it’s been added to the Oxford dictionary in 2010 and added to the Scrabble dictionary in 2014. What was once a pound sign on telephones has now become an Internet/Social Media Sensation!
So why should you use them for your business?
- It’s a way of categorizing content on social media. Adding hashtags on your social media posts is basically adding labels. For instance, this post could possible have the hashtag #Hashtags (see the irony?)
- It makes your own content discoverable and allows you to find relevant content from other people and business. Since hashtags categorize content, it also makes the content easier to find. Instead of scrolling through blogs, web searches, websites, and more, I can just search a hashtag. Searches on the Internet happen all the time. Using hashtags is an efficient method to finding content related to specific topics, as well as the people talking about those topics.
- Hashtags allow you to connect with and engage other social media users based on a common interest. Right now, some of the top hashtags on Instagram are #fashion, #throwback and #like4like. A fashionista will most likely search the hashtag #fashion to see other posts within his/her interest. People who want to be part of a larger discussion and comment on or see other pictures from the past can search #throwback. If someone wants to gain followers, they can search the hashtag #like4like. There is literally a hashtag for everything.
- Google updates have amplified visibility of hashtags in organized search results on Google.com and Google+. A lot of people still search on Google, especially if they don’t really know where to find what they’re looking for. Now, Google search engines will show hashtags, allowing your content to reach a larger audience.
- Hashtags can easily be used to promote an event or news. Using a hashtag consistently for a specific event or #breakingnews allows your business and name to be recognizable. It puts whatever you’re trying to promote out in the forefront.
Now that you know the benefits of using hashtags on social networks, you should know a little bit about how to use them! Using hashtags is only effective when done right.
- Before using a hashtag, do a quick search. Has it been used before? In what context was it used? This is important because you don’t want people to associate you or your business with a hashtag that was used in different context.
- Be specific and not too long. #NobodyWantsToTypeThatManyCharacters See what I did there? You want your hashtag to be easily found. A really long hashtag is probably too unique and complicated for people to even search it. Something like #ImTooLazyForThis should probably be shortened and simplified to #Lazy (In other words, be lazy with your hashtags)
- Use different hashtags for different social networks. Hashtags are not only for Twitter. They are now used across all social media platforms. The only different is that the use of hashtags can vary. On Instagram, hashtags are descriptions of the image (#smile, #friends, #beach) and on Twitter hashtags are more discussion-based (#TheNewOffice, #ExtremeWaysToCuteSpending, #IOverAchieveBy). Cater to your specific social network.
- Be creative, but don’t be too exclusive. If you’re using hashtags to be more discoverable, I suggest not using your business name or slogan in every hashtag. The hashtags #SmallBiz, #Startups and #SmallBusiness are popular hashtags that allow your business to be found by a huge audience! It is important to be creative and relevant, but you also want a lot of people to find your content.
- Don’t have more hashtags than words and don’t hashtag everything. I will be blunt and say that it’s just annoying. Limit yourself to 3 hashtags per post. You do want a large audience to see your content, but if your hashtags aren’t relevant to the content, people will find it and not read it. It’s like if I attached 20 hashtags to this post and some of them were #labeling, #Twitter, #Funny. They don’t describe or categorize the content I’m sharing.
- Facilitate discussion. Discussion and engagement are always important for businesses. This gives you an opportunity to ask potential and current customers/clients questions, give them feedback, and have dialogue. This will give your business a good reputation.
You don’t have to be a hashtag expert, but you should have at least a tiny idea about how to use them now. Now, you can start putting them to use on your social networks and gain visibility, a better reputation, and possibly new leads!