Let’s talk hashtags.
Hashtags–words or small phrases attached to a # symbol–were something created by Twitter in 2007. At the beginning of their inception, people thought hashtags were silly and were being used sarcastically. Now, you see them all over practically every social media platform. Talk about #effective.
See what we did there?
So why have hashtags become so pervasive? Well aside from being fun, hashtags are an effective and strategic way to increase the number of people who see your posts. When you are a brand, band, artist, or small business, that is the first goal of marketing–awareness.
But don’t start adding hundreds of hashtags to every social media post you make just yet. Much like anything in the social media-sphere, you need to learn more about the best practices for using hashtags in 2021 to make them an effective part of your social media strategy.
How they work
Part of understanding how to use hashtags is understanding exactly how they work. After all, they are just words and phrases with a (#) symbol in front of them. What exactly makes them so powerful in a social media strategy in 2021?
It’s because hashtags act as an indexing system.
If you know anything about keywords, you can think about hashtags as being in the same category. Hashtags make content within a social media platform such as Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter or Facebook searchable, the same way that keywords allow us to find the content we need on a chosen search engine.
Think of it this way: If you went to Google to search for the term “puppies” you’d get everything from breeders, to images of a variety of cute, wiggly, baby dogs. Now if you went to Instagram and typed in #puppies, you’d get a flood of puppy photos.
“Hashtags … categorize your content and also make your content searchable,” Jade from WeSideHustle points out in her video on Instagram Hashtags. “They provide a constant source of reach for your content.”
Hashtags, like keywords, help users find what they are looking for. All you have to do is make sure that they are able to find you as a result of your hashtag selections.
5 Tips For Using Hashtags on Social Media
Choosing your hashtags on any platform should be more than just asking the question, “How many hashtags should I use?” (Not to worry though we will help with that one too). Make sure to remember these key tips when considering your hashtag usage online.
We aren’t talking about viewer count, but rather how many other posts have used a hashtag. When you start typing in a hashtag in the search bar on Instagram and see that two-million others have used it, it might seem like a great idea, but it may not be as perfect as you think. While using hashtags with big numbers can be useful in some circumstances, you need to learn the art of shooting small.
For small businesses and brands, you primarily want to use hashtags that have only been used for a small number of other posts (anywhere from zero to 100,000 maximum). Going for posts with lower numbers helps prevent your post from being overtaken by a sea of other content and can increase its chances of being at the top of the search page. This doesn’t mean you don’t want to use hashtags with larger numbers though! A good rule of thumb to remember is that you can use a handful of each size, about 10 small hashtags, around 15 medium-sized ones (having 300K to 800K posts) and even a couple really large ones (hashtags with one million or more posts).
When you choose hashtags for your posts, you need to make sure that the ones you use are appropriate for your specific brand. You can use well-known hashtags such as #throwbackthursday, but going for the most popular ones out there won’t get you far. As Karin Olafson of Hubpost points out, “Hashtags that solicit likes don’t engage your followers and don’t add any meaning to your social media post. They also look really spammy. And you don’t want that.” Make sure you are being strategic when selecting your hashtags to ensure they match your brand and will connect with the followers you want, not just anyone out there who is discussing tacos on a Tuesday.
When you are selecting hashtags for your posts, make sure that the ones you include fit one of the following categories:
- Relates to who you are: Your likes, dislikes, or what you do
- Relates to what your audience likes: Consider how we used #darkart or #earthjewelry in this Instagram post about our client
- Relates to the content you are making: Another example is our use of #contentadvice for a post about our previous blog
Brainstorming and researching hashtags that fit these categories can help make your posts much more targeted to ensure it reaches the people that you want to interact with the most.
Make sure to do your hashtag homework for each platform too–what works on one may not perform so well on the other. For example, if you post on both Instagram and TikTok, you’ll need to sit down and create lists of hashtags to use for each that first fit your chosen categories, and secondly, work to attract the right audience for each platform. Make sure to review those lists every couple months too! You will want to adjust according to different trends as well.
Let’s bring up that keyword perspective again. Have you ever visited a page with simply too many keywords? It doesn’t look good and it rarely gets the creator’s desired return. While the quality of your hashtags is going to be the most important, you want to make sure you have the right amount of them included in order to get the maximum amount of exposure.
So. What’s the right number?
It varies. According to an article from The Digital Marketing Institute, your choices can range from one to two hashtags on platforms like Facebook, Linkedin, or Twitter, all the way up to 30 hashtags on an Instagram post. Selecting the number of hashtags can be tricky and constantly changes based on trends, which is why having an expert to help you with your social media strategy like us can make things much easier and more cost effective.
If one thing remains the same about social media it is that it is always changing. This means that some of the hashtags you used last week or last month may not work best for you now. That’s why it’s vital to go back, check your results, and adjust your approach to your hashtags appropriately. You can measure how well a hashtag performs using analytics tools such as Agorapulse,Hashtagify, Napoleon Cat and more. Remember, if a hashtag isn’t getting the engagement you need, let it go. A solid, results-driven social media strategy is going to need to be flexible, and this is just one example of why.
Whether you are a hashtag pro or a hashtag newbie, it is important to remember that these are just one factor you need to consider when building your social media strategy. Using hashtags wisely can help boost your brand but not without a bigger game plan to back them up.
It pays to work with the pros. For a social media approach that suits your brand and your business goals, you can come to RM Creative Services. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our Contact page to get started.
Written by Brianna Fries, a California-based writer and editor. You can discover more of her work at briwritesthings.com.