Why use hashtags?

If there’s one aspect of social media marketing that causes confusion, it has to be the hashtag (#). We all like to think we know what they are and what their purpose is, but few of us in truth use hashtags effectively. Why is that the case? Well, it’s principally due to the fact that many of us don’t really understand their function.

So what is a hashtag? Well, the hashtag isn’t just a slick symbol for drawing attention to your online content – though it can serve this purpose when used correctly. The hashtag is an organisational tool which, when used strategically, can help more people find your profiles and content. What’s more a hashtag can potentially increase engagement and brand awareness on social media channels. Therefore, the humble symbol has a pivotal role to play in online marketing.

Why should your business be using hashtags?

The simple answer to this question is that when hashtags are used strategically and effectively, they work surprisingly well. If you’re still unconvinced, then consider the following points:

  • Tweets that contain hashtags have been shown to generate twice as much engagement.
  • Tweets with 1-2 hashtags generate 21 per cent more engagement. However, tweets with more than two hashtags can reduce engagement by as much as 17 per cent.
  • 25 per cent of tweets get retweeted: however, 40 per cent of tweets which include hashtags get retweeted
  • Users have been shown to be 55 per cent more likely to retweet something containing at least 1 hashtag.

How to use hashtags more effectively?

  • Research your market thoroughly before hitting the send button. Don’t just concentrate on the popular hashtags and try to piggyback on the back of those. Look at what’s happening in and around you and use the power of the hashtag to connect and associate your brand with new and relevant events. If you can use your hashtags strategically you’ll be able to drive new readers to your social media presence, and get an opportunity to engage with them.
  • Don’t be afraid of creating your own hashtags. You can use your own brand name, or you can even create a special hashtag for a specific campaign or event. However, if you are using these special hashtags to publicise a campaign, remember to combine your ‘special’ hashtag with more general hashtags.
  • If you feel that you’ll more easily engage with your audience if you’re a little more conversational and laid back, then use related hashtags.
  • Try to keep your hashtags short, as that way they’re far easier to remember. You’re more likely to engage with an audience if your hashtag is short and to the point.
  • Don’t be afraid of using your keywords as hashtags. Using popular industry search terms can readily help an audience find relevant and useful content.
  • Don’t try to shoehorn too many hashtags into one message. The overuse of hashtags is counterproductive. Most readers will disregard, or worse still, ignore, messages with too many hashtags. Try to ensure that you never use more than 3 hashtags in any one message on Twitter. If you’re using Instagram you can probably up that figure to around 9 to 11, though the import remains the same: less is usually more.
  • Don’t make your hashtags too long. It’s generally accepted that any hashtag with more than 12 characters is too long. They’re also more difficult to remember and take up too many characters on platforms like Twitter.
  • Don’t hashtag everything. You might think making every word a hashtag will increase your search visibility, but the truth is it will simply put readers off.
  • Avoid using symbols like ‘&’ within hashtags. They simply break the hashtag. If you want to use symbols within the hashtag, use numbers and letters.

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