Leveraging Hashtags on Social Media

What differentiates a hashtag from the rest of your caption? All hashtags are preceded by the pound symbol. This little symbol “#”.

Basically, hashtags work to mark your content with certain words. This helps the social media algorithms properly index your post, but it also helps certain people discover your content. You can search via hashtags on several platforms, thus finding content related to them.

Did you know that Tweets with hashtags get 2x more engagement than those that don’t?

Posting great content on social media is only part of the secret sauce. The cherry on top is your hashtags.

At the same time, Twitter itself found that using more than two hashtags actually drops engagement by roughly 17%.

While the exact number may differ based on the platform, the sentiment remains.

Hashtags help to improve your reach and engagement…but only up to a point. Using too many hashtags does just the opposite.

Using hashtags on social media is a careful balancing act. To make the most of them, you want to choose the most effective ones.

Here’s what you need to know about leveraging hashtags on social media:

How Do Hashtags Work?

For example, if I were a new resident in a city, I may want to find businesses in my area. I could simply search my location as a hashtag, like #Delaware. But if I wanted to find a certain type of business, I could do that too. Maybe I would look up #DelawareBrewery. When I search via the hashtags, I would see posts that include it. Here are a couple of hashtag basics to remember:
  • They don’t work with punctuation.
  • Non-followers will only see if your account is public.
  • Keep them short and concise.
  • Opt for relevant hashtags.

How Many Hashtags Do I Need?

There is no universal or permanent answer for how many hashtags you should use on a post. It varies by platform, but even within a platform, the answer can change when the algorithm changes.

Twitter

As mentioned, right now Twitter advises that you use 2 hashtags on a post. Using more than two can hurt your engagement. Of course, this is subject to change over time.

Instagram

You can use up to 30 hashtags on an Instagram post. Later (a social media content scheduling app) studied over 18 million posts on the app. Posts with more hashtags (around 20) performed better. Based on their data, they recommend using 20-30 relevant and targeted hashtags for the most reach and engagement.

Ideally, focus on the quality of the hashtags you choose over the quantity. You will need to experiment with your brand and measure the results to determine what is most effective.

Facebook

Unlike some of the other platforms, Facebook has not been as vocal about how hashtags work or what the best practices are on its platform. Still, hashtags will help to make your post more discoverable.

Overall, experts tend to recommend fewer hashtags on Facebook. Using too many comes across as spammy. Start by experimenting and focus on relevancy.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn does not have a hashtag limit, and you can add them to statuses, articles, and your business page.

As you may guess, less is also more with LinkedIn. Pete Davis, the former director of product management at LinkedIn suggests three hashtags.

Prioritize Quality

Quality is key for building your organic audience on social media, and it is a notion that applies to using hashtags. 

No matter how many a platform or expert recommends, choosing effective hashtags is more important than using a lot of them. Ones that are not relevant or do not have anyone looking at them won’t help your reach or engagement.

It’s well worth taking the time to figure out which hashtags will be the most effective and relevant for your post. Don’t just add hashtags to hit a certain number, focus on the ones that will reach your target audience and drive your engagement.

Know Your Audience

The first step to choosing the right hashtags is to know your audience. The same photo or basic post could leverage different hashtags based on a different audience.

Consider this example. You’re trying to promote marketing services. You don’t want to promote them to your competitors, you want to promote them to your target audience: business owners. In this case, consider which hashtags to use that will help you get your content in front of that audience while generally avoiding competitors.

Overall, you need to get really clear on your end audience. Consider their intent, interests, challenges, etc. Use your customer persona avatar to guide your hashtag selection.

Relevance to the Content

It may be tempting to use hashtags you know are popular or work well, but always make sure your tags are relevant to the content you post. You want the hashtag to help the right person find your post.

Users will get frustrated and annoyed if they see unrelated content beneath a hashtag they are searching for. Make sure you use relevant hashtags that apply to the piece of content you’re sharing. 

Use a Combination of Popular and Niche

When a person adds a hashtag to their post, their post will now show up under the searches for that hashtag. The more popular a hashtag is, the more posts will show up underneath it. You can see the number of posts when searching the hashtag.

Let’s say I sell software packages to dentist practices. #Dentist has 11.1 million posts under it on Instagram. On the other hand, #delawaredentist has around 1000 posts on Instagram.

I would want to leverage a broader market, so I would use hashtags like #DentistLife (767K posts on Instagram), #DentistOffice (142K posts on Instagram), and #DentistryLife (918K posts on Instagram).

When choosing your hashtags, you do not want to choose ones with only 5 posts under them. This suggests that they are pretty sparse and not that popular. At the same time, you do not want to only use ones with millions of posts. There’s a good chance yours will get lost in the mix and never seen by your target audience.

Instead, use a combination of somewhat popular and somewhat niche hashtags. You want to use one or two that are more popular, but also a few that are smaller (yet still relevant).

Mix it Up

Always using the exact same hashtags is not wise. Mix it up. There’s a good chance you post similar content, but you should still leverage unique hashtags. If you continue to repeat the exact same ones, your content may not show up under them anymore.

This is called “shadow banning” and it is something creators commonly complain about. The best way to avoid it is to vary which hashtags you use.

How can you do this while still choosing relevant hashtags?

Well, consider the example above. #Dentist is one hashtag and a very popular one. But variations that are still relevant to that topic depending on your exact content could include #DentalOffice, #[YOUR LOCATION]Dentist, #DentalClinic #Dentistry #DentalPractice, #TeethCleaning, #RootCanal, #DentalExam, and the list goes on. Rather than just always choosing the same few hashtags, choose different variations each time that still apply to your content.

Plan Ideas for Trending Tags

Just like you want to choose relevant hashtags for your content, you also want to create content that suits relevant hashtags.

There are some very popular hashtags that draw in posts from people in all industries and walks of life. Playing into the trends and leveraging these tags can help you get in front of a huge audience. It also makes your brand appear timelier and more relevant to your own audience.

One example is #ThrowbackThursday. People use this (on Thursday) when posting content from the past. This concept works well for brands in many industries (but not all). For someone like the NFL, this does make sense. On Thursdays the NFL Twitter account posts throwback highlights with this hashtag. 

Even if this specific hashtag does not work for your brand, there are many other similar examples that you could consider. You can also check for “trending” hashtags and topics on various platforms to get ideas. Ultimately, considering some of the most popular hashtags can help you plan relevant, fun content for your social media.

What About Different Platforms?

A strong hashtag strategy applies to every social media platform. We’ve provided a current guide of hashtag recommendations above, but the world of social media is ever-changing.

The biggest thing to consider is the type of audience on each platform. Ultimately, you should experiment with content and hashtags on all the social media platforms that you use for your business. Over time, you’ll be able to see what works best for you.

Engage 2 Engage is Here to Help!

When it comes to your winning social media strategy, don’t forget about those little hashtags. A few words behind a # symbol can go a long way to boosting your reach and engagement, while helping you get in front of your target audience.

If this feels like a lot, you are not alone! Keeping up with all the features and best practices on social media can be tiring and confusing. Engage 2 Engage is here to help you with your various digital marketing needs. Learn more about our Programs today!

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