The Power of Hashtags In 2020.
Social media marketing utilizes online social channels to bridge the gap between organizations and their intended target markets, and the hashtag has made it that much easier for brands to be individually and uniquely recognized. The hashtag has become one of the most significant symbols used in modern social media marketing for its incredibly powerful ability to help people find posts, information or specific content easily.
Without relevant hashtags in your social postings your posts will only be seen by your existing fans and followers and won’t reach new people searching for topics and conversations pertaining to your brand. Hashtags have become the key to success for all online marketers, making it easier to inform and engage with their audience, extending their reach, building stronger relationships and enhancing the brand’s social media presence.
However, many brand marketers still don’t fully understand how to use hashtags for maximum effectiveness. They misuse the tool thinking that it is simply a means of attracting attention to their content. While the hashtag can serve this purpose, using it improperly isn’t going to help you at all.
The History of Hashtags
Hashtags were first introduced to social media in 2007 by Chris Messina—co-founder of Citizen Agency and an open-source advocate—on Twitter as a way of grouping tweets by topic and improving “contextualization, content filtering and exploratory serendipity”. While it’s hard now to imagine the likes of Twitter and Instagram without hashtags, not everyone was keen to jump on board the hashtag bandwagon, and it took some convincing for people to start using them as we do now. In fact, it took two years before Twitter officially adopted the use of hashtags.
While hashtags were created specifically for Twitter they have been adopted by top line social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest—even if it did take some time! Pinterest launched at the end of 2009 but didn’t bring in hashtags until 2017, and Instagram, launched in 2010, quickly brought hashtags to the platform in 2011. Facebook introduced hashtags in 2015 and, like Twitter, started providing a unique URL for each hashtag to enable both the businesses and their target audience to click on and get connected with other people with the same interests and searching for the same topics of interest.
Interestingly, Facebook has been relatively quiet in regard to how exactly hashtags work on its platform and what marketers should do with them. While Twitter might show you every recent Tweet with the hashtag, Facebook brings up different information. This puts all the more emphasis on using hashtags correctly on Facebook.
There are mixed camps as to whether or not hashtags significantly increase or decrease engagement on Facebook, even between the bigger brands—some totally ignore them, while others add them posts as they see fit.
The Power of Hashtags for Digital Marketers
So what is it that makes hashtags so great from a brand marketer’s perspective?
1. Gain more brand reach and visibility
You know your audience is on social networks, and you’re putting out content that they would be interested in or find valuable. However, there is simply so much competing content that without using hashtags, your brand will just disappear into the abyss. When your posts make use of trending hashtags or those hashtags that are relevant to your business, it can increase your visibility online, making your posts reach a broader audience. People looking for those specific hashtags will naturally find your business online.
2. Increase user engagement
The true power of hashtagging is the ability to connect your brand with various popular and visible topics, which will drive new viewers to your social media presence, and give you the opportunity to engage with them. If your brand is posting valuable, interesting content, and using relevant hashtags you will get engagement. One of the most-cited examples of the effectiveness of hashtags is from Buddy Media, stating that one hashtag can increase engagement by 100%!
3. Increase brand awareness
Hashtags play a pivotal role in generating exposure and raising awareness about your brand, enabling businesses to initiate conversations with their target audience. By posting interesting content, appended with relevant hashtags, the brand’s audience comes to know about the brand, and with consistent, quality posting, it will eventually establish greater brand awareness. Well-researched, crafted and created hashtags have the ability to connect your brand with various popular and visible topics, improve customer relations and increase brand visibility.
How to Use Hashtags Effectively in Social Media Marketing
It’s easy to see the power that hashtags have for online marketers. It’s true, hashtags form an essential part of any social media marketing strategy—they are easily searchable and can be
used in various ways to promote your brand. However, not all marketers know how to use the mighty hashtag effectively on social media for purposes of marketing their brand.
Keep in mind that hashtags are essentially a means of labeling your content so that it can be discovered by users. If the hashtags you are using do not serve that purpose, you are probably not using them correctly.
These tips will ensure you are using hashtags in the correct way to generating exposure and raise awareness about your brand:
- Most social media sites have a “trending now” or similar page that shows the popular hashtags. It’s recommended that you research the hashtags that are currently trending and try and work them into your content in a meaningful way (but not just for the sake of it). This way you can build followers and expand your connections. It’s also worth being up to date on trending hashtags so you know what NOT to use. Entenmanns infamously tweeted “Who’s #notguilty about eating all the tasty treats they want?!”, Unfortunately, #notguilty was a trending hashtag concerning a very prominent murder trail that was underway at the time. Was it an innocent mistake or an attempt to jump on a trending hashtag bandwagon? Either way, it was a #fail.
- Don’t be afraid to create your own hashtags to generate more followers. Be creative—funny hashtags are always popular, and if you’re more of a risk-taker, start a controversial hashtag. However, remember to use your signature hashtags alongside popular trending hashtags in order to attract more followers. Create a unique hashtag to identify your brand and add it to your bio. This allows your fans and followers to use your hashtag when discussing your brand.
- Stay consistent by using the same hashtag to identify your brand across all platforms.
- Don’t over use hashtags. You can use hashtags generously on Instagram and Pinterest, but Twitter and Facebook require a lesser amount of hashtags usage per post. In fact, the overuse of hashtags can actually lead to fewer interactions overall as many social media users see an overabundance of hashtags as nothing more than spam. It’s even OK to post without inserting a hashtag. Whatever you do, #Don’t #Do #This. It’s much better to use one well-placed tag versus spamming your followers with a flurry of them.
- Never use a hashtag while responding to someone. Whether it’s a retweet or a reply, avoid plugging these characters when they are not needed.
- Don’t rely solely on the hashtag to capture engagement. Ensure there is something unique about your posts in order to stand out on such high-competition social platforms. Join trending conversations that are relevant to your brand. This will allow you to connect with other users and circulate your brand information.
Don’t Forget Analytics
Just as with any other aspect of marketing, hashtag effectiveness should be tracked. If you’re continuing to do something that just isn’t working, you need to test other hashtags until you find what works for you.
Most digital marketers use hashtags across multiple platforms, so it’s best to track the overall social media engagement on each word or phrase you use. There are lots of tools out there to show you relevant hashtags, along with information about reach, exposure, and retweets, for example, Hashtagify.me finds relevant or trending hashtags based on your search. This makes it easier to plan your hashtags strategically.