Do hashtags have you confused? Are you overwhelmed at the mention of them? Take a deep breath and don’t worry, because today you’re going to figure out what the heck they are, how to use them, and why they’re an important part of your social media marketing strategy.
What is a Hashtag? How is it Different than a Keyword?
First, what is a hashtag? Simply put, it’s just a word or phrase with a number sign (#) in front. It’s used on social media platforms as a way to create a tag, allowing you to know what the posted content is related to. With the plethora of content that’s being released every hour of hour day, hashtags are used largely in part to help people search for specific content and posts on social media.
It’s similar to using a Google search to find content and information on websites based on keywords. people turn to Google to search for, they don’t typically search in hashtags. Though there may be some overlap in the keywords used and hashtags used, people don’t typically search for “#hashtags” in Google, they search for “hashtags.”
Sometimes you’ll use the same keyword that you use to build SEO on your website with the # sign in front, as a hashtag on social media platforms, but there’s also a fair amount of words or phrases that are really popular as hashtags and not as keywords. That’s why it’s important to do research on which hashtags are right for your small business social media accounts.
Hashtags are what people might say out loud, if they were to be talking about your post’s subject. It’s also important to note that hashtags don’t use any spaces or punctuation. No spaces, no apostrophes, no ampersand, no asterisks. You can’t use those in a hashtag or it will only register up to the point before the punctuation. For example, if I typed: #black&white, it would only see the hashtag, #black. You’d want to type: #blackandwhite instead.
Why Using Hashtags is Important for Your Small Business
One great thing about using hashtags on social media is that they can help you get your content seen in a timely manner. Hashtags can help you get your content in front of people who are specifically interested in it. People can actually follow individual hashtags on social media so they don’t only see posts from an individual, but they see posts from a variety of people who are using that specific hashtag.
The way keywords work on your website, is complex, but here’s a water-down version. You have to tell Google to index your site. Then Google crawls your website and sends information back. It’s a slow, complicated process which is why if you Google “hashtag help”, you’ll be lucky to ever find this blog post. However, if you search the hashtag #hashtaghelp on Instagram (and I, of course make an Instagram post about this blog post and share it using that hashtag) you’ll find it under recent posts.
Using hashtags that your ideal customers are interested in and engaging with on social media is a smart, free way to target them, and for them to target you, for a mutually beneficial relationship. You’re able to easily find them, deliver the content that they like, and start to be able to interact with them more closely. You’re able to begin to build your community and do market research, learning your target market’s personality and preferences and allows you to tap into their wants and fears like never before. This helps you to create the content and products that will truly solve their problems and make a difference. Not to mention, using hashtags as part of your social media marketing strategy can help you get more engagement and followers.
How to know which Hashtags are Right for Your Small Business?
Choosing the right hashtags for your small business can be a daunting process, but the good news is, there’s help. Tailwind has a really neat (and totally free) feature called “Instagram Hashtag Finder.” When you draft a post in Tailwind, it will begin to give you suggestions based on your post. They even break the categories down into niche, good, great, competitive. It’s a good strategy to use a mix of all the type of categories in your post, for the best chance of being seen. Generally, competitive hashtags are so broad that a million people are using them (literally) so it’s easy to go unnoticed. However when you add in hashtags are that are “best” or more specific to your target audience only be used by thousand of users, your chances of being found in the crowd increase.
You can also search directly on the social media platforms your using. Just head to search, make sure you select hashtags, and results will populate based on the hashtag you searched. You can then begin to scout those posts to see what popular and related hashtags others are using for the same topics. Make sure you’re only using relevant hashtags for your content, please. Don’t say, #cutepuppy if it has nothing to do with a dog.
It’s a good idea to mix up your hashtags so you aren’t using the same ones every time. Especially since your content will probably cover a variety of topics. Create a “bucket” for each different subject. Have some hashtags that you always use (for example: hashtag your brand #annmariegustafson). Use other hashtags to support what you’re sharing. This will allow you to find and follow like-minded people, and with that, your ideal clients. Save your “buckets” in a note on your phone so you can copy and paste into the first comment. This is an easy and effective approach.
What Platforms? Where to Post? And What are the “Rules?”
You can use hashtags anywhere, but the were invented for social media platforms. While I share this helpful information with you now, take it with a grain of salt. Social media platforms are ever-evolving, as are their best practices, algorithms, and the like. Use your best judgement and try to keep up-to-date on any big changes you may be hearing about or noticing out there.
Each social media platform requires a bit of a different technique and approach to finding and using hashtags. Be sure to custom-tailor your approach to that platform you are using. (Bonus Tip: Use the platform that your ideal customer frequents the most.)
You should use hashtags on:
Instagram – Hashtags are your friend on IG. You can use up to 30 hashtags per post and 10 hashtags per story. You can post your hashtags in the caption of your post or in the first comment. Don’t forget to include a hashtag in your bio, so people can find you for what you do. There’s also a list of banned hashtags, so be sure not to use any of those or your post may be hidden and make your other hashtags not work. Sometimes the bans are temporary, but just keep this in mind. It’s not only naughty things either. The hashtag #women was banned last year!
Twitter – We have Twitter to thank for the birth of the hashtag. On Twitter hashtags are more commonly used as a way to tag a topic of conversation. It’s less about a description of your tweet and more a way to carry on a conversation with a large audience, and a limited number of characters.
LinkedIn – Use hashtags on your personal posts or in comments. LI will remember some of the hashtags you’ve used, making it easy to add it quickly. LI’s best practices recommends using 3 or less hashtags per post.
Pinterest – On Pinterest, you’ll put your hashtag in the description. Don’t use too many. Some people will recommend adding the hashtag at the end of the description, so as not to be distracting. Pinterest used to give hashtag suggestions. The only place you can find this now is when creating a new pin, on the mobile app.
YouTube – YouTube has it’s own keyword tool to help you generate hashtags. You can put hashtags in your video title, description, and the comments.
Facebook – The is still some debate about this, but I recommend you use hashtags sparingly on FB. Sometimes, I like to post to my Instagram account and have it automatically post to FB, too. This is why I like to use the first comment on Intagram as a place to leave my hashtags, because it doesn’t good, nor does it seem effective, when they all show up on FB, too. It’s okay to use a couple relevant as the caption, or stick with you brand name.
TikTok – I am not a TikTok user, but I’ve heard the shorter and simpler the hashtags are, the better they are for TikTok.
And now you know more than you ever really wanted to about hashtags. Let me know in the comments below if this #hashtaghelp helped you.