The Power of the Hashtag in Social Media
Who would have thought that a symbol so infrequently used for decades would become one of the most powerful tools in social media. Now hashtags are synonymous with trends and conversations, using keywords, phrases and sometimes just random sentences to track conversations and topics of interests.
Where It All Began…
In 1988 the hashtag was first used as a categorising tool at the Internet Relay Chat. It took until 2007 for it to be used in social media by Google engineer Chris Messina to classify tweets into categories.
In 2009 Twitter officially adopted the hashtag as a way of identifying “trending topics” through hyperlinking, with the first hashtag #FF (FollowFriday). In 2013, Facebook and LinkedIn added it to their social media platforms as a way of tracking topics of conversation. Now hashtags are widely used across all social media sites: Instagram, Pinterest and Google Plus. Hashtags are now part of our modern culture.
Using Hashtags in Social Media
So whether you are posting on social media as a business, marketing a product or service, or just want to generate a conversational debate with like-minded (or not) individuals, there are three simple steps to remember when creating a hashtag.
Rules to creating a Hashtag:
- No spaces between words
- No punctuation
- Use anywhere within your post
Also anyone can create a hashtag. It is entirely up to you what your hashtag consists of. According to research, using even a single hashtag increases post engagement by 12.6%.
Hashtags on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn tend to be one or two words per post. Instagram (where posts tend to be photo-led) have an average of 10 hashtags per post, limited to 30 hashtags.
Cross-promotion of hashtags in social media is as a clever marketing tool. Manipulating hashtags to suit each platform, focusing on what key words are important when content is searched.
Hashtag Strategies to Boost Engagement
Geotagging is a clever social media marketing tool, allowing posts to include a geographical location. According to research, posts with a geotag on Instagram receive 79% more engagement than those without. Using a location in a hashtag helps widen audience engagement. Use a city name like #london or be more specific like #londoneye, #bigben, #buckinghampalace, or more generalist #londonlife, #visitlondon.
According to Adespresso by Hootsuite, posts on a Monday outperform any other day’s posts. It’s probably why posts about Monday are so popular. Typically the start of the working week for many, a Twitter post may simply include the hashtag #MondayMorning. The same post on Instagram would include at least ten Monday hashtags creating higher engagement levels. So a post on a Monday can legitimately use reoccurring Monday hashtags ensuring a potential higher audience reach.
Twitter: #MondayMorning (accompanied by image)
Instagram: #mondaymorning #mondayblues #coffee #mondaythoughts #quoteoftheday
#mondaymood #mondayssuck #mondaymadness #mondayvibes #backtobed (accompanied by image)
The Hashtag as a Marketing Tool
Hashtags are a powerful marketing tool that every business should use to build brand awareness. Kit Kat’s #haveabreak campaign represents the brand without using the actual brand name. The phrase is synonymous with the chocolate bar.
Hashtags can increase audience engagement in marketing campaigns. They allow followers to engage through repetition of a particular hashtag in their own social media posts. Domino’s #LetsDoLunch marketing campaign gave everyone who retweeted with the promotional hashtag a discount on their pizza. A win-win situation for all.
Hashtags are imperative for SEO optimisation. They increase visibility of content to followers and non-followers alike. An individual does not necessarily need to know anything about your company. However, through searching for a relevant hashtag to your business could discover you. This is why hashtags are so influential in bringing traffic to your website. So searching #techprlondon should direct you, for example, to our Luminous PR website.
It’s important to ensure the message conveyed in the hashtag is clear, concise and cannot be misconstrued. A classic example of a hashtag fail occurred in 2012 for the Susan Boyle new album launch. It was innocently marketed with the hashtag #susanalbumparty
Using Hashtags to Keep an Eye on Competitors
Trending hashtags are a great way to see what people are talking about and tend to be topical. When using a trending hashtag it’s important to make sure it’s relevant to your product, service or business. This ensures validity to using it, rather than just to attract more followers.
Twitter’s main feed includes a dedicated section of trending hashtags. These are personalised to the user based on their location and who they follow. Trending reoccurring hashtags are post specific such as #TBT (Throwback Thursday), #TGIF and #photooftheday. Trending hashtags can also focus on popular subject posts like travel, fashion and fitness. So travel hashtag examples would be #travel, #vacationtime, #adventure, #travelblog, #goexplore, #lovetotravel.
As well as harnessing the power of the hashtag to enhance your own business, it can also be used as a “social listening” tool. Monitoring who your competitors are and what they’re doing in terms of engagement. This could be social media campaigns and strategies such as influencer marketing.
Hashtag tracking does what it implies. It finds out what hashtags are working for your business and gaining the most audience engagement. This allows you to create hashtags to suit each individual platform, identifying the ones that are ignored and need dropping.
Hashtag tracking tools analytically evaluate how your hashtag is performing. Highlighting which hashtags would suit your business or social media posts. The most popular are:
- tweetbinder.com – allows you to monitor hashtags on Twitter and Instagram, producing analytical reports to see the effect of your media campaign.
- hashtagify.me allows users to search different keywords in Twitter and Instagram to see who the top influencers are.
- ritetag.com gives you hashtag suggestions for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in real-time.
- sproutsocial.com – tracks competitors posts across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, comparing them to your own and allowing you to keep ahead of emerging trends.
- phlanx.com – an Instagram, Facebook and Youtube engagement calculator with access to an Influencer directory.
- socialblade.com – assessment of follower counts on Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.
- semrush.com – one of the most popular SEO tools allowing you to monitor ranking changes of your competitors and their use of keywords.
- talkwalker.com – a paid for social media analytics platform allowing you to track your mentions across all social media platforms, track competitors hashtags and campaigns and discover trending topics.
- tagboard.com – provides a snapshot of how a hashtag is being used across multiple platforms and shows hashtags linked to the one that you searched for.
It can’t be denied, hashtags are imperative to increase social media presence. Though they must be used constructively.
Using a hashtag will boost your audience engagement – fact!
Using a hashtag will ensure your content is easier to find – fact!
As a free marketing tool why would you not use them? They help build your brand, monitor campaigns, keep track of competitors, engage with your audience and grow your followers.
Adopt a clear strategy and follow the simple rules that govern hashtag best practice across social media platforms. Hashtags can help transform social media posts, highlighting relevant searchable content through hash tagged phrases and words.
So be creative with your hashtags, make sure they’re relevant to you or your business, encourage audience engagement and above all don’t underestimate them! The simple hashtag when used correctly can be one of your most powerful business tools.
If you would like the Luminous team to help you with your social media campaigns, please get in touch and see how we can make the hashtag work for you!