Hashtag use on social networks is common. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Tumblr, and others all permit hashtags.
Hashtags categorize content of social media posts, and thus facilitate conversations and engagement. For brands, hashtags are about motivating action on the part of the consumer. Merchants can create hashtags of their own or use existing tags to tap into current conversations to promote their products and services.
So the question is less about whether or not merchants should use hashtags. They should. But many merchants are not sure how best to use them. The following seven tips should help.
1. Keep Hashtags Short
Twitter, the social network that popularized hashtag use, allows only 140 characters for the entire post. Therefore, it makes sense to keep hashtags short to make more room for your message.
While it’s not as essential to limit hashtag character count on social networks such as Facebook or Google+, longer, more complicated tags tend to confuse people and lack the search-friendliness needed to vault them into more widespread use. Therefore, where hashtags are concerned, the shorter the better.
2. Make Hashtags Specific
Narrowing the focus of a hashtag will make it more useful to people, which should serve to increase conversations around it.
Be careful about using hashtags that are too unique or are too popular. Hashtags are beneficial only when enough people use them. Conversely, if too many people are using them, your message becomes lost in the broader conversation.
3. Use Hashtags Sparingly
Tweets with one or two hashtags have higher engagement than those with three or more. In addition, overuse of hashtags is a common tactic among spammers. So use them sparingly.
4. Do Not Hijack Popular Tags
Unless there is an obvious connection, refrain from latching on to trending tags, especially those that may be controversial. People may take exception to the practice, which makes your brand suspect.
5. Make Hashtags Relevant to your Business
There needs to be a commonsense relationship between the use of a tag and your business. Otherwise, people may wonder why you’re using it, or worse, consider you a spammer for doing so.
6. Use Hashtags on Networks Where It Makes Sense
When it comes to hashtag use, not all social networks are equal. Twitter and Instagram are hashtag hotspots; Facebook and Google+, less so. According to Edge Rank Checker, a Facebook analytics platform, using hashtags on Facebook does nothing to increase exposure. In fact, posts without hashtags outperform those with hashtags.
That’s not to suggest you should only use hashtags on Twitter and Instagram, however. Deploying them across multiple networks is a way to increase exposure to the term in hopes that people will start using it. Just don’t expect much from Facebook.
7. Use Hashtag Tracking Tools
In my article “8 Twitter Hashtag Tracking Tools,” I listed eight tools where merchants can find relevant hashtags and gauge the effectiveness of marketing campaigns that use them. Three of those tools are as follows.
- Hashtracking provides tracking analytics and reporting for hashtag campaigns and events.
- Tagboard aggregates hashtag use across a range of social networks including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, App.net, Vine, and Google+. Users can set up their own tagboards based on a particular hashtag.
- Twubs is a directory that includes topics such as conferences and tradeshows, events, organizations, business, twitter chats, and others.