Hashtags have quickly become a part of the Internet zeitgeist. Not only are they popular online, but they’re also discussed offline regularly. Have you watched any TV lately? Perhaps it was a talk show host engaging the audience. Maybe a program like the Walking Dead providing a hashtag to continue the dialog with their audience. Either way, hashtags are an important way that we communicate in today’s world.
What we used to call “pound” is no longer — it’s a hashtag or nothing at all. The only time you’re likely to hear that phrase is if you’re calling into an automated phone system. “When done, press the pound key to continue.”
But what does this mean for marketing? We all know to use hashtags on the appropriate channels… but what are the appropriate channels? How do we, as business folk, use them to the best of our ability and for the most success? Even better — is there truly a reason why we need to kowtow to our new tic-tac-toe grid overlord?
First, let’s look at where hashtags work. Notably, two different social media platforms utilize hashtags prominently: Instagram and Twitter. Both social networks are commonly focused on (and with good reason), but not every business may utilize either network in the same way.
For instance, B2B businesses may not get as much use from Instagram as B2C companies. Some B2B brands are good at making Instagram work for them, but the going can be tough.
Continuing working backwards from the title, let’s now look at why hashtag strategies are so important. Here are just a few reasons why your brand can benefit from using hashtags in your marketing strategies:
- Hashtags build community, and brands benefit from a community atmosphere. We’ve drilled it into your heads by now, but remember more than anything else: social media is about being social. When you use hashtags, you connect with others on an even online playing field.
- They also give your content visibility. Want to attach yourself to a movement? Use a hashtag and see how fast people find your tweets or posts (though more on this later). Hashtags are visibility go-tos for brands using social media, and yours should be doing the same.
- There’s also a savvy aspect to using hashtags. As the saying goes, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Brand accounts that aren’t utilizing a social media site in the way it was intended look dated and bland.
- Hashtags can also establish your brand meaning. Think about a potential tweet you could send: what buzzwords in that tweet help to highlight what your brand is about? #Makeup? #Marketing? #Milk? Your brand, your buzzwords.
We’re finally to the meat of the issue — you know where you use hashtags, you know why to use them, so now we can talk real business. Hashtag strategies come with some simply 101 rules that should always be followed:
- First, never initiate a hashtag strategy half-cocked. Remember those above analytics tools? Use them. See what hashtags are trending, which buzzword hashtags get the most action, and THEN go about crafting your strategy.
- Never take a strategy for granted. Once you enact a strategy, you have to follow through with analytics yet again. Thankfully Twitter has free analytics tools, but it’s never a bad idea to have your own analytics secret weapon aside from site features.
- Focus hashtags around something that you really want to push. It can be hard to start a trending topic or hashtag on Twitter or Instagram, but it is possible with the right amount of work.
- Tread lightly with jumping in on trends. While you can have a lot of success using a trending hashtag to gain visibility and build brand personality, using a hashtag wrong can lead to disaster.
- Also don’t overuse hashtags. Using 3-4 hashtags per tweet is acceptable, and try not to go over 8-10 hashtags on Instagram.
Hashtags are a free and easy way to utilize online marketing vehicles on social media. But, just like other marketing methods, they will only bring you success if you know how to use them correctly.
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