To Hash and to Hash Not: Hashtag Best Practices.

Conquer common misconceptions and hone your hashtag strategy.

Caitlin Brennan
June 15, 2017 - 4 min. read

There is no better way to get someone to stop reading a social media post than #using #hashtags #absolutely #everywhere. After you spend time crafting a social post, it can be tempting to overdo it, or to just throw a hashtag in there somewhere as an afterthought. Hashtags can bring tremendous value to your posts, or unwanted attention if incorrectly used. Here are our hashtag best practices for avoiding a #fail and becoming a #success.

Wrong: Adding too many or too long hashtags
Right: It can be tricky to say something worthwhile with limited character counts. Since every word counts, using a memorable and relevant hashtag can be as crucial as the text and imagery.

You don’t want to overload a post with hashtags. Posts can quickly look cluttered, confusing and the value can get lost. Long hashtags with lots of words jammed together can be hard to read. Here’s an example from our misguided fictitious friends at Frank’s Funky Filters. Sadly the funky ones at Frank’s have yet to take our advice and perform a much needed social media audit

hashtag best practices

As you can see, this tweet is full of random hashtags and phrases turned into hashtags. No one is going to be searching for “#whyhaven’tyouboughtafilterfromusyet?” The odds someone looking for #frank wants what’s on sale here (which is hard to tell) are low. Remember, the broad purpose of using hashtags is to filter and find relevant content.

You probably already realized you shouldn’t use a 35-character hashtag like Frank, and you should have some non-hashtag words in your posts, but can you strike a good balance?

For starters, you shouldn’t go hashtag-free. According to Linchpin SEO, tweets with hashtags get twice the engagement of those without, and are 55% more likely to be retweeted. Conversely, according to a report by TrackMaven which analyzed over 65,000 social posts found that using one hashtag on Twitter yields the best results.

Don’t forget that hashtags aren’t just for Twitter. Also according to TrackMaven, using nine hashtags on Instagram brings the best performance and for Facebook one hashtag is optimal. Simply Measured determined that Instagram posts with at least one hashtag received an average of 12.6% more engagement.

Wrong: Using irrelevant hashtags
Right: Trending topics are tempting topics for brands seeking reach. It’s a common impulse to want to jump into a conversation and partake in some of the attention and momentum. Before you blindly jump into the fray, step back and do some research.

Once you identify trending hashtags, consider if you can bring value to the conservation and join in (or not) accordingly. One way around this is to leverage your licensing and promotional partners. NBA sponsor Taco Bell makes sure to utilize the league’s preferred hashtag to link up an associated promotion.

The flipside of this is blindly chasing reach by chiming in on something just because it’s hot. If you don’t spend time sussing out the origin and meaning behind a trending hashtag you risk a social media firestorm. Here’s a famous example of what can happen when you’re trying to jump on trending topics without researching.

hashtag best practices

In exchange for a moment of attention from people looking at something unrelated, DiGiorno took a gamble and assumed #WhyIStayed was something fun. Two or three clicks would have been all it took to realize it was actually about domestic violence. DiGiorno got burned. The lesson: slow your roll, collaborate and get different perspectives.

Wrong: Using hashtags that are too general #nofilter
Right: Research and create your own hashtags

If you select a generic or incredibly popular hashtag, it’s unlikely that your content will get seen amid the multitude of competitors. That means no #omg, no #nofilter and definitely no #blessed.

If you’re looking for inspiration for hashtags on Twitter, the most popular trending hashtags in your geo-location can be found in the sidebar of the home feed or the mobile search tab. Using these will plug you into current conversations – but again, stop and consider your brand belongs in these, or will just be hanging about like a boorish party crasher.

Wrong: Not monitoring hashtags relevant to your brand
Right: Set up a social listening project to monitor trending topics and hashtags among your target audience. This will ensure that your chosen hashtag is inserting your brand into relevant conversations, and that you’re making a valuable contribution.

Also, make sure to monitor the hashtags your social media influencers are using. Social media influencers build trust, attract qualified leads and can increase your social media ROI. With all that power, you want to make sure you know what influencers are saying. Especially if an influencer speaks on behalf of your brand. You need to know how the influencers followers reacted so you can target them or make adjustments accordingly.

Don’t forget to monitor mentions of your competitors as well. Armed with this insight, it becomes easier to define a strategy that builds on the successes of your competitors and avoids the mistakes they make. This kind of research also helps to ensure your campaigns are unique.

Remember, the people engaging with your competition are clearly interested in their product, which means they’d also likely be interested in yours. You can also learn what issues people have with your competitor’s product which you can leverage for your advertising campaigns and product development.

The more you incorporate using hashtags into your content creation process the easier it will be to interact with and learn from your followers. Embrace hashtags across social channels, experiment and always research before you post. Help your posts get discovered, always hash it out.

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