Gone are the days when the hashtag was just a button rarely used on your phone. The use of this unassuming symbol is now the norm in most social media interactions, and the love of the hashtag won’t be fading any time soon.
For those relatively new to social media, a hashtag is the # sign, followed by a word or phrase. When posted it becomes a searchable link that connects other posts with the same hashtag. For instance if you added #sydneyrealestate to your post, anyone with that interest could find your post, whether they follow you or not.
Adding hashtags gives you access to audiences far beyond your follower base, and helps increase your engagement as well. Given that people often search for specific hashtags, you can safely assume a high level of interest. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as throwing a bunch of hashtags at your post and hoping they stick. I don’t know anyone who has liked a post that #used #a #hashtag #for #every #word, after all.
Considering how you use your hashtags is insufficient if you fail to consider where to use them. Plenty of social media users cross-post directly between Facebook and Instagram, using hashtags the same way, even though people react completely different depending on the platform. You may not notice, but we all do this. So you shouldn’t just use a one-size-fits-all policy across all your social media platforms.
But what should your hashtag policy be?
Hashtags play an important part in building engagement with your brand and exposing you to audiences you might not have otherwise been seen by. They have become so important in forums like Instagram, that you can now follow hashtags as easily as you can follow companies or people. This means, if you’re not behind the hashtag trend already, you definitely should be.
Most difficult to answer perhaps is how should you change your hashtag posting habits for each platform?
We’ll take a look at the research on four of our favourite social media platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.
Facebook and LinkedIn:
I have grouped Facebook and LinkedIn together in this post because the use of hashtags on both platforms present similar results. Research from EdgeRank Checker, completed three months after hashtags were introduced to Facebook, showed that the use of hashtags often had no impact on the amount of engagement a post received or had a negative impact if the post had too many. If you do use hashtags on Facebook or LinkedIn, it should be sparingly.
Hashtags never played a pivotal role in Facebook’s formation or its success so they don’t add the same value when compared to other social media sites. On LinkedIn, hashtags can often seem unnecessary and, occasionally, unprofessional.
These statistics don’t mean that the beloved hashtag is completely off limits for you on these sites. Used wisely and sparingly within your posts, hashtags do have the potential to boost your engagement. For instance, tagging a suburb or place name, in a post about a new property listing, or about a community event, can help you find a wider audience. Statistics from Marketing Artfully show that consumers more often follow companies within an 8km radius of them. Using hashtags to situate yourself within this 8km radius, may make your posts feel more relevant to your target audience.
Data from Buddy Media found that tweets with hashtags on Twitter get twice the amount of engagement of tweets without them. Whether you’re after retweets, favourites or replies, you’re almost guaranteed to do better by adding a relevant hashtag. But, they should still be used sparingly. Anything over two hashtags on a tweet tends to drop engagement by 17%. Remember, you only have 280 characters to say what you want to say on Twitter, and since users prefer shorter posts, you don’t want to crowd out your message.
Jumping on board trending hashtags on Twitter can be a good way to improve your engagement further, but content is always key, so you should be adding something new to the conversation if you do. Hashtags trend when a huge number of users use them around the same time, which means the crowd could easily overlook your tweets if they don’t stand out.
There is an exception to using hashtags on Twitter if you’re planning on advertising through. Research from Twitter found that ads without hashtags tended to generate 23% more clicks, so you might want to give hashtags a miss altogether.
And finally, Instagram.
Instagram was built on hashtags, so the more, the merrier. Track Maven found that Instagram posts with 11 or more hashtags received the highest percentage of interactions at 79.5%. So, if you’re not using hashtags on Instagram, you’re not making the most of the platform.
It’s best to give your Instagram posts a clean, clear break between your content and the hashtags. You can separate your content and your hashtags with dots or asterisks’, or you can add your tags in completely separately in a comment on your post.
If you’re using hashtags on Instagram your posts will be easily accessible, not just to your followers, but to everyone following that hashtag. You might even want to craft a specific brand hashtag and encourage people to use it when they post about you on the platform. This will give you a greater opportunity to find and interact with your audience on Instagram, and build a great rapport.
The Key Takeaways: Hashtags are an integral part of building a social media presence. While adding as many witty hashtags to your posts as possible might seem like a great idea, it’s better to be more strategic when posting. Consider a word or phrase that connects your post with the interests of your audience. And always keep in mind how hashtags work for your platform.