How to Use Hashtags to Your Advantage on Social Media
Have you ever seen an Instagram post where the caption ends in what seems like a jumble of random hashtags? You might be surprised to hear that there is actually an important purpose behind incorporating these tags, which are usually just a word or phrase following the pound sign (#). Using hashtags on your social media posts can be a great strategy to reach new audiences and connect with those who are interested in the content you’re putting out. However, you shouldn’t just use hashtags without any rhyme or reason to them. By doing some research about your brand’s keywords on social media, you can incorporate relevant hashtags to tailor your posts to your target audience, reaching your growth goals faster.
Do keyword research
When you’re developing or revitalizing your social media strategy, you should plan to use relevant hashtags in your posts. So how do you decide which hashtags are meaningful for your audience and can help you meet your goals?
Just as you would when doing SEO for your website, you should research which keywords are most relevant to your target audience. This looks a little different on social media than it does on search engines, but the premise is still the same. It involves identifying which hashtags are most used and who are key players in your niche. You can do this in a few different ways. On platforms such as Twitter or LinkedIn, there is a “trending” feature built-in to the platform that will tell you what hashtags are currently being shared the most. You should take note of what is trending when you plan to post and try to tailor your content to fit into the larger conversation. This way, more people are exposed to your posts when they are searching through what’s trending. On platforms like Instagram, users can actually follow specific hashtags, and anything posted with that tag will show up on their feed. You can identify accounts who don’t yet follow you but follow similar accounts, take a look at what hashtags they follow, and then begin incorporating those tags on your own posts to reach this audience.
When doing this research, you should also take note of how popular a certain tag is. In order to get your highest ROI on social media, you should focus on hashtags with high levels of engagement. If you’re posting on tags that only get 20 new posts a year, there probably aren’t a lot of people following it, and your content won’t be exposed to as many new people.
Luckily, there are plenty of tools out there that can help you save time and automatically identify what hashtags you should be using on your posts. Hashtagify.me is a website that allows you to search and track certain hashtags on both Twitter and Instagram. You’re able to see how popular a current tag is, how that tag has changed over time, and the main user accounts who are using any particular hashtag. RiteTag is another resource for conducting hashtag research through social media. You can download it as an app or a browser extension, so no matter where you use social media, you’re equipped with great suggestions for which hashtags you should use for your next text or photo post.
Taking a look at some of your competitors’ social media accounts can also give you insight into what hashtags similar brands are using. Look at how their audiences respond to different hashtags and the kinds of engagement they are getting (shares, likes, etc.) to determine which hashtags to add to your own strategy. You can also use this knowledge to create new content that fills the gaps in what currently exists for your niche, and adding these relevant hashtags will help draw a bigger audience toward your own account.
Hashtag research doesn’t stop once you identify some hashtags that work well for your brand. It’s still a good idea to periodically comb through posts that use these tags and identify other new and related hashtags. This can continue to expand your audience, or hone in on a more niche one, depending on your social media goals.
Start your own hashtag
You don’t just have to stick to using hashtags that already exist to maximize your reach on social media. Although using popular hashtags is a major way to draw fresh eyes to your page, you can also create your own hashtags depending on your brand’s goals.
Some brands like to start a hashtag to invite people to share content under a specific topic and draw attention to a particular product. For example, if you sell candles, you might want to start a hashtag where your customers can post photos of them using your candle. Whereas tags and mentions can get lost in endless notifications, having a hashtag where people can share posts offers an organized alternative to save all of these posts together. You can even start multiple hashtags for different purposes. If you’re doing a giveaway, for example, you can ask followers to reshare or post something under the hashtag you created to keep it all in one place. Not only does having this hashtag encourage community building, but the followers of people using the tag will be exposed to it if they don’t already follow you.
There are a few things to remember when building your own hashtag. First, keep it as short and memorable as possible. If the tag features more than two or three words, people will be unlikely to remember it (and unlikely to use it). Remember, too, that a hashtag can feature multiple words, but there should be no spaces in between them. Capitalizing letters won’t affect it’s searchability, so you can write it in letter case (capitalizing the first letter of each individual word) to distinguish between words. Hashtags can feature numbers and letters, but symbols or punctuation will break the tag, so stay away from using those. Finally, you should be sure that your hashtag is truly new — if someone is already using this hashtag, it can be hard to decipher which posts are for your brand and which are something completely unrelated.
Use different strategies for different platforms
Since every social media platform has a different purpose and algorithm, it only makes sense to adapt your hashtag strategy depending on where you’re posting. No matter where your content lives, there are unique ways you can optimize hashtags to reach your audience on any platform.
- Twitter and TikTok. On both of these platforms, you should take note of what hashtags are trending when you post your content. Sometimes, even if your content is unrelated to the tag you use, it tends to perform well because so many extra eyes are on it. However, it can also be a good idea to strategize how to make your content better fit into this tag or the larger conversation that is being had. Of course, this is something you’ll have to do every time you post new content, since what’s trending is constantly changing. Because of the limited-text aspect of both of these platforms, you really only need to use about 1-3 to see success.
- Instagram. This may be the most impactful platform for using hashtags. You can post up to 30 hashtags on a post, but if you’re honing in on your top tags, you shouldn’t need to use this many. Since people can follow certain tags on Instagram, make sure you’re meeting your audience where they are and using these instead of obscure hashtags. You can also use some of the most popular tags. As of 2020, #love was the most used tag, with over 1.7 billion posts under it, followed by #instagood, with 1.1 billion posts, and #photooftheday, with 763 million posts.
- Facebook and LinkedIn. Using more than two or three hashtags on a Facebook or LinkedIn post can at times be viewed as unprofessional. Since these platforms are more information based, you should try to weave your hashtags into what you’re posting about instead of leaving a jumble of them at the end of your post, as you may on Instagram.
- Pinterest. Pinterest uses hashtags more as a keyword function. This means that people don’t have to exclusively search the specific hashtag to come across your post. On this platform, it’s a good idea to conduct keyword research to think about the kinds of things your target audience is searching for, and then incorporate your hashtags in that way.
No matter what social media platform you’re using, you want to make sure of one thing across all of them: keep your account public! Even if you’re using the optimum hashtags, if your account is private, this means that nobody outside of your current followers can find your content anyway.
Remember: quality over quantity
Just because you can post an endless amount of hashtags doesn’t mean that will automatically increase your engagement. Instead, be strategic about the hashtags you do use. Doing your keyword research can help you hone in on tags that are the most relevant to your audience. Use more of these specific and niche hashtags instead of broad ones that aren’t getting as many searches. Unless a certain hashtag is trending, try not to stick your content under hashtags that don’t relate at all to your post; otherwise, it will likely be overlooked because that’s not what the people searching it are interested in. Since hashtags can be placed at the beginning, middle, or end of posts, you might want to interchange some of your copy with relevant hashtags (ie., “I made this new #ScentedCandle today!”) However, it’s easy to go overboard on this. Your audience probably doesn’t want to read a caption that says, “I #made this #new #scented #candle #today,” and the other hashtags you added won’t render any useful results. So don’t feel like you have to include hashtags in every single one of your posts. As long as you’re posting regularly and mostly tagging relevant searches, you’ll see your engagement soar and connect with new audiences.
If you’re feeling stumped and want to see how you can use tags to maximize your social media presence, reach out to us here at Creative Juice, and we can help you be on your way to hashtag happiness. 🍑