For those of you who have only ever used a hashtag on a landline phone or think of it as a placeholder for a number, hashtags on social media can seem a bit confusing. But it’s really not that complicated. Once you know the basics, you will be hashtag confident and probably start to crave a #basic #SpicedPumpkinVanillaLatte.
So what exactly is a hashtag?
A hashtag is just a very simple way for a website or social media platform to categorise your pictures. Twitter and Instagram are the main proponents of the hashtag system. It helps these platforms to work out what your image is about and who it will appeal to. That way they can show your images to people with similar interests.
Remember, Instagram and Twitter cannot read or look at images as effectively as a human can. So a hashtag is a way you can communicate with Instagram and say, ‘I am posting a picture with a dog and my best friend, in the location of London.’
In hashtags you would put: #dogs #bestfriends #london
Hashtags also allows the Search function to be more effective. Are you looking for pictures of Cats? Then search #cats and any image or post with that hashtag associated with it will come up.
So how does a Hashtag help you?
There are many ways a hashtag can help you, but the main advantage is being more discoverable. When you first open an Instagram account, you will have zero followers and zero likes on your first image. Utilising hashtags will allow other people to find your image and potentially follow you.
Whether you are promoting a business or just trying to show off a new Lamborghini (or both), hashtags are essential in building an Instagram or Twitter audience.
- All hashtags have to be one word. So if you are making a phrase into a hashtag it will look like this: #lovinglife
- Don’t be afraid to use different variations of the same hashtag: #lovinglife #loveroflife #lifelover
- Keep the hashtag relevant to the image you are using. If you post a picture of the sky don’t try to trick people by using popular hashtags like #iphone #vegan
- Try not to just make up hashtags you think will be popular. Quickly search that hashtag and see if it’s being used first.
- However, consider creating a branded hashtag that followers of your page can use to talk about you. This is perfect for competitions or featuring other peoples pictures on your account.
Tips on Instagram Hashtag Strategy
Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags at once. This gives you a great opportunity to really describe your image and help other people discover your page.
Instagram has a great feature that allows you to search a hashtag and look at how many people have used it. Why is this useful? Well it gives you an idea of how popular that particular hashtag is. Too many people using the hashtag and your image will be lost in the crowd. Not enough people using the hashtag and you won’t have a big enough audience to make an impact.
A general rule is to use hashtags with the number of uses between 5,000 and 500,000. This will put you in the sweet spot of lots of interaction but not too overwhelming to be discovered.
To help with productivity, consider putting all of your most used hashtags into a notes folder on your smartphone so you can easily copy and paste them everytime you post onto Instagram. There’s nothing more frustrating that typing out 30 hashtags every morning when you could be chatting by the water cooler.
Tips on Twitter Hashtag Strategies
Twitter is not as generous with the hashtag count as Instagram due to the 140 characters rule. But what it does do better is create an environment for the viral hashtags.
Has Donald Trump made a blunder on TV recently? You can guarantee there’s a hashtag that thousands of people are using. This creates a huge conversation around one topic. The hashtag allows you to find the conversation and interact with those using it in their posts.
To find these trending topics just look on the left of your desktop feed or go to the ‘Search’ function on the app.
Another use for the search function is to find people who are talking about your industry and competitors. People who have used hashtags to complain or praise within your industry can be a powerful way to find new customers. A concept often pushed by Gary Vaynerchuck in his book Crush it!, the search function allows you to nurture people and create warm leads for your business. Try it! Just search ‘Your service’ and ‘customer service’ and there’s a good chance you will find real complaints that you can help to solve.
Now that you have a much better idea of how hashtags work get hashtagging on your next post.