Hashtags: Where to Use Them
Hashtags are everywhere. They even show up verbally in our conversations. But just because you see and hear of them everywhere doesn’t mean your business should be using them everywhere. There is a time and a place for hashtags, which we’ll explore in this article.
Hashtags are a topic that can be one word or multiple words that help users discover said topic on most social media platforms. If your business sells guitars, you’re likely to hashtag “guitar” in many of your posts. When you place the # sign before the word or words, it makes it searchable. By clicking on the hashtag, you’ll see a list of other users who have also used the same hashtag.
Let’s say you’re watching the NBA Finals and you’d like to know what others are saying about the current game. You could hop on Twitter and type “#NBAFinals” and hit search. You’ll see a list of all the tweets that used the hashtag in real time or by popularity. Then you can add your own thoughts about the game with the hashtag and join in the conversation. It’s a great way to interact with others interested in the same topic.
Many businesses use hashtags for branding. You can probably guess what Nike’s branded hashtag would be…#JustDoIt. And you better believe Nike is monitoring who else uses that hashtag (is it positive, negative, does it require a response from the company, and so on—it’s important to follow what others are saying about your company and hashtags can help).
In addition to being searchable, hashtags are used for humor. This usually involves multiple words, and while still searchable, is often more for humor’s sake than discoverability.
Here’s an example from a dog treat bakery: “We’ve got brand new bacon-flavored biscuits. Free samples today so you can see if your pup likes it first! #asifdogsarepicky”
The hashtag is searchable and may produce some other humorous posts by users, but searchability wasn’t the primary goal. There isn’t much room on Twitter for this, especially when you should focus on using hashtags for discoverability. Sometimes, though, there’s a fun trending hashtag on Twitter like “#myworstfirstdate” that anyone can use to join the conversation.
Where and when to use hashtags on social media
Twitter—definitely use hashtags on Twitter, but we recommend limiting it to two per tweet. Here are two examples of using hashtags on Twitter, one that’s ideal and one that’s spammy looking.
We have a #FenderGuitar for sale this week only!
We have a #Fender #Guitar for #sale at our #vintage shop this week only!
Too many hashtags can look unprofessional and just plain ugly. Do a search before you use hashtags to see which words or phrases have more relevant results. If #vintage is bombarded with results ranging from vintage clothing to vintage kettles while #fenderguitar shows results of people strictly discussing the guitar, you’d likely want to reach the latter group.
Research shows one to two hashtags increases engagement, while more than two hashtags show a 17% decrease in engagement.
Facebook—hashtags work on Facebook, but is it recommended? Since many users’ profiles are private, hashtags aren’t as popular the way they are on Twitter. But businesses can still be discovered when a user searches hashtags on Facebook.
However, a 2016 report from Buzzsumo indicated that posts without hashtags generated more engagement than posts with hashtags.
Interesting, right? Knowing that, we recommend only using hashtags occasionally for a couple of reasons: to compare if using or not using hashtags does better for your business (there are always exceptions) and to use hashtags for humor. Just don’t go overboard—stick to one hashtag.
LinkedIn—the hashtag function was rolled out in late 2016 on mobile apps with the promise to spread to all other platforms. We’re still collecting data regarding how valuable it is or isn’t to include hashtags. We’d recommend limiting it to 1-2 hashtags for now. It may take awhile for hashtags to catch on.
Instagram—yes! You can use up to 30 hashtags and you should use each one. Hashtags are used heavily on this platform and it’s not unusual to see the 30 hashtags being used. Make sure you use them at the end of your message, though. Businesses are found on the platform because users really do rely on hashtags to discover new things. Research shows posts with around 11 hashtags or more perform better than posts with fewer than 11 hashtags.
Pinterest–hashtags work in the pin’s description. You can use up to 20, but stick to strong keywords like “#interiordesign” or “#halloween” while avoiding humor-based hashtags.
Google+–hashtags are great for Google’s social media platform. Google automatically assigns hashtags based on the content, but it’s more than okay to add your own.
Now you can see hashtags do better on some platforms than others and that the number of hashtags used can vastly affect levels of engagement. There are also tools out there to help you find which hashtags are best and other related hashtags you may not have thought of. Check out Hashtagify.me, RiteTag, or Tagboard for help.