While utilizing social media is critical to business success in the Internet world, and you’ve gone ahead and set up a business Facebook page, a Twitter, and maybe even Pinterest and Foursquare pages, you may still be confused as to what all these words behind the pound sign (#) are. Well, here’s what you need to know about the hashtag and how it can be used to boost your business reach and visibility.
What are Hashtags?
On social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, words are placed behind the pound sign as a method of categorizing an update. These hashtags are then trawled through in a search for the specific tag, and all the results appear in a search results list on each social media platform. The functionality of this is that it allows users to see conversations that are happening about specific topics, and to use the same tags to enter the conversation with their tweets and updates.
For example, if I were to tweet about this blog post on Twitter, I might include the hashtag #socialmedia, or #hashtags, or #onlinemarketing so that my tweet would show up in a search for any of those three tags. Hashtags are useful for online marketing because they help your tweets or updates appear in common searches related to your industry, and can also help you to find the other major stakeholders in your market and communicate with them. Much like tags on blog posts, hashtags are an important categorization tool.
5 Tips for Using Hashtags
Do Some Hashtag Research
My favorite hashtag research tool is Tagboard. You can use Tagboard to search for an individual hashtag and it will mine results from multiple social media platforms. This makes it easy for you to find out what people are saying about industry topics so that you can enter the conversation, and to find out which hashtags are most applicable to your business.
Hashtag research is important because you do not want to use hashtags that no one else is using. No one will be searching for posts that aren’t tagged with relevant terms. While it is good to use tags that are more individual to your business, you should combine these with tags that people will be searching for, so that your posts are indexed with a tag that people will find.
Do Not Use Long Hashtags
You might have seen some really long hashtags floating around, and while those are often used for comic relief, they are not practical from a business standpoint. Hashtags that are too long are frequently too unique to be searched for, and so while an individual may repeat the hashtag in a number of their own posts, unless other users start to use that hashtag as well, it will not be useful as a way for people to access tweets via search.
Do Not Overuse Hashtags
Another problem hashtag users have is that they crowd their tweets or posts with hashtags. While this can be somewhat useful for driving search traffic to their tweets, users frequently pay less attention to tweets that have more than 4 hashtags, so really try and focus on the content of your tweet and use between one and four hashtags at the end or throughout.
Use Hashtags for Regular Words
This is a great tip for getting hashtags into your updates without just sticking them at the end of the post. For example, if you are tweeting about social media and you are planning to use the #socialmedia tag, why not just include that in the body of your tweet by combining the two separate words? Incorporating hashtags into the body of your updates instead of sticking them at the end can help you more effectively stay under Twitter’s 140 character limit, as well as maximizing your hashtag space. If you want to use 4 hashtags it is much harder to stick them at the end of a substantive tweet than it is to incorporate them into the tweet itself.
Look for Hashtag Trends
Twitter has a list of trending hashtags on the left hand side of the homepage, and while these trends and tags may not relate to your business directly, you can use these to drive traffic to your page and ultimately website. Social media marketing is an important part of an online business strategy, but showing that you are interested in more than just your business is an important part of getting social media followers, so tweeting about general events that are trending on Twitter can help you to get valuable followers and traffic.
The hashtag trend is set to continue growing, and there are rumors of Facebook incorporating hashtags onto its site too, making them even more functional. While it may feel like hashtagging tweets and posts is a waste of time, people do search for the tags that they’re interested in and do follow and favorite posters and posts according to their tagged updates. So, if you’re already on Twitter, Instagram, or Tumblr and aren’t using the hashtag, you should give it a try. It will make your posts more accessible, interesting, and definitely more visible.
Garst, Kim. “How to use Hashtags to Grow Your Business.” Boom Social! http://kimgarst.com/how-to-use-hashtags-to-grow-your-business. (20 May, 2013).