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How to Use Hashtags on Social Media: Boost Your Search, Engagement and More

Hello Social Media Marketers! Today we’re going to talk about how to use hashtags. Social media hashtags have become more and more important to a well-rounded social media strategy. But knowing when to use hashtags, how many hashtags to use and where to use them, is a bit trickier than just putting a # before a random string of words. Never fear! We’re here to help.

A Brief Overview of Hashtags

If you’re going to talk about hashtags, it’s helpful to take a look at the most common social media hashtags to get a sense of why people use them and whether or not they’re successful. Incidentally, in 2014, Adweek did a great infographic about the history of hashtags. Apparently, it all started in 1988 or so with Internet Relay Chat. Hashtags were how users categorized different areas of content. But, once Twitter came about, Chris Messina (presumably someone who remembered the old IRC days), suggested the use of hashtags and the idea took off like wildfire.

 

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Today, hashtags and social media go together like peas and carrots, as Forrest Gump might say. And, while it’s super when a brand can start a hashtag trend, most get started using common hashtags to promote their content. More on that later. Let’s get you started with some of the hashtags that get likes and shares.

Some common social media hashtags are:

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And, of course, things like #catsofinstagram and #dogsofinstagram are super popular on Instagram.

The use of hashtags in social media comes with some surprising metrics that bode well for marketers.

The Impact of Hashtags on Reach

Hashtags, social media and you. They can increase engagement and gain you more likes and followers, but only on certain channels. So, when to use hashtags? When to skip them? Where do you use hashtags to get the best reactions for your effort?

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Twitter

According to Buddy Media, tweets that include hashtags receive twice the engagement as tweets that don’t, Additionally, using one or two hashtags can result in more than 20% more engagement than those with three or more. AND, those tweets with more than two hashtags? They’ll result in a 17% drop in engagement. So, the rule with Twitter is to use hashtags, but use them sparingly.

Facebook

In the past, Facebook didn’t support hashtags. They do now, but it’s probably not a good idea to use them. Of course, individual users hashtag the living heck out of their personal posts, sometimes in a joking way, but brands would fare better to avoid them altogether. They have no effect on reach, at least no positive effect. In fact, they can hurt your engagement, as a study from EdgeRank Checker told us in 2014.

Instagram

IG is a free-for-all realm for hashtags, and it’s pretty clear that social media marketing hashtags can convert to more likes and followers, provided you’re using popular examples that people search for. TrackMaven reported that IG posts with eleven or more hashtags received the best engagement. Check the list above for the best hashtags for likes and followers.

Google+

Google+ employes built-in hashtags. They’re populated based on the content you’re sharing. You can adjust them or add more. One thing that Google+ does that other social networks don’t is that they include searchable hashtags in comments, so if you’re in a social media response mode, you can still gain more followers and connections.

Incorporating Hashtags Into Your Social Media Posts

Knowing when to use hashtags is great, but how do you know which hashtags to use? The best place to start is researching hashtags that people already use. Think about tracking hashtag use of your target audience, your competitors and the thought leaders in your industry. You can do this manually, looking up these users on Twitter, Instagram and Google+, but that can be time consuming. There are also tools you can use that will help you find relevant hashtags.

Twitonomy

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Twitonomy is a Twitter Analytics tool, but it can be great for hashtag research. In the premium version, you can access and export information on hashtags to find out which hashtags are most used and which ones are getting retweeted.

RiteTag

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RiteTag gives you a visual representation of hashtags organized by how effective they might be and how many people use them. That way, you can avoid hashtags that are overused and choose the ones that are performing well on social media.

Hashtagify.me

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This popular tool gives you tons of information on hashtags – and suggests related tags and shows you how popular they are. Along with that data, Hashtagify.me shows you how the suggested hashtag relateds to your original search term, so you don’t get way off track.

Tagboard

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This nifty tool shows you the chosen hashtag performance across many social channel. Along with the usual suspects, it includes data from App.net and Vine. You can see how people on the various social media platforms are using a particular hashtag and determine how to use it for your brand.

Tools are great, sure, but as you do your social media listening (you do that, right? You totally should be doing that), pay close attention to the hashtags your followers and fans are using. They are your touchpoint and your reason for marketing, anyway.

Also pay attention to hashtag trends as they pertain to your industry. If someone else’s promotion can prompt social engagement for your brand, you’re in a good position.

A final word – your hashtags only work if your content is spot-on. Creating content for social networks is an art. You have to have the right combination of visual elements, snappy copy and a great call to action (CTA) to attract likes and shares and to attract new fans and followers. Hashtags are merely a small piece of a bigger social media marketing puzzle, and that is just a piece of your overall marketing strategy.

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