Are You Using Hashtags For Business?

Hashtag Love ’em or hate ’em, it’s pretty clear hashtags are going to be around for awhile.

What used to be, and still is, the pound sign (#), is now a symbol that is used on social media platforms to make it easier for users to find and contribute to messages relating to particular themes and also find other users who show similar interests.

Twitter first proposed the use of hashtags in August 2007, and in July 2009 it started automatically linking tweets that were preceded by hashtag. Instagram added hashtag support in January 2011, and that same month Audi ran the first Super Bowl commercial with a hashtag. By October 2011, Google joined the bandwagon by automatically linking posts with similar hashtags. Flickr added their support for hashtags on its iOS app in March 2013 and by June of the same year, Facebook also started supporting hashtags.

Now hashtags are everywhere – on billboards, product packs, text messages, songs, videos, T-shirts … even on seats of pants.

But how do you use hashtags for business?

  • Use them to get people talking about your brand. Occasionally define your brand with a hashtag (it could be your business name. logan or a unique short phrase) and encourage people to talk about and share it.
  • Use hashtags to engage with your audience and find new customers. 43{f6f7d31e87099d0d6b7ac3a4bf513410b4bc7fc64f9a286f558d07e02807de3e} of participants to a survey think hashtags are useful, and 34{f6f7d31e87099d0d6b7ac3a4bf513410b4bc7fc64f9a286f558d07e02807de3e} of them say that they use hashtags to search for, and follow, brands of interest.
  • Create content that is relevant to popular hashtags and use them in your posts to get noticed.
  • Wrap your promotions and advertisements around hashtags to get more people talking about them. Ensure it is unique, easy to remember and that it makes sense within your messages. 51{f6f7d31e87099d0d6b7ac3a4bf513410b4bc7fc64f9a286f558d07e02807de3e} participants to a survey say they would share hashtags more often if advertisers awarded discounts for sharing.
  • Use hashtags to organize your content. For instance, if your business provides social media tutorials, you could tag al of the posts related to these tutorials (that you produce) with #SMtutorials. They will then be categorized together for easy access by you or your audience.

What are the Do’s and Dont’s of using hashtags?

  • Do not use spaces. Hashtags must be one continuous string, for example #BreakfastRecipes
  • Do not make them too long. #OctoberSale or #TireSale is better than #BigOctoberBlowOutTireSale
  • Make them relevant and unique. If you are creating a hashtag for your business or a promotion, make sure it isn’t being used for something else totally different.
  • Use them sparingly. With the exception of Instagram, where more hashtags are better, limit you’re hashtag usage to 2 or 3. See more about this below.
  • Compose your hashtag carefully. Beware of hashtag “fails”, such as Blackberry’s embarrassing #RIMjobs hashtag, or Susan Boyle’s unfortunate use of #susanalbumparty, which was intended to read as “susan album party”.
  • Capitalize Multiple Words. Although this is not a hashtag requirement, I have always found that hashtags that consist of more than one word can benefit from capitalization. #fruitsandveggies can be hard to read. On the other hand, #FruitsAndVeggies is easy to read.
  • Don’t limit hashtags to Twitter and Instagram. While these have become most known for hashtag use, other social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc) allow hashtags usage in their posts.

How many hashtags should you use?

Every social network behaves differently to hashtags. Here are some general rules to follow for the most popular networks.

Twitter – Use 1 to 2 hashtags. Tweets that use more than 2 hashtags get a 17{f6f7d31e87099d0d6b7ac3a4bf513410b4bc7fc64f9a286f558d07e02807de3e} drop-off in engagement.
Instagram – Instagram is the one network that benefits from the use of many hashtags. Engagement actually increases when at least 11 hashtags are used.
Facebook – Facebook posts don’t benefit as much form using hashtags. Limit their use to 1 or 2.

Social media is a crowded and noisy place. Whether you’re a brand or an individual, add hashtags to your messages to appeal to a particular audience and make your engagements more effective.

Are you using hashtags in your online marketing? What have you found works the best for you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Mark Pridham

Mark Pridham is the owner of The Pridham Group, a digital agency based in Saint John, New Brunswick. A life long resident of Saint John, Mark is passionate about design, entrepreneurship, and supporting and promoting local businesses.

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