In the first part of this article, we looked at the evolution of hashtags, following their journey from humble beginnings on Twitter in 2007, to being used on nearly all major social media platforms today. In part two, we’ve put together a few strategies to make your hashtags work.

1. Have Specific goals

Your social media goals must align with your overall communications efforts. What are you looking to accomplish from this campaign? Your goals should be as clear and measurable as possible. Do you want to increase website visits? Get a certain number of people to sign up for an event? Increase social engagement with customers? Each of these examples is clear and measurable.

Having set goals will help to decide your messaging, choice of social media channels, and your hashtag usage.

2) Keep it simple:

A hashtag that clearly relates back to your brand or product is what is most likely to work. #Justdoit and #shareacoke are good examples of this; they simply reinforce what the audience already know about the brand.

3) Scan the landscape

There are almost always trending hashtags and hot topics on social media. When of these trends relates back to your brand or business, there’s an opportunity to leverage that hashtag to drive views and engagements on your pages. Constantly scan the landscape and be ready to get creative to leverage these trends.

4) Do your research

It is not enough to just tie a hashtag to an organization or initiative. It’s necessary to find out how your chosen hashtags are performing in the social space. Do not assume your chosen word or phrase is unique and isn’t already being used. There are hashtag research tools like Trendsmap that can help your research. These tools, and a quick manual search, will help you find out if a hashtag exists, is trending, or has trended. This will help you avoid using a hashtag that is overused, or negative.

5) Be unique

As a follow up to number four, when choosing a hashtag that is specific to your brand or business, be unique. As we said in part one, hashtags are basically the social media version of search engine optimization (SEO), you don’t want to use a hashtag that leads users to thousands of other posts. Customize something that is specific to you and can serve as a content hub for both your own posts, and posts involving your brand which your consumers are encouraged to create on their own.

6) Know your platforms

Across most platforms, hashtags increase engagement but they do work differently on different platforms. Research shows that tweets with hashtags have twice the engagement. But while one or two hashtags on Twitter works well, increasing to three actually decreases interest. On Instagram, however, you can increase the number of hashtags to increase engagement, but using too many hashtags (10+) actually works against you for Instagram’s algorithm.

Also, there is a long list of shadowbanned hashtags. Meaning that using these hashtags means your post will go up but Instagram will ‘hide’ the post from the vast majority of users. A good way to check this is to Google, “shadowbanned Instagram hashtags”, or post something using a certain hashtag, then ask a few Instagram users who don’t follow you to search that hashtag. If they don’t see your post, you’ve likely been shadowbanned. Some Facebook experts claim that posts on their platform, perform best with no hashtags at all.

These are guidelines, there are certain flexibilities depending on the nature of the campaign. It’s best to dig into each site and see what could work best for you.

7) Measure results

It is not enough to have a great campaign, you must measure and analyze the results of your campaign’s hashtag strategy. The amazing thing about social media is that when used and monitored well, users are armed with data which speaks to how their consumers view and engage them. This reporting is extremely useful, simplifying the process of understanding what does and doesn’t work and why. Metrics like views, engagement, sentiment and potential reach are all important to measure. Tools like Hashtagify and Talkwalker are very useful in driving this.

Depending on the message you wish to communicate, hashtags can be of great benefit to your campaign. A memorable, positive, actionable and inspiring hashtag can boost the reach and effectiveness of any campaign. Interestingly, most of the hashtags that have gained the most traction on social media do not include brand names and were not overly promotional.

Do you have any questions or comments on the use of Hashtags?  Please drop a comment in the section below, or tag us on social media! #QuadrantMSL