Do you use hashtags on social media, but wonder whether you’re doing it properly? Perhaps you avoid them because you don’t understand how they work? Maybe you don’t use hashtags because you can’t see the point of them. This article briefly explains the benefits of hashtags for smaller businesses, and shares some tips on using them effectively as part of your marketing strategy.
What is a hashtag?
When you add a hashtag (#) to a word (or cluster of words) in a social media post, the platform indexes it to make it searchable. When someone searches for that particular word or phrase, your post will be included in the results.
The benefits of using hashtags
It may take a small investment of time to get to grips with some basic guidelines (see section below), but once you’ve done this there are several benefits to be gained from using hashtags in your social media posts:
> They make your content more searchable
Consider hashtags as another way of people finding you. They have become integral to the way that many people use social media to search for content, so if you don’t enable this you could be missing out.
> They help to promote your brand
If you integrate hashtags into your marketing strategy, you can use them in conjunction with other digital marketing activity to promote your brand (eg by namechecking products/straplines/campaigns).
> They help to extend your reach
Used properly, hashtags can give you access to a wider audience, by connecting you to a network of people with relevant interests who are likely to be more receptive to your message.
Some tips on using hashtags
There are no hard and fast rules for using hashtags, but here are some general guidelines to help you get started:
1. Don’t overdo it
Use hashtags sparingly, as too many in a single post can be really offputting (although there is some variation between platforms here, eg people expect more hashtags on Instagram and fewer on Facebook, so do some research).
2. Make them easy to read
In general it’s helpful to put hashtags at the end of a post rather than in the middle of it, although one or two short hashtags within a sentence are OK and may flow better. Make longer hashtags easier to read by using caps (ie ThisIsEasierToRead).
3. Optimise your hashtags
As with all of your content marketing and SEO activity, hashtags should be as relevant, specific, descriptive and targeted as possible. Don’t always use the same hashtags – mix it up a bit. Include your location if this is important.
4. Tap into other people’s hashtags
Research and adopt relevant hashtags used by others, eg for specific events or campaigns that you’re involved in, local business networks (if none exist you could start one) and chats. Chat hashtags facilitate discussions on a particular subject, usually at a specific, regular time, and offer an opportunity for you to demonstrate your expertise to (and share information with) a receptive audience.
Jenny Brindley is a freelance writer and editor who specialises in working with SMEs to enhance their web presence. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details.