How To Use Hashtags For Your Business
You may have noticed those weird words at the end of tweets with that strange symbol, #, but do you actually know what hashtags are used for and the power they have for growing your business?
First up, what is a hashtag?
A hashtag is a clickable link in your tweet, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr & Instagram post that help people find topics that they’re interested in. When you click a hashtag on any of these Social Media platforms, you will be directed to a stream of content around that topic. For instance, when we tweet about our blogs relating to web design, we would use the hashtag #webdesign. Hashtags widespread use originally began with Twitter but has since been implemented on many social media platforms. Back in 2007, Chris Messina proposed to Twitter execs that they should group tweets with the pound side (#) and they did originally reject the idea. However, San Diego locals used their own hashtag, #SanDiegoFire, to keep others updated about the local forest fires. Since then, users and brands alike use hashtags for world events, music and hobbies. It’s one of the reasons I believe Twitter grew so much. it was easy for people to join in other conversations. If a hashtag becomes popular and widely used in a certain timeframe, it may start trending and be listed under topics for users. Hashtag became such a popular word, it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2010!
How do you create hashtags? You simply just create a word, abbreviation or phrase that is memorable to do with your business. For instance, #SmallBusiness #SaaS (Software As A Service). You cannot use punctuation in your hashtags (sorry Grammar Nazis!) and no spaces either. To make your hashtag legible, I recommend capitalising each work like I did above – don’t worry, capitals don’t affect the hashtag. Numbers are okay to use, and are very helpful for yearly events ie #SXSW2015 and #SXSW2016. By doing this you can create your own hashtag, but if you’re just starting out I would recommend joining others conversations first – unless you’re using it at an event.
How do I find existing hashtags?
The most simple way to find hashtags that are popular right now is by looking at trending topics on the Twitter left-hand side column and Facebook has them on the right-hand side bar. Twitter is a great tool for finding relevant hashtags as they are based n who you are following and your location, the downside to it is there are only 10 at a time.
Trendsmap is a great tool for seeing what people are tweeting about by location. It’s fascinating to see what people are talking about across the world and also enables you to target by location.
RiteTag has a cool browser extension that tells you how popular each hashtag you want to use is. It tells you average views per hour, retweets, how many tweets with links and how many with images. It is also colour coded as to what topics are currently popular. It’s also available online for you to search for hashtags to see how popular they are.
Twitonomy allows you to enter an influencers Twitter handle and search for their most used hashtags. If you are new to Social Media Marketing, it’s a fantastic way to get the ball rolling and you can use someone else’s success to your benefit.
Haghtagify is great for finding related hashtags if you already have a rough idea on which ones to use. It creates a mind map and you can keep clicking on each hashtag to find even more. (See below)
I would recommend creating your own mindmap (I prefer to do so on paper) of all hashtags that are relevant to your business, and then you can begin experimenting. Finding the right hashtags is about trial and error, sometimes there can be huge spikes in engagement and other times there will be nothing. See what works for your business and make sure you post at a time when your audience is online. For more advice on Twitter for Business, head over here.
How do I use hashtags?
Once you have your list your relevant hashtags that you need to trial out, you must use them correctly. You can’t put up a tweet like “Just having my morning coffee. #webdesign #design” as the tweet isn’t relevant to the hashtags. You must always use hashtags that are relevant to that specific tweet, not just your business. If you’re creating your own hashtag for your industry, you shouldn’t include your brand name but it should be specific and show what your company stands for. They are also great for finding niche topics and those who are interested in them.
Across every social network, hashtags vary. Before using them, see how others are using them and read the specific social networks hashtag guide. Here are Facebooks, Twitters and Instagrams guidelines.
When you have found a hashtag that is relevant to your business, engage with the active users who are providing valuable content and even reach out to them. Start a conversation. Twitter was built to pretty much be a worldwide conversation and it’s an untapped audience. If you enjoy what these people are posting, you should also follow them and engage with their content. Many Twitter users will do the same, it’s the art of reciprocation.
- Create content around the hashtags of your choice. If your business is a restaurant, showcase pictures of your food with local town/city hashtags as hashtags from your list. Not only will it get more eyeballs, you can get people to visit your website and learn more about your business.
- Don’t fill each tweet with hashtags, and don’t #hashtag every #other word as it looks spammy and is hard to read. Try to use 2-3 per most on Twitter, Facebook & Google+, others like Tumblr and Instagram I usually use 5-10.
- Don’t use the same hashtag twice, it’s pointless and looks unprofessional.
- If you’re joining a conversation, ie on #JuniorDoctorsStrike, make sure you provide value or insight. Don’t just write “#JuniorDoctorsStrike is bad/good” but include your thoughts on the subject.
- Although hashtags have not quite taken off on Facebook, it may be worth experimenting as they do seem to work for some businesses. Trial and error.
- Don’t piggy back off other trends. Share something relevant to do with the trend.
- Use popular keywords to help you think of basic hashtags, then check their popularity with the tools above.
- Monitor the hashtag feeds and engage with frequent users. This helps you build connections with potential clients and gives you curated content.
By using hashtags, you will have a much wider reach on Social Media. Many potential customers will get their first site of your brand via a hashtag, so make sure you always most relevant content for a specific hashtag.