Hashtags are everywhere on social media and widely used as a way to follow a conversation or topic easily and view posts from accounts you may not be following but who are talking about a topic you are currently interested in.  From humble beginnings on IRC and Twitter, they are now an important navigation tool and can provide great opportunities to get your business and brand noticed and extend your reach outside of your current audience.

You can create your own or use hashtags that other people are already including in their posts.  Before you use any hashtag you should search for it and make sure that others are using it in the same context and it is not being used to talk about another unrelated topic.

When combining words, double check that it cannot be interpreted in another way. Capitalize words to eliminate confusion. Examples of hashtags which have suffered from different suggested meanings to what was originally intended include #nowthatcherisdead and #susanalbumparty.

If you are creating your own hashtag for a particular campaign think about how your intended audience and also any un-intended audiences might use and interact with it.  Beware of any risk for your hashtag to become a bashtag like #McDStories and #MyNYPD

Twitter

1 to 2 hashtags per post.

This is where most of us first came across the #hashtag.  If you use a hashtag in your tweet on a public account anyone who searches for that hashtag (or clicks the same tag in another tweet) can find your tweet. Popular hashtags often become ‘trending topics’ when a lot of accounts are using them at the same time.  You can capitalise on this by joining in the conversation during key events and at specific times.

“Tweets with hashtags get two times more engagement than tweets without.” (BuddyMedia)

Instagram

5-10 hashtags per post.

The fact that Instagram is very visually focussed makes navigating the platform and finding relevant posts difficult without using hashtags. They are an important way of getting your account noticed and it is often advised that you use as many as you can. However, this can be dangerous as Instagram are now penalising accounts for overuse of hashtags by hiding them from hashtag search results (this is known as a shadowban).  So be careful how frequently you use the same ones and also look out for and avoid using any banned hashtags.

Facebook

Sparingly or not at all

Several different research sources suggest that the more hashtags you use on Facebook the less likely your post is to be seen and not using them at all seems to give the best results.  Despite this information, the search feature is used extensively on Facebook by people looking for specific topics and if your audience is made up of people who might be used to using hashtags on other platforms then it may be that they can work for you on Facebook too so don’t completely dismiss them.  Try out the odd hashtag in a post or two and see if it works for you or not.

Local Hashtags

As well as sharing locations in posts you can also attract local attention by adding your area as a hashtag to your post e.g. #sheffield #rotherham #leeds #yorkshire.  Watch out for hashtags that might be trending in your area for example when an event is taking place such as the ‘Made’ Festival lots of entrepreneurs will be in the City and watching the hashtag e.g. #made2017.

Some locales also have promotional hashtags, for example, #sheffieldissuper or #rotherhamiswonderful, however, be careful not to overuse these as they can become annoying and put users off if they are constantly hijacked by brands for promotional purposes.

Brand Hashtags

Creating your own unique hashtag around your brand and encouraging your followers to use it to talk about your products or services can be extremely beneficial if done right.  If your brand or company name is too generic or could be interpreted as something else try using your strapline or creating a unique phrase that people can associate with your business or organisation.  For Example #ShareACoke (Coca-Cola), #ThisGirlCan (Sport England) and #LikeAGirl (Always).

Seasonal Hashtags and Significant Dates

Social Media is current and fast moving and audiences are interested in what is going on right now.  Therefore using hashtags related to the present time can be really helpful to extend your reach. You can research what other accounts are talking about and which hashtags are currently popular or trending and you can plan time-sensitive campaigns around specific dates, religious celebrations, awareness days and seasons such as #spring #easter, #NationalVegetarianWeek or #Halloween.

Keywords 

The true reason for using hashtags and the main purpose of clicking them usually is to find a topic or conversations about something specific of interest to the user.  Therefore your keywords are a great place to start. Hashtags can be a single word or a combination of words to make a hashtag phrase. For example, if you are an accountant you may use #Tax in your post or you may want to be more specific and timely and talk about #MakingTaxDigital.

Learn What Works for You.

All businesses are different and we are all trying to reach our own specific niche of idea customers or users online.  Therefore what works for one business might not be the best strategy for another. Start with what you know, do some research to select the right hashtags for you and then test them out.  Monitor your actions to understand what works and what doesn’t and then refine your hashtag strategy from there.