by Ivonne Vega
By now the use of the “#” symbol is as ubiquitous as the flurry of store signage along the freeway calling our attention on where to spend our money. Depending on the user, the hashtag can reach beyond its original purpose of pooling together like images and content to now dictating the current trending topics, or in a more flippant instance provide a sarcastic/funny call out in a tweet or post. Hashtags are now akin to a cursor directing us where to spend our attention as we browse online. They signal out what will be on everyone’s lips around the water cooler. How does the #hashtag trend relate to a company doing marketing for their brand? Well, “marketing,” as Seth Godin said “is a contest for people’s attention.”
No other social media forum can attest to this better than Twitter. Since 2009, Twitter has adopted to placing hyper linked hashtags in front of topics and filtrating the most popular ones to its homepage. They devised a way to find out where everyone’s attention was focused on. Now users of Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are also taking penchant to them and conversations online are centering on these popular topics. This is where your company can come in to develop, track and engage the hashtags in that social space to capture the attention of your target audience.
However, just like driving, the use of hashtags must be used with precaution and measure to maximize a positive viral effect and minimize disastrous results. Think of a drivers manual you absolutely must crack open before you can even put the key in the ignition as we look at some of the best practices for the uses of hashtags.
10 Do’s and Don’ts of Hashtags in Your Social Media Strategy
1. Don’t Forget The Hashtags
The first rule of hashtags is to add them. To everything. You probably already know that Twitter, Facebook and Google+ all support hashtags but did you know Instagram, Flickr, YouTube, Tumblr and even Kickstarter, among others, also support hashtags? Add your hashtag to every post, without exception, or you’re missing an opportunity to generate buzz and grow your audience.
2. Strategize Your Hashtags
Hashtags have become a part of our daily vocabulary, so much so that you’ll find hashtags used in everything from TV commercials to everyday conversations friends are having in person without even being on the computer. What you typically find on social media sites are people who just want to add their opinion or a witty remark using hashtags or, worse, a company that is missing out on an opportunity because it chose random hashtags that have no strategy behind them. You need a hashtag that’s more significant than #NotCoolMan, unless you also own an air conditioning repair service.
3. Use Short Hashtags
How often have you seen #HashtagsThatAreSoLongTheyShouldBeBanned? Use short hashtags that are easy to read and actually have a chance of being retweeted. The longer your hashtags, the harder they are to read and the more real estate they take up in your post’s character limits. You’re not trying to be funny just to get a quick laugh, you want to use a hashtag that will be seen, is short enough to make retweeting easy and could end up trending.
4. Don’t Use the Same Hashtags
If you use the same hashtags over and over again, you’re not going to gain as much traction as you would if you varied up your hashtags. It’s easy for a media company to slap #news at the end of a post. That hashtag will get lost in a timeline full of #news hashtags but it also dilutes the power of hashtags by not capitalizing on what the post is truly covering.
5. Don’t Use More Than Two Hashtags Per Post
Statistics show that posts with more than two hashtags perform worse than those with only one or two. As this infographic shows , tweets with one or two hashtags have 21% higher engagement than those posts that are loaded with hashtags.
6. Break Out Your Hashtags on the Weekends
Surveys show hashtags are hot on the weekends, with engagement rates for brands being 17% higher on Saturdays and Sundays. However, most companies are missing out because they take the weekends off. If you can’t have someone manning your social media accounts on the weekends, use a scheduler like TweetDeck or HootSuite to plan your weekend posts with hashtags ahead of time.
7. Take Advantage of Trending Hashtags
You know #AmericanIdol is going to be a trending hashtag on the nights the show airs. Take advantage of the trending hashtags. If your website has an interview with one of the contestants on your YouTube channel, promote it and tag that update with #AmericanIdol. Keep an eye on what is trending now to see if you can get your content in front of the millions of eyes watching for that hashtag too.
8. Interact with Other Users Using Hashtags
Want to expose your social media accounts to potential followers and fans? Join the conversation. Interact with other users using your hashtags and dive right in when you can contribute to a trending hashtag. Social media isn’t a one-sided platform. You will develop a more loyal, long-lasting following if you interact with your audience.
9. Ask for Retweets not RTs
You want your followers to retweet you so your hashtag gets passed around. Just ask … but do it properly. Stats show asking for retweets by spelling out the word “retweet” pull in retweets that are 23 times higher than the average. And posts that ask for an RT only perform 10 times higher.
10. Track Your Hashtags
You spent a lot of time coming up with the right hashtags so how do you know if your strategy is working or if you need to tweak it? Track your hashtags to see their peaks and plummets. This will help you see what types of hashtags are working for you and which ones should be #retired.
As some brands can attest to, jumping in too quickly on a trending hashtag without checking out what it’s referencing to can land you in some hot water. Using a hashtag representing say, a divisive political debacle or pressing social cause, to plug your brand can adversely create bad publicity for you whether it’s done knowingly or unknowingly. The kind of bad publicity where you have to continuously apologize to everyone, other media outlets pick up on your error and virally spread it, and you write a note on your desk in big, fat, red letters saying “#AlwaysCheckYourHashtags.” So, do a little research and map out where your tentative hashtag is coming from and use your sound judgment if it can get you to where you want to go to: at the forefront of your audience’s attention.