Social media can be a great place to connect with your audiences, especially once you have found the best platforms for your business. However, with algorithm updates on certain platforms and the sheer volume of posts on others, it can sometimes be challenging to effectively and consistently reach that audience.
Enter the hashtag. This symbol helps brands increase their reach on social, follow trends and create conversations. With such important roles in social media, hashtags should be used strategically and carefully. Here are five best practices:
1. Consider the platform. It's important to treat platforms as the unique individuals they are, as hashtags function and are accepted differently by users on different platforms. For example, on Twitter, the birthplace of the hashtag, hashtags are a part of most posts from brands. By contrast, on LinkedIn, hashtags are not linked, making them ineffective and rarely used.
2. Quantity. File this under #annoying: social posts that have a seemingly endless list of hashtags tacked on to the end of the post. Research shows that the number of hashtags greatly impacts engagement. Most often, engagement decreases as the number of hashtags increases. One or two hashtags per post is the engagement sweet spot on Twitter and Facebook. On Twitter, using more than two hashtags causes a 17 percent drop in engagement with a post. The notable exception to this "less is more" approach to hashtags is Instagram. Interactions are highest with Instagram posts that have 11 or more hashtags.
3. Limit the length. #longhashtagsarehardtoreadandconfusing. Did you catch that the first time you read it? If not, you're not alone. While you want to add some detail to your hashtags to make them more targeted – at ClickDimensions, we often use #emailmarketing instead of simply #marketing or #MSDynCRM rather than #CRM, for example – but overly long hashtags are hard to read and confusing. While individuals might use long hashtags on their personal accounts to add humor to posts, brands are better off steering clear in order to meet their business objectives on social.
4. Use unique hashtags with care. The internet is filled with stories of hashtag fails from brands of all sizes. To avoid being the subject of the next tragic hashtag tale, use custom hashtags carefully. Be sure to search for your potential hashtag on social platforms or a hashtag search engine like HashAtIt.com to see if it's being used already and, if so, how. Also, to increase engagement, make sure that the hashtag is easy to remember and easy to spell.
5. Quality control. Checking and re-checking your work is important in all marketing efforts, including using hashtags in your social posts. Be sure that everything is spelled correctly, and that there are no spaces within the hashtag. When using multiple words in a hashtag, use capitalization to eliminate confusion and potentially embarrassing alternative interpretations. It's also always a good idea to run hashtag ideas by multiple other people, in case they catch a meaning that you might not.