Lots of my clients admit that they don’t understand hashtags. These are small business owners who know the value of social media but aren’t sure how to use platforms like Instagram or Twitter. Many of them are just getting used to Facebook! If this is you, or if you’ve just never understood this whole hashtag thing, here it is in layman’s terms. #hashtagsfordummies #kiddingbutnotkidding
What is the point of hashtags?
When someone uses a hashtag in front of a word or a phrase, that phrase is categorized. You’ll notice on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram you can click on a word or phrase that has a hashtag in front of it and you’ll see a list of all the posts, people and photos that use the same hashtag. This is an awesome way to get your social media posts noticed. Why? Let’s pretend you’re a salon owner. Most people around the world aren’t on Instagram searching for “Sally’s Salon, Lancaster PA” (totally made that up), but people are on Instagram searching for “Modern Salon” or “Highlights” or “Blowout” etc. When you upload a photo of a great hair cut and style and you add those hashtags after your caption, your photo will now show up when people search those words or phrases! The same is true for Facebook and Twitter but hashtags are used in different amounts on each platform (I’ll get to that).
So let’s recap… Hashtags have a point because they help to categorize your posts, videos and photos by relevant topics, events and phrases. When your posts get categorized they get noticed!
When should I use hashtags?
You can use hashtags within a sentence if the wording is appropriate, or in a cluster at the end of a caption.
Example 1. Tune in tonight for #ViralChat at 9pm.
Example 2. Wow! Things are finally organized around the office. #organization #beforeandafter #springcleaning
The major social platforms for hashtags are Instagram and Twitter. You can also use hashtags on Facebook, but because Facebook uses a different algorithm altogether so hashtags are less relevant. If you’re posting about a big event or a trending topic on Facebook, use a hashtag, but don’t worry about using hashtags each time you post like you should for IG and Twitter.
If you are watching a popular show on TV or a live event like the GOP Debate, using a hashtag is a great way to have your opinion heard by others. It may even lead to a conversation or a networking opportunity. Twitter chats are another awesome way to make connections and most chats will have their own hashtag, for example Post Planner’s “Viral Chat” uses #viralchat. If someone searches for “ViralChat” they’ll be able to see all of the questions and answers that have been posted with the chat’s hashtag.
How many hashtags should I use?
I’ve done a lot of reading about this and with trial and error I’ve found that for Instagram 11 is the magic number. Photos with 11 or more hashtags receive the most engagement. It’s also important to pay attention to what time of day you’re posting and how long your captions are. You will find that your audience is more active sometimes vs others.
For Twitter I recommend sticking to 1-4 hashtags. You only have 140 characters to work with so it’s important to keep tweets short and sweet. If you can keep your tweets to 100-120 characters others can quote your tweet and still have space to add a comment!
Hashtags aren’t as important on Facebook so I recommend only using them when you’re talking about a major brand, event or have perfect use for a hashtag phrase. For example, “Is anyone else excited for the women’s all around competition? #Rio2016.”
Now that you know why, when and how to use hashtags, go tweet, post and plan away! And remember, social media is a lot of trial and error – you’ll find what works best for your brand or business!