First of all, a little information on the background of the hashtag.
Up until it’s first use on Twitter in 2007, the symbol originally known as the pound or number sign was considered a symbol for a numerical value and was most commonly seen on the touchpad of your telephone. Since then, the hashtag was introduced as a way of organizing conversations/posts based on topic and made them more searchable and attainable. Use of hashtags worked so well that Twitter posts with at least one hashtag obtained double the amount of engagement than those without and they became an official staple in the Twitterverse within the following 2 years. The rest of social media followed soon after.
In social media marketing, it is important to find the best way to get your product/message not only to your viewers but outside of your circle of followers to extend your realm of influence across all platforms. Learning the proper use of hashtags is an essential tool to do so.
Instagram is one of the bigger platforms for hashtag use for a couple of reasons. Contrary to Twitter’s limit of 240 characters, Instagram allows for much wordier posts, allowing room for the use of as many hashtags as your heart desires(within reason). Instagram also utilizes hashtags as a tool to group images into relevant groups, allowing users to search for related content and connect with like-minded posters. Users can now follow a specific hashtag and posts from accounts they do not necessarily follow will show up on their newsfeed. This makes for a great opportunity to produce your own branded hashtags to develop a following.
To interact with a hashtag, users can either click a hashtag which has been used in a post they are viewing, or they can search it in the search bar which will also provide a drop-down menu of other popular tags. This allows for what I call a “rabbit hole” effect, where a user can start at one hashtagged topic and end up somewhere completely different. This allows you to use a wide range of tags, the key being that you make sure you are using the most relevant of each.
There is little need to repeat yourself in your tags. For example, in 368 Durham posts, use of both the tags #website and #websitedesign are not needed, because once the user searches “#website”, #website will come up in the drop-down first and they will see it is a more popular hashtag. The user would then most likely choose it instead in hopes of finding more relevant content.
In terms of quantity, Instagram users are extremely tolerant when it comes to hashtag use. We find the optimal amount of tags to be around 9 to 11. Any less, you risk invisibility and any more, you may find that your tags could go unseen in the post and ultimately won’t be interacted with.
Unlike Instagram, Facebook is not a hashtag heavy platform. Many social media marketers will generally cross-post the same content between their Instagram and Facebook accounts under the assumption that they operate in the same way, and this is a mistake.
Facebook has not embraced the forum-building opportunity of hashtags like Instagram has and instead focuses on the interaction of immediate Friend and Followers within the community. While the search option for hashtags is still available within the platform, it is not commonly used and therefore not a useful tool for businesses.
Furthermore, studies have shown that posts with no hashtags at all can perform better than those with. Now, we are not saying to avoid them entirely –because a well placed hashtag can still open you up to opportunity for engagement — just be wise about which ones you use and don’t overdo it.
Experimentation is Key
A hashtag can be an excellent tool for extending your online image but you can’t just write related words after a # sign will-nilly and expect the best result. Do your research. Find the most popular tags on your desired platform, click on posts that are related to your content and see what tags they are using, follow related hashtags for inspiration.
Regardless of the platform, you know your business and your followers better than anyone else.
A strong social media presence doesn’t happen overnight, it takes a great deal of experimentation to find the right balance. Focus on what type of message you want to convey, have consistent themes in your content and keep your demographic in mind.