Hashtags are important for driving traffic to your social media posts – they increase your visibility with a range of audiences you may be unable to reach otherwise. Now that hashtag is an official word in the Scrabble dictionary (a 14 points I look forward to using during my next heated game), we should take time to focus on how best to use them in your social media strategy.
When to use hashtags
Hashtags originated on Twitter but have spread across multiple social media platforms. However, this doesn’t mean you should use them at the same frequency across the board. Avoid using them on Facebook but keep them coming on Twitter; research shows posts with hashtags on Facebook receive less traffic, but Tweets with hashtags are retweeted more often.
When using content management to share posts across multiple platforms, considering setting up Facebook and Twitter posts separately: one without hashtags and one including them. If you are posting an Instagram photo, which allows you to share your photos across social media outlets, share it initially with the hashtags – hashtag use does nothing to hurt, and is more likely to help, your Instagram traffic – and post to Twitter as well. After it has published, go into your Share Photo option, remove any hashtags in the caption that aren’t brand or campaign specific and post to Facebook. It’s a few extra seconds that will make a difference in your social media presence.
Google+ will actually choose a couple of hashtags for you automatically as you create a post, based on key words in your post. You can decide from there if you want to keep them and if you would like to add more. Hashtags don’t carry the same stigma on Google+ as they do on Facebook.
Which hashtags to use
If you’re trying to reach a large audience, use more basic hashtags – #boating, #marina, #sailing. Regionally, consider using state and city names as hashtags or search Trendsmap for popular hashtags in your region. If they tie into your post use them – don’t use #justinbieber just because it’s trending nearby!
If you’re trying to gain awareness for a campaign or promotion, follow the advice of Dominion Marine Media in our recent social media webinar and use an original hashtag to organize contest submissions and increase awareness. Promote your hashtag through posts and make sure your audience knows to use it. This is one situation where using hashtags on Facebook is incredibly useful
Search your hashtags before you post to check their popularity. Instagram will tell you exactly how many posts are related to that hashtag; for instance, #yamaha is used in 2,000,000+ Instagram photos, but #yamahaboats is only used in 175. The fewer photos posted under a hashtag, the fewer people are searching for it, the fewer people see your content. Conversely, if the only hashtags you use are exceedingly popular (i.e. 100+ million photos), the feed for that hashtag is constantly updating, pushing your photo’s visibility further down within seconds. #Summer is an excellent example of this. If you’re going to use a popular hashtag, make sure you use other hashtags as well to increase the chances someone will see it in a search.
It’s also important to check the hashtags ahead of time to make sure they are reaching the right audiences. Your hashtags may make sense for the marine industry but they could mean something entirely different to the rest of the digital community. I searched Instagram for #bennington when looking for pontoon photos, and the hashtag yielded 14,148 results. Not bad, people certainly post to it. However, when I actually looked at the photos in my search, they were almost entirely made up of rock band Linkin Park’s lead singer Chester Bennington. Probably not the connection you are hoping to make with your photos!
I focus on Instagram so heavily because it’s a medium that can really show off your brand in a quick and engaging way and Instagram posts can be easily shared across other platforms. It is also the second most popular social media platform among 18-to-34 year olds (after Facebook) and continuing to grow. My grandma has Instagram now, initially joining so she could look at photos of her great grandson. Instagram will quickly pick up among older generations just as Facebook and Twitter did before it.
There are no hard-fast rules to how many hashtags you should or shouldn’t use – ultimately it is about trial and error. Test using hashtags in your posts to see how they improve your traffic. Just keep in mind that, as you’re hashtagging away, there is such a thing as taking it too far.