Five top tips for using hashtags (to bring your brand the *right* attention)

We've all seen it - those #posts which are #sofull of #hashtags that we #justcanteven #read what they're #saying… is that really the best way to get your site attention?

Well, like most things, it depends. It depends what platform, what audience you are trying to reach, and what hashtags you're using.

So how do you know what hashtags to use when, or how many?

Here are my top tips.

1) Know how many hashtags to use per platform

It sounds obvious, but so many people miss the mark on this one. On twitter, for example, you don't really want more than three hashtags per post, otherwise it looks messy. That means you need to choose really wisely.

Instagram on the other hand will allow you to use up to 30 hashtags, and they are crucial to allowing your posts to be found. I usually post most of them in a comment immediately after I have posted the photograph to keep the caption neat and tidy.

On Facebook and LinkedIn I would recommend using between three and five hashtags, specifically to join conversations. Less is often more, and although they can help your content to be found, too many will look spammy and unprofessional. 

2) Do your research

 Which hashtags are your competitors using? Look at competitors who are performing well on social media and see what hashtags they are using. Then look at competitors who are performing poorly and do the same. Although their performance won't be completely dictated by their use of hashtags, it will have an impact. Whatever you are trying to achieve in marketing, competitor research is always an excellent place to start.

3) Use hashtags with between 2k and 250k uses

There is so much noise out there. If you use popular hashtags with millions and millions of posts, you are likely to get lost in the fast-moving river of content. Rather try and find ones which still get traffic but are smaller, giving your post more longevity.

On Instagram you have more space to play with hashtags. There I would try and get a whole range of hashtag sizes, including some with less than 10k uses and others nearer 100k-200k. That way you will be covering all your bases.

4) Make hashtags really specific

 You want the right people to find you. So make sure you choose hashtags which are relevant and specific enough that people will expect to find your content when they search with them. For example, #digitalmarketing is more specific than #marketing, but you can break it down even further into #emailmarketing #socialmediamarketing #payperclick etc.

 If I produce a social media post with some top tips for email marketing, those who find it through the hashtag #emailmarketing are more likely to be satisfied with the content than those who simply searched #toptips, which could be about anything at all. Therefore they are more likely to engage and potentially convert into a paying customer. They are also more likely to be the kind of customer that I am looking for, so it’s a win-win.

5) Use your own hashtags to create community around your brand

This is where it gets fun. By creating and using a unique hashtag for your brand, you can increase brand awareness, help others to find you, and engage your following. User Generated Content which your followers create in response to your hashtag will reach their networks which you may never have touched otherwise, and brings an authenticity to your marketing. Plus your followers will love it when you share their content on your feed!

For example Nest, selling home security camera systems, counteracted the feeling of discomfort which people often feel about their product with a humorous hashtag campaign, #CaughtOnDropCam. They encouraged their users to share funny videos of things caught on camera, which humanised their brand, cemented relationships with existing customers, and produced plenty of User Generated Content to share from their own channel.

So there you have it, five ways to use hashtags to build you brand in an effective, non-spammy way. You're welcome.

Ruth Smith