Hashtags and trends go hand in hand. In fact, the use of tags was already popular before platforms like Twitter and Instagram incorporated their use. It started in 2007, with Chris Messina, a former Google developer, Nate Ritter, a web developer, and #sandiegoonfire.
By 2009, these tags became so widespread on Twitter that the social platform decided to adopt it. When Instagram came around in 2010, the use of hashtags exploded. Instead of using two or three, the platform encouraged users to include several tags per post.
It wasn’t long before businesses and brands realized the advertising power of hashtags, eventually giving birth to the “influencer” and social media marketing. Today, these tags are an essential component of any marketer’s toolkit. They group topics and interests, indicate trends, and start conversations across corporate, consumer, cultural, and continental boundaries.
Whether you’re advertising your business on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or any social media platform, hashtags can help you increase your following and reach a wider audience. However, a few tips and tricks, or nightmarish pitfalls, can make or break a marketing strategy.
How to Use Hashtags
Whether you want to create brand awareness, increase your following, or generate leads via social media, hashtags can help. With the right tag strategy, you can reach a wide audience with relevant content. However, using them incorrectly can waste time, cost you money, and even cause significant embarrassment.
Navigating the world of tags can be tricky. Here are a few ideas and tips to get you started on the right track.
Create Branded Hashtags
Branded hashtags are a great way to make posts and tweets from your brand easily findable and recognizable. They can also carry your message far and wide. Good examples would be the #ALSIceBucketChallenge from the ALS Association and Always’ #LikeAGirl viral tag.
Keep in mind that you don’t want to reinvent the wheel. If you have a branded hashtag, stick to it. You may also include others when you have a specific campaign, like Coca-Cola’s #ShareACoke, or Oreo’s creative #OreoHorrorStories. However, changing tags too often will negatively impact your brand image and recognizability.
Pro tip: Choose your branded hashtags extremely carefully. What might seem like a good idea on the drawing board can result in an advertising disaster. For example, #McDStories quickly turned into a brand bashing nightmare. Similarly, Burger King’s #WTFF, or “What the French Fry,” was mocked far and wide for using the existing acronym for “What the f**king f**k.”
Do your research.
Using Trending Tags
Social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok will often indicate which hashtags are popular at a specific time. If you keep an eye on these recommendations, you might be lucky enough to spot tags you can use for your business.
Taking advantage of trending hashtags is a great way to give your brand a quick boost. Keep in mind that you’ll have to create a post that stands out, or you might get lost in the influx of all the others. That said, make sure you get noticed for the right reasons.
Pro tip: Use trending hashtags only if you know what they’re about and if they apply to your brand or audience. Using a tag when you don’t understand it’s meaning can have extremely embarrassing results.
One such faux pas was made by Entenmann’s when the company jumped on the popular #notguilty tag, encouraging folks to enjoy their low-calorie treats. Unfortunately for them, the hashtag was trending due to Casey Anthony being declared “not guilty” for the death of her 2-year old daughter.
Clothing brand Kenneth Cole made a similar mistake. It was quick to promote its collection by using #Cairo. Unfortunately, the insensitive reference to the Egyptian revolution and riots didn’t go over well with their audience.
Understand a hashtag before using it.
Choose for Your Niche
Not all tags may apply to your posts, business, or profile. If you’re running a craft coffee brewery, you might showcase your products with the tag #coffeelovers, rather than using the similarly popular but irrelevant #teapeople. According to Facetune, the same rule goes for most other photos you’ll be sharing, and you can read the article here.
Pro tip: Some popular hashtags can be used across industries. For example, there’s nothing wrong with sharing a snap of the office going out for a team breakfast using the hashtag #morningmotivation.
Alternatively, share a pic of your latest project with #picoftheday, or praise a staff member using #closeup. If used in conjunction with other tags, you can capitalize on a popular hashtag while still posting relevant content.
Be creative, but don’t wander too far outside of your niche.
Be Consistent and Adaptable
Consistency and adaptability are essential elements of a social media hashtag strategy. However, it’s important to know when to be one or the other. For example, you may have a branded tag that you use frequently. If your audience is already familiar with it, changing to something else or excluding it from your posts may be jarring.
Pro tip: It’s critical to know when to include a new hashtag and leave an old one behind or pursue an upcoming trend rather than become outdated. While reusing certain niche and branded tags are good practice, using outdated ones will cost you views and conversions.
Choose the hashtags you’ll constantly be using and for which you want your brand to be known. For all other tags, analyze and re-evaluate upcoming and fading trends.
Always stay relevant.
Now that you’re armed with a deeper understanding of choosing and using hashtags, it’s time to start your marketing.
Take the time to develop a creative and relevant branded hashtag but remember to do your research first. You want to avoid embarrassment using an existing acronym or a poorly chosen word order – think #susanalbumparty and cringe. Similarly, don’t be afraid to use trending tags, but ensure that you know their meaning before jumping on the bandwagon.
Choose hashtags that fit your niche and your photos or content, especially if you’re trying to reach a specific audience. Be consistent but adapt to changing trends to stay relevant. Finally, remember that one size doesn’t fit all, and what works for other brands might not work for you.
Hashtags can drive traffic to your profile and your business. Just make sure you use them correctly.