Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

The DOs and DON’Ts of Using Hashtags

The history of hashtagging can be traced back to a web marketer named Chris Messina. In 2007, he pitched his idea about grouping tweets to the founders of Twitter, and although they didn’t see the value in it right away, the idea eventually took off once Messina began to use hashtags in his tweets.

Hashtags are a great way for people to search for posts about a specific topic or event since they help to categorize content in unique ways. When hashtags catch on, they can start movements like the #ALSIceBucketChallenge or #metoo. And while it’s not often that a brand hashtag goes viral and forms the basis of a campaign- as Coca-Cola’s #ShareACoke did – companies don’t need to start a viral trend to benefit from the practice of hashtagging. There are plenty of ways to make hashtags work for your brand.

The Mechanics of Using Hashtags

Follow these suggestions when you first start using hashtags:

  • A hashtag begins with the # symbol, but doesn’t include any spaces, punctuation, or symbols. Just as with email, it makes no difference whether you use uppercase or lowercase letters.
  • Hashtags should be short and memorable so that users will think to search for them again during follow-up social media sessions. Your goal is to persuade people to use them in the future so if they’re too long or obscure, that decreases the chances that people will remember them.
  • Don’t use too many hashtags in one post. When you do that, it appears spammy and can backfire – especially if you want people to remember and reuse your hashtags in the future.
How You Can Use Hashtags to Your Advantage – Or Disadvantage

Use Hashtags to Build Your Brand

Say you want to associate your brand with a particular value or idea. Creating a hashtag that embodies this idea or value can go a long way to reinforce the association between your brand and the hashtag.

However, be especially careful that the hashtagged word is a good representation of your brand. If not, people can use the hashtag against you. This happened with McDonald’s when they used the hashtag #MCDStories to encourage people to weigh in about the chain’s good practices. People did weigh in, and what they had to say was not positive.

Also make sure when using an acronym as a hashtag that it can’t be interpreted with a different meaning. Social media users will take advantage of your carelessness – especially if the different meaning is sexual in nature.

Use Hashtags to Attract People to Your Brand

Of course, you don’t need to invent a hashtag or come up with something unique to draw social media users to your account. On LinkedIn and Instagram, people can “follow” hashtags. That means that every time that hashtag is used, a post that includes the hashtag will show up on the user’s feed. This is a good way to attract those who wouldn’t have ordinarily found you.

Once again, you must ensure that the hashtag represents your brand well. It’s also a good idea not to immediately go for the most popular hashtags, even though you could potentially attract a lot of people this way. The downside of using a hashtag that is too popular is that you’ll likely be lost in the mix. Additionally, if the hashtag is already associated with another brand, that will create confusion and controversy.

Use Hashtags to Increase Engagement

Engagement on social media is equivalent to attracting attention, and that can be a very good thing for a brand. Drawing people into a conversation can lead to likes, shares, and follows.

However, like with the McDonald’s example above, be careful what you ask for. If there’s a chance that people could take this engagement invitation and use it to post negative things about your brand, it’s best not to put in a request for this kind of trouble.

How to Find the Best Hashtags for Your Brand

Finding the best hashtags for your industry or brand will require some research, but there are also some websites that can streamline the process for you.

The hard work at the outset is an analysis to see which hashtags your competitors are using and how well it’s working for them. Which are the hashtags they’re using most often and what does engagement look like when they include those hashtags with their posts? As noted earlier, you shouldn’t steal their hashtags, but seeing what’s effective for your competitors will provide insight into the types of words that can work for you.

When you’re ready to begin investigating potential hashtags, check out these resources:

See Which Hashtags Are Most Popular with Hashtagify.me

On Hashtagify’s homepage, you can begin to track the word of your choice to see its all-time popularity, recent popularity, and the most current trends. The site also lets you see words that are related to the one you searched, which is very helpful if you are looking for a word with the same meaning but don’t want to choose the most popular one for reasons stated above.

While Hashtagify can be a valuable service, it’s not free. There are pricing plans for personal, business, and enterprise use.

Get Hashtag Suggestions with RiteTag

With RiteTag, you can click on any web image (or upload your own photo) to get hashtag suggestions.  You can also type a hashtag and enter a space to get suggestions without an image.

RiteTag will also let you know how effective the hashtag is by using a color-coded system. Green is best, blue is medium-strength, red indicates that you’ll get lost in the crowd if you use the hashtag, and gray means that not too many people are following it.

RiteTag offers a 7-day free trial but requires a subscription – based on your needs – after that.

Other Hashtag Generators

Check out this site for a comprehensive look at the hashtag services currently available. Most are paid, and some do include a free trial. But there is a completely free way to find related keywords. Just click on the magnifying glass on Instagram, and then click on “Tags.” When you type in a word, Instagram will show you a list of hashtags that are related to the one you typed.

Direct Customer Interaction is Best but Hashtags Can Help in the Interim

Right now, your customer interaction is limited, so it helps to find a way to boost your brand and attract attention on social media. Strategic use of hashtags is a no-cost way to attract followers and increase your brand presence until it’s safe to meet up again.

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