Hashtags are all around us. They’re online, offline, and even the Oxford University Press’ “Children’s Word Of The Year”. Once an overlooked symbol on a mobile phone dial pad, hashtags are now so globally recognised that even individuals who have no idea how to use them know what they are.

It’s hard to believe that the first use of a hashtag socially was back in 2007 by Chris Messina when he used #barcamp as a trial (against Twitter boss’s wishes!) The use of hashtags has since changed and now thousands of companies and the everyday social media user, use hashtags to start up discussions points, competitions, Q&As, support, points of interests and even to find the latest news headlines.

It’s interesting to see how much hashtags have developed from a social search tool into a crucial aspect of social campaigns, allowing users to broadcast their insights and perspectives to audiences actively searching for them.

It is even more interesting to look across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and see how hashtags vary on each platform, especially as it is one area Facebook is known to be weakest in.

This blog will provide valuable advice to help steer your business in the right social direction, making sure you get the most use out of your hashtags – and your campaigns.

The do’s and the don’ts

The top three do’s:

man giving thumbs up

  • Create a unique hashtag: 

Your company’s own hashtag can be used to benefit your business in many ways. It can help you monitor what your target market are saying about you. Your unique hashtag can be used to easily look through and see who’s entered your latest competition. It can even be particularly useful if you are hosting a Q&A session. Unique hashtags can free up a lot of your time, helping you easily find the content you’re looking for. If those aren’t reason enough to help you, here’s another: it’s free! It costs nothing to make a unique hashtag, you just have to make sure no one’s used it before.

  • Use popular hashtags: 

Hashtags are created to easily reach and share content with a wider audience. There is no reason why your company can’t use popular hashtags to share the latest piece of company news. At a very basic level, any company could use the hashtag #ThrowbackThursday to share old photos, or old company updates vs. new ones.

  • Be consistent:

If your social media campaign uses a certain hashtag you should make sure you stick with it. That means the same spellings, variations, and capital letters should all remain the same.

The top three dont’s:

statue-thumbs-down

  • Over-hashtag: 

When managing the social media channels for your business it can be easy to spam, hashtagging everything. Only your keywords and phrases should have hashtags. Think of hashtags as a highlighting tool. If you had a whole paragraph, you wouldn’t highlight everything, you’d just select the words you wanted to remember, the words you wanted to stand out. It’s the same principle with hashtags, and it’s ideal not to use more than a maximum of three hashtags per tweet.

  • Use hashtags with a private account: 

If you are a company or brand on social media, ideally your accounts shouldn’t be private anyway, as it instantly restricts the audience you can reach. The same logic applies to hashtags; if your account is private your hashtags won’t appear in any public searches, making them virtually useless.

  • Don’t promote hashtags just on Twitter: 

Even though hashtags are used differently across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, you should aim to expand your hashtags on all three platforms. If a campaign is running on your social media channels, there should be mention of it on your company website too. By promoting your campaign across the three channels (and company website) you are allowing it to reach a higher audience, which should hopefully result in higher engagement / traffic / sales / promotion etc.

What hashtag tools to use?

Hashtagify.me, RiteTag, Tagboard, Twitalyzer and Trendsmap are all amazing hashtag tools you can use to improve your searches, the tools can help with your social campaigns and give you at-a-glance data of the reach your campaign has to it’s target audience.

Once you have gained data from these social tools, then you need to decide what hashtags you want to use. Think of it as a search tool, what are the keywords associated with your tweet? What would be the words you would categories your business in? If you have some words in your head already, chances are they are your keywords, they are your hashtags.

 

Why use a unique hashtag?

We’ve discussed the advantages of creating unique hashtags. Believe it or not, brands, bloggers and instagrammers are all marking their territory with their own hashtags. This is a really great idea for many reasons:

Brand applications

For the brand or company in question, this allows you to strengthen your online presence. You can use your unique hashtag to easily see what users are saying about your brand, and apply it into your social strategy.

BMW have applied their unique hashtag to their social media strategy perfectly. Creating the hashtag #BMWstories, this easily allows BMW to find content they can use and share on their social media. They can re-tweet and share users’ stories about how much they love their car, and from a customer service perspective they can also address any public issues users may be having.

bmw twitter post

The unique hashtag worked so well for BMW that they turned #BMWstories into a whole campaign, with the added potential that the campaign could expand further into competitions and easily jump on the back of other popular hashtags on Twitter and Instagram to expand the reach even further.  

For the everyday social media user

This works most successfully when groups of friends attend events together, Weddings are a great example. There are hundreds of pins on Pinterest, offering ideas for how you can display your unique hashtag for your wedding.

instagram snaps at a wedding showing unique hashtags

Imagine being able to see all of your guests’ Instagram photos in one place. It’s like creating your own virtual Instagram album. More and more, unique hashtagging is becoming popular with holidayers, travel photos, and festivals. One of the nicest thoughts about personal hashtags are what they are created for: to look back and reminisce.

In my job role, I interact with hashtags every day. My mornings and afternoons are regularly spent monitoring trending hashtags. If I’m especially lucky, I’ll even stumble across relevant videos like this.

Much more than a social tool, hashtagging has become a cultural phenomenon that will only grow as social media becomes more prevalent.

What do your hashtags say about your brand, and what are you doing to improve them?

Find out how Zest can improve your company’s reach with a striking social campaign. Call us today on +44 (0)1865 684999 or contact us online.