So more or less, we all know what hashtags are. If you don't; basically they're little tags for your content on social media that categorises and bookmarks your content so your audience can easily find it and content similar to it.
On Instagram, you get 30 hashtags per post. Some people say not to use more than 10, but I'm not one of them. Hashtags can be incredibly helpful for getting your photos to a wider audience, so use at least 10 - I usually do around 25 per post.
On Twitter, hashtags are a bit different. In my opinion, unless you’re using a trending hashtag or a hashtag specific to a Twitter chat, I don’t really see them as necessary. Hashtagging #coffee on Twitter won’t have the same effect as it will on Instagram - the search function on Twitter is so sophisticated, your tweet will show up if someone searches “coffee” regardless of if you pop the tag in front of it. As someone who finds it #clunky reading #sentences with #hashtags thrown in the #middle of them, I usually avoid it for this #reason.
Below I run through the different types of hashtags and how you can use them to help grow your reach on both Twitter and Instagram. Keep in mind, building a community is still the best way to grow followers (in my opinion), but that’s not what we’re discussing today!
Trending hashtags are “of the moment” hashtags, usually most active in response to an event (sports, celebrity death, political reactions etc). Easy examples of this can be seen during football games: by searching Twitter or Instagram for the hashtag #engtun you could easily find all content relating to the England v Tunisia game in the World Cup. If you want to find wider World Cup content you could search #Russia2018 or #WorldCup2018. Hashtags like this are usually trending around the time of the games but generally don't have a very long shelf life. They are a great way though, of joining in on conversations and creating a friendlier voice for your brand. Innocent Drinks are fabulous at this. They have established their social media voice as just a bit silly and far from corporate, which works well for their brand, and appeals to their younger audience. They’ve combined this with topical tweets and a trending hashtag and done some fantastic short term branding:
Now for England's national anthem
VINDALOO VINDALOO NAH NAH #ENGTUN
— innocent drinks (@innocent) June 18, 2018
GOAL. ENGLAND HAVE DONE A GOAL. JUST LIKE OTHER TEAMS DO.#ENGTUN
— innocent drinks (@innocent) June 18, 2018
Community hashtags can be used as a way of connecting people, and creating a community. An amazing example of this is the #teamkaptainkenny. Started by the travel blogger Phoebe Kenny, this hashtag has well over 30k photos on it (and climbing rapidly), and it works as a very active Instagram community. Users of the hashtag follow it closely and support each other, while networking, making friends and creating business connections: all through the power of the hashtag.
Community hashtags can also be seen on Twitter, usually found in Twitter chats or for networking purposes (for example, #journorequest). Twitter chats are real-time conversations grouped together under a public hashtag that allows you to network and interact with like-minded people. Twitter chats are usually recurring and surround a specific theme: for example, #brandchat which is a weekly chat about branding, hosted by @brandchat.
When participating in community hashtags, it’s important that you understand the purpose of the hashtag. Don’t hijack the travel based hashtag #teamkaptainkenny with your post promoting your accounting services, as an example. I mean, nothing super bad will happen overall but your post probably won’t do well since it’s not relevant to the people you’re targeting, and you may even lose some credibility with anyone who happens to see it.
Twitter chat hashtags are usually active during the week between chats as the accounts that run them usually also act as retweet accounts (those are exactly what they sound like) but be careful not to include the hashtag in a tweet during the chat time if you aren’t participating - it’ll just get lost in the chat!
Find out what your community hashtags are by checking what hashtags your peers are using. Follow the hashtag, get familiar with the style and engage with the accounts using the hashtag regularly. And, of course, make your own contributions! When you have a good rapport with your followers you can even try making your own community hashtag. It doesn’t need to be branded (and maybe it shouldn’t be) but it should reflect something about you or your brand. Think about the aesthetic you like and create a hashtag that reflects that. Good examples are #thisishowihueit by Queen Beady, which values darky, moody aesthetics or #slowsundayclub by Allie Smith, a calming minimalist way of sharing chilled out Sunday vibes. Or go completely literal, like #brandchat - it’s just a chat about branding!
Brand & Competition Hashtags
Hashtags also help brands collate competition entries and connect with their customers. Sony ran an Instagram competition recently for portraits taken with their Alpha cameras, which can be found under #SonyAlphaPortrait. This hashtag is clever because it's branded, and it says exactly what it is. No one is going to use that hashtag by accident, so Sony has a very direct line to their customers, all the while generating free content promoting their cameras and fostering favourable brand awareness. Additionally, this hashtag actually has a longer shelf-life than just for the duration of the competition because it makes no mention of the competition, nor a date. As the popularity of the hashtag grows, more people will join in whether they have knowledge of the competition or not, and it will eventually have a life of its own. This is invaluable brand awareness!
But infinitely harder to replicate in the real world - especially when you aren’t Sony. The reason hashtags like this work is because people feel emotional attachments to brands, especially (somewhat counter-intuitively) to the big corporate brands. Consumers need to feel an emotional connection to a brand in order to use their hashtag, or they need to get something out of it - i.e. the potential to win something, to gain an audience, or to simply win some genuine interaction. That’s the key to making these hashtags work when you don’t have the clout of Sony - genuinely engaging with your followers, and actively rewarding them for their participation. Give them a prize they would actually want, regularly feature hashtag participants photos on your own feed and stories (or retweet if that is the case) and ‘like’ as many as you can and definitely (genuinely) comment where you can!
So, there we go. These are the most common and (in my opinion) the most effective hashtags. By utilising these in an intelligent and well planned way, any small business can make their mark in the digital sector. But what other hashtags are there? Tell me about what has been successful for you, in the comments below!
Cheers, Laura x
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