Hashtags fuel social media marketing. They aren’t mystical runes added to social posts. Hashtags make social content discoverable by anyone on a social platform (and in some cases search engines.) Most importantly, hashtags allow brands and accounts to participate in content conversations and trends that are meaningful to their audience.
Hashtags help increase awareness and incorporating them into your social media content expands your reach and your potential audience. Understanding hashtag marketing is fundamental to overall content marketing success.
This article covers the keys to hashtag marketing and how they can extend beyond the social post to maximize the value of your content marketing efforts.
The 5 Keys to Hashtag Marketing
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just getting started with hashtags, your efforts need to include these 5 keys to success:
- Research hashtags before you use them. You might be surprised at how some hashtags have been used. Always research hashtags before you add them to any content. The goal of using the hashtag is to start or participate in an on-going conversation. There are a lot of free and premium hashtag research tools online. Hashtagify is a great option. It will share popularity as well as related options so you can see if there is anything “unexpected” lurking in your hashtag.
- Be consistent. Once you identify hashtags that align with your branding, messaging, and content, consistently use them across social platforms. Create content that can include hashtags and make sense. As a rule of thumb, we recommend including two hashtags in each post – one hashtag that is content specific, the other should be a general hashtag on the broader subject. For example, a blog announcement about email marketing that works could be: “Read our new #emailmarketing article from the #contentmarketing team.”
- Keep it simple. Creating your own hashtags may seem appealing, especially hashtags that combine branding with content. Avoid that. As Gary Vaynerchuck suggests, “Ride the hashtag, don’t create it.” You are a participant in the conversation, not the sole proprietor. Also, avoid hashtags that are difficult to spell, long (try to stay under 15 characters) or hard to say. The Internet is still driven by text but if someone tries to voice search or share your content, easy-to-say hashtags will improve your chances of the content being found. Remember, getting your content seen is the key benefit of using hashtags. Don’t create any barriers to being found.
- Be specific. Like any other user-driven search behavior, the more accurate / closely aligned the content is to the hashtag, the higher the likelihood that someone looking for the hashtag will take the time to look at your post. When researching hashtags, look to find hashtags that have traffic and some unique value that your content reflects. For example, rather than #marketing, consider #digitalmarketing or even better #B2Bdigitalmarketing.
- Create engagement. Hashtags open the door to new users and an expanded audience, a social audience. When this audience interacts with your content, you need to engage with them. With trending hashtags in particular, it is vital that you plan to participate in the conversation. Try to keep as much of the conversation as possible public and within the social platform. This will allow other users to see that you do engage and may encourage them to join the conversation. Of course, design your interaction to bring this new audience into your ongoing content efforts.
Hashtag Marketing Beyond The Platform(s)
Most people only think of hashtags in the context of a social media post. That is a great start and it helps to provide content with a level of consistent hashtag presence that will help associate the brand and content with specific hashtag topics. While Twitter is credited with the success of hashtags, their role in a content marketing plan is much greater than a tag on a tweet.
A great use of hashtags is for public announcements. Whether in the form of a press release, an industry forum / blog, or third-party news, hashtags will help clarify and organize your content. If you send out a press release about “all new bats” a user may have to read a headline or two to know what type of “bats” you’re talking about. Add “#mlb” and everyone will immediately know you’re talking about shaped pieces of wood, not weird-looking mammals. Even when the hashtag itself isn’t searchable, its mere presence will immediately identify and differentiate the content.
Another great extension of the hashtag is public collateral. From tradeshows and promotional products to signage and TV spots, hashtags are showing up everywhere. This use of hashtags can be particularly compelling around a specific campaign or event. Similar to press releases, hashtags immediately focus a user’s understanding on the message. These public hashtags often include branding (#ShareACoke and #MyCalvins) but can also work in broader terms. Campaigns like #IceBucketChallenge and #CaughtOnDropCam transcend traditional branding and bring organizations like ALS and Nest into the public conversation.
A final extension of the hashtag strategy is as a content organizer. In many ways, hashtags are the Digital Age’s Dewey Decimal System. Consider using hashtags to organize complex content like a series of related topics or lessons in a course. This method works well in presentations and webinars. Try using a general hashtag to “gather” the content into a single universe and a second, more specific hashtag for the topic itself. Checkout #legal on TikTok and you’ll find several legal experts, especially Indian attorneys, that have robust and easy to follow content that start with #legal and hashtag specific video content. Regardless of the social platform or your content focus, hashtags can help you be found. Hashtags help generate interest with a larger audience than you can reach organically and stay relevant to the topic.
In addition to reach, association with a content theme, and organization, hashtags provide another direct benefit to content marketers. According to Twitter, tweets that include hashtags have a longer average lifespan than those that don’t. Instagram data shows that posts with hashtags have a 12% higher average engagement. Like every other content tool, hashtags have a place and a role in building a dialogue and connecting with an audience. Don’t miss out.
If the idea of using hashtags in your marketing efforts seems challenging, know that you don’t need to go it alone. We’re in this with you. If you need a little help, just drop us a line, anytime.
Rainmaker Digital Services