Hashtags. They’re everywhere, aren’t they? Just about every post, especially by online business people, seems to be filled with them these days.
Using hashtags is fun. They’re creative. They help better convey the message at hand.
But there’s one big thing I notice about almost all of them — all too often, people misuse them; likely because they don’t understand what these tags are meant to do.
People sprinkle hashtags into their posts like salt and pepper on food, never realizing they’re doing nothing at all to enhance their message or build a following, let alone build their business.
I’m all for using tools for creativity and effective marketing, but it’s important to understand just what these little tags are supposed to be doing.
Otherwise, my advice is that you don’t use them at all.
Let me explain.
Hashtags – What Are They Good For?
I suppose before we get too far afield about the proper use of hashtags, it might be prudent to talk about what they are and their intended purpose.
These days, you’ll find these tags used in everything from business promotions to personal information among families and friends.
Take weddings, for example. Couples will use a hashtag to group all of their wedding posts together so friends and relatives can find every picture and post related to their special day.
That way, everyone who attended the wedding, as well as anyone unable to be there, can view posts, videos, and pictures to their heart’s content.
Not Just For Twitter Anymore
Once used almost exclusively on Twitter, you’ll now find hashtags on nearly every social media platform.
I’m sure everyone by now knows what a hashtag looks like, but just in case you’ve just crawled out of a cave, it’s the pound sign, #, on your keyboard or phone, followed by a word or phrase, with no spaces.
For example, #contentmarketing helps your potential audience find content related to — you guessed it — content marketing.
When used correctly, hashtags are a great boon to your online marketing efforts.
When misused, however, they can either be completely useless or downright embarrassing; definitely not the outcome you’re going for.
Among the dangers of misused tags are failed marketing efforts or, worse, becoming the butt of internet jokes. One of those outcomes is tolerable, even if it’s undesirable.
The other is downright frightening.
When Good Intentions Go Wrong
Sometimes you’ll see a hashtag go completely off the rails to the point of becoming downright cringe-worthy.
When I was doing research for this post, I kept running across this example: #susanalbumparty. The intent was to promote a new album by Susan Boyle, but take a good look at that hashtag.
I dare you not to see at least one problem with this tag, which went viral for all the wrong reasons.
#sus_anal_bum_party. I think that just about sums it up, don’t you? I’m going to go out on a limb here and wager that the promoters had something else entirely in mind when they came up with this little doozy.
It took off alright. Just not in the way they intended.
How A Well-Used Hashtag Enhances Your Online Marketing
So given that hashtags aren’t as straightforward as you might have hoped, how can you use them effectively to build your audience and your business?
Well used and thought out hashtags can help you better engage with your audience. They categorize your social media content such that people can easily find content related to topics surrounding your brand.
Hashtags enhance your efforts to reach your target audience. And if you can latch onto a trending hashtag or one used by an influencer in your field, you’ll get even more bang for your buck.
Simply put, hashtags cut through all the social media craziness and noise, allowing your target audience to find your content more quickly and easily.
Making hashtag use part of your social media marketing efforts is certainly worth the effort. And with a few helpful hints, you can avoid wasted time and dreaded embarrassment.
Become A Hashtag Savant
It’s not that difficult to learn how to use hashtags effectively. Here are some simple tips to help you make the most of them in your online marketing.
1. Don’t try and get too cute or long winded
Using too many hashtags in a post, especially on certain platforms such as Facebook, works against you. It clutters up your post and does little to attract an audience. Keep your hashtags short and sweet and remember that less is almost always better.
2. Add capital letters between words
Using capital letters between words can help avoid embarrassing misuse and subsequent unfortunate hijacking of your hashtag. Remember the Susan Boyle debacle. 🙂
3. Steer clear of using trending hashtags related to tragic world events
Using trending hashtags can be a great way to gain more views, but when you use a world tragedy or someone’s misfortune to try and increase views, that’s just sleazy. I’m sure it goes without saying, but just don’t go there.
4. Know the best practices of hashtag use on the different social media platforms
Every social media platform has a best practices norm when it comes to hashtags. Educate yourself on those practices before adding them to your content. According to CoSchedule, the rules for the major social media platforms are:
- Facebook: 1-2
- Twitter: 1-2
- Google +: 2.3
- Pinterest: 2-3
- Instagram: 10+
Overuse of hashtags is at best ineffective, and at worst attracts the wrong type of audience. You’re more likely to get spammers when you sprinkle too many of them in your post.
When posting on Facebook, consider skipping hashtags altogether. Take a look at this quote from a recent blog post by CoSchedule.
5. Avoid using more hashtags than the number of words in your post
This advice falls right in with knowing how many hashtags to use on each social media platform. Always aim for quality over quantity. Learn the best practices on the social media platform you’re using and stick with them.
The Magic Of Well-Planned Hashtags
I hope you can see I’m not advocating that you skip the use of hashtags altogether. I’m just cautioning you to do a little research first and think about what you want your hashtags to do for your social media content.
In these days of vying with millions of other bloggers and online marketers to gain reader attention, you can use all the tools you can get, provided they do the intended job for you.
Hashtags are a great way to boost your social media content marketing efforts when used correctly.
And the good news is, it’s likely that most of your competitors are skipping the hashtag research you’ll be doing.
And you know what that means, don’t you?
It means you’re going to outshine your competition.
How do you use hashtags in your social media content? Post your ideas and thoughts in the comments below and let us know what’s working for you.