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Turning A Symbol Of The Past Into A Marketing Tool

As a millennial, I grew up watching the end of one era and the rise of another - the hashtag, formerly known as the pound sign. The hashtag was once controversial, a generational mocking between those who grew up before the internet and those who grew up with internet. Now, marketers of all ages can agree on this beneficial tool.

History Of The Hashtag

What is a hashtag? A hashtag is defined as a word or phrase preceded by the '#' symbol, categorizing the accompanying text.

The hashtag first emerged in 2007 in a tweet from Chris Messina. Messina reasoned this idea by explaining he was "....more interested in simply having a better eavesdropping experience on Twitter". The hashtag concept was to provide content filtering and a conduit for different topics. Since creating a scene on Twitter, social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn have all allowed the use of hashtags.

Your #Advantage

I have often had to argue the benefit of hashtags, facing resistance purely because the business does not understand them and thinks they are for casual use. These keyword tags are powerful; hashtags help your posts reach targeted audiences, attract users to your niche, develop your brand image, and increase engagement. This is how social media users you do not even know can find your content, engage with it, and follow you. Voilà! You now have a lead and can turn that lead into a profitable customer.

Using hashtags gives you an advantage; research shows that using even one hashtag averages a 12.6% increase in engagement. 12.6% for one hashtag!? Let's add 20 more, right? Wrong. Like the Charmin Ultra commercial said - less is more. The amount of hashtags you should use varies among platforms:

  • Facebook posts should contain 1-3 hashtags.

  • Twitter recommends no more than two hashtags per Tweet.

  • Instagram suggests 3-5 hashtags per post.

  • TikTok posts should use at most five hashtags.

  • LinkedIn suggests no more than three hashtags per post.

Another advantage to using hashtags is that you can use them to promote discounts or giveaways. For instance, when Coca-Cola created the #shareacoke campaign. Coca-Cola launched this campaign during the summer of 2011 in Australia, changing the traditional can wrapping with 'Share a Coke with...' and a popular name. This campaign allowed Coca-Cola to create a more personal relationship with consumers socially and playfully. That summer, Coke sold more than 250 million named bottles and cans, which is astounding considering the nation's population is no more than 23 million people.

How To Hashtag

Now that you understand the background and the advantages of using hashtags, this guide provides tips and tricks and mistakes to avoid.

Tips on how to best use #hashtags, and what mistakes to avoid.

Keep your hashtags simple. Long, complicated hashtags are less likely to trend or resonate with your followers. Simplify your hashtags; the goal is to get social media users to follow your topic and use your branding in their posts.

Use hashtags relatable to your product or service. If you sell wine in El Dorado County, you will not use #USA or #fruit. A more appropriate use of the hashtag would be #edcwineries.

Keep the number of hashtags in your post limited. Remember, less is more. Just because Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags does not mean you should. Often, social media users, and the platforms themselves, view this as 'spamming.'

Create a brand-specific hashtag. This is probably the best advice I can give you for branding and using hashtags! Pick your brand hashtag and stick with it. Mine is #BoldCommunications; I use this on all of my social media posts. This enables users to see everything I have posted about my brand and what others say about my brand.

If you are promoting a big event, this also applies. For example, the El Dorado County Fair & Event Center is hosting its annual fair for 2022, and the theme is 'The Magic is Back.' They could potentially have two hashtags for their brand. #EDCFair would be general to the fair, and #Magicisback would be specific to the event they want to promote.

Don't worry too much about hashtag placement. The jury is still out on where the hashtag should go in your caption. Some choose to place the hashtags below their captions, while others prefer to include the hashtags as they type their post. Even a fraction of individuals suggest not having the hashtags in your caption but instead commenting on your own post with the hashtags. Instagram is the only platform where the rules do not appear to apply. However, most other platforms cannot categorize your content if you comment the hashtags. I recommend using hashtags somewhere in the post caption and not in the comments, as that tends to be easier for most and does not require you to remember to comment after your initial post.

Use local hashtags. You will start making connections with local community members using local hashtags. Connecting with your community is especially important for small business owners. You probably want customers who can visit your store and purchase or use your service rather than social media users 2,000 miles away.

Don't get stuck on repeat. Many businesses will use the same hashtags for every post. This is a great way to get shadowbanned. Some individuals started using third-party applications to try and increase visibility, followers, and likes. As a direct violation of the user terms of service, Instagram, for instance, will shadowban their content, thus decreasing reach. While the shadowban is understandable in these instances, marketers and influencers have cited being mistakenly shadowbanned.

If it's not relatable to your brand, product, or service, don't hashtag it. I know I already mentioned using hashtags that are relatable to your product or service, but this is so important that I feel I have to mention it again. You risk getting shadowbanned if you are using irrelevant hashtags to gain visibility. For example, when posting a picture of the season's outdoor flowers, a plant nursery floods its captions with keywords such as love, happy, summer, fun, outdoors, and beautiful. While I can see the connection between the image and the keywords used, they are not relatable to the product.

Free Marketing

Hashtags can be an excellent tool for marketing your business on social media if used correctly. This marketing tool can help audiences discover your niche and promote your brand. Follow the guidelines I have shared with you, and you can reap the benefits of this free marketing tool.

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