If you run your own small business, you probably use social media sites to promote your products or services. We all know that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is important in promoting your website and blog content, but what about hashtags…do they help?
What are hashtags?
Originally hashtags were used to help filter and organise conversations on Twitter, but they are now used on several social media platforms. I’ve mainly seen them on Twitter and Instagram, but have also noticed that they are starting to appear on Facebook and are on LinkedIn too. A hashtag is the sign # followed by a phrase such as marketing, so would be #marketing. It’s a category that posts relating to that subject can be streamed into; anyone can use it for their content, be it a blog post, an Instagram or Facebook post.
How can I use hashtags on social media?
A really easy way to get started is by using popular hashtags. One hashtag that I see regularly on Facebook and Instagram is #throwbackthursday or #tbt. This is used as a weekly theme by some Facebook groups where people and brands share things from their past. The posts may be business related or completely personal. This is one of the popular hashtags used on Facebook on a regular basis.
There are different hashtags depending on what niche your business is in. For example if you are in the fitness business, you might use #fitnesstips #fitinspiration or #gymspiration to name a few….or if you are in marketing, you could use #marketingtips #marketingstrategy. There are thousands to choose from and research on what are the best hashtags for you to use for your business is crucial.
How many hashtags should I use?
How many you use depends on what social media platform you are posting on. Twitter allows space for hashtags, but it is best practice to stick to 2-3. Facebook is a tricky one – it’s best to post within a group where the hashtag is promoting a special day, such as #throwbackthursday rather than randomly adding hashtags to your posts – if you do, only use a couple as, at the moment according to Social Media Today, using hashtags within Facebook posts may actually prevent you from appearing in search results.
On the other hand, if you use Instagram, the world is your oyster where hashtags are concerned…you are encouraged to use as many relevant hashtags as possible.
So what do hashtags do for my business?
Hashtags are a great way to build your brand, boost a marketing campaign or sales campaign, and launch a competition or to just keep in touch with your target audience.
Using hashtags in tweets and on Instagram can really increase awareness of your business and engagement with you and your products/services.
They are an effective way to build your brand, for example use them to launch new products/services, share your promotional material or for just generating interest in what you do.
Hashtags are also great for creating a buzz with your website, spreading news and information about new products, events that you’re involved in or just creating hype for your business.
How do I find the right hashtag words?
It really is as simple as putting a search into Google. Just type in ‘popular hashtags for XXXXX’ whatever business you’re in – fitness, food, crafts, artist, and so on… a list of hashtags will come up. If you are using them on Instagram, as soon as you type the first hashtag, you will also see a list of other similar tags which you can also use. Try and avoid really long hashtags. When writing posts using hashtags, don’t forget to put links to your website as this will encourage more traffic.
Can hashtags help me find my target audience?
Yes, they can! For the purpose of this question, I’m going to talk about Instagram.
When you’re posting for your particular niche or business, you need to find the keywords that will be specific to your business. So, a generic term like ‘photographer’ or ‘blogger’ just won’t cut the mustard. You need people to be able to find out more about you, so for example on my Instagram account, I will post #marketingincharente as I am a Marketing Consultant and I live in the Charente…you get the idea! Or if you are a café, you could specify something on your menu, #fullenglishbreakfast and maybe the town you’re in. It’s more specific.
Being specific is what will help your target audience find you.
How many hashtags should I use?
- Using Instagram again as an example, you can use up to 30, but generally I use between 11-20.
- Use 4-5 really popular hashtags – general ones like, for example, #smallbusiness or #socialmedia.
- Use another 5-7 that are moderately popular but not necessarily absolutely your niche.
- Lastly use 4-5 very specific hashtags – the target keywords that your audience might be looking for. These generally don’t have a lot of content associated with them.
- Use 1-2 branded hashtags that are only for your branded content.
The reason you use all these different types of hashtags is to keep your content in view for as long as possible. The most popular will bring a brief flurry of activity, then the moderately popular hashtags will kick in and your content will stay active on those for a few hours. Then your more niche specific hashtags will be noticed.
Of course, you will also receive activity from your followers, so you are still reaching out to your existing potential customers, as well as new ones.
Can I set up my own hashtag?
The simple answer is ‘yes, you can!’
But, there is a but! You cannot legally own a hashtag. If you find one that hasn’t been used, which will take a lot of research, you can register it. However, even registering the hashtag will not stop other people from using it – it’s not like owning a website domain. Registering just means you’ve staked a claim to that hashtag and adds you to the hashtag directory, where you can go into a bit more detail as to what the hashtag is for…you can write a description.
How do I register my hashtag?
Once you have found a new hashtag relevant to your business, you can register it on sites like Hashtags.org
As soon as you have registered it, use your hashtag ALL THE TIME! Use it a lot…as much as you can! At first you will be the only one using it, but after time you will find others using it for articles, posts or blogs that talk about the same subject.
Do hashtags help with SEO?
Again, the simple answer is ‘yes’. Hashtags are basically keywords, so they help you to categorise your content and help social media users to find it. Using hashtags in your social media posts will give you more opportunities to have your content in Google search results.
Finally, just be aware that hashtag use varies greatly with each social media platform so you need to be mindful of which platform you’re on!
Happy Hashtag Hunting! Let me know how you get on.