Guide to Hashtag Research and Strategy
What is the purpose of a hashtag?
Hashtags are a key element on many major social media platforms. They serve as a calling card, tying your content into a specific topic or topics and potentially attracting interest from users interested in the subject.
From the users’ perspective, hashtags also provide a gateway to a world of relevant content, prompting conversation, engagement, and activity. Social media is designed to keep the user engaged so it’s only natural to let users discover the content they’ll enjoy.
Why are hashtags important?
Without hashtags, your content would be limited in reach, only your followers and users the platform chose to show it to would have any chance of seeing it. Several platforms, including Instagram and TikTok, allow you to follow your favourite hashtags. Following these hashtags gives users the chance to find content creators posting about the topics they want to see.
As a business, you can even create branded hashtags to get customers talking about your products!
Best hashtags for your brand
There are tools that can help you discover which hashtags are popular, both in general and specific to your niche. Ritetag and Hashtagify both provide vital information on the popularity of hashtags on Instagram and Twitter.
Failing that, you can always conduct hashtag research on that platform itself. Instagram and Facebook will tell you how many posts have used a particular hashtag, which is a good indicator of how popular it is. “#beach”, for example, will have a lot more posts than “#thisismyfavouritebeach”. However, on Instagram, it can be worthwhile looking for hashtags that aren’t used too much. Choosing medium popularity hashtags means your content won’t have as much competition to appear in followers’ feeds, as well as being visible in the hashtag feed for much longer.
It’s also worth noting that some hashtags are banned on certain platforms. Many hashtags are typically banned because they’re considered offensive. However, that isn’t always the case so it’s worth doing your research to make sure you don’t accidentally use one. Using a banned hashtag will prevent your content from being seen on any of the hashtags you choose to use. Don’t worry though, there are plenty of resources out there highlighting which hashtags to avoid. Ritetag even offers a tool that removes banned hashtags from your Instagram posts.
Best practices and hashtag optimisation
There are various studies out there suggesting a range of numbers when it comes to how many hashtags you should use on Instagram. Sprout Social recommends 2-5 per post, whilst Buffer says you should use at least 11. Don’t be tempted to overdo it though, Instagram limits posts to 30 hashtags and stories to 10 to discourage spam.
Twitter’s Help Center recommends using “no more than two hashtags”, but doesn’t place any real limits on this beyond the 280 character limit per tweet.
Although there’s no official limit on the number of hashtags you can use on TikTok, the fact that you can only write a caption of 100 characters or less sets a practical limit on this. Generally speaking, don’t limit yourself to just one or two hashtags as each one exposes you to a new audience. While you can add hashtags to comments, they are far less effective than adding them directly to the caption.
Hashtags weren’t originally included on Facebook but, due to their popularity on other platforms, they were introduced back in 2013. Though they don’t seem to have become quite as entrenched as they are elsewhere, you can still use hashtags to create gateways to similar content. This is especially useful for branded content.
LinkedIn may not be as fast-moving as other social media platforms but it still utilises hashtags incredibly well. Users can follow their favourite hashtags and use them to find relevant content. Unlike Instagram, which tells you how many posts have been made using a particular hashtag, LinkedIn shows you how many users are following the topic. Knowing a hashtag has lots of followers makes it much easier to understand how big your potential audience is!
Measuring Hashtag Success
Posts on Instagram will tell you exactly how many people found your content through the hashtags you used via the insights tool. You can experiment with these hashtags to find out which ones are bringing attention to your content.
Twitter’s Tweet Analytics will tell you how many people clicked on one of your hashtags. While this isn’t so helpful for learning how many users discovered your own tweet through hashtags, it’s pretty useful for tracking the effectiveness of branded hashtags.
Ultimately, you know your branded hashtags are a hit when other users start including them in their own posts. You’re living the dream if users start sharing photos or videos of them using your products AND hashtags relating to your brand!
Hashtags are a powerful tool when it comes to social media and getting your content in front of the right people and potential new audiences. Using a carefully crafted selection can improve both the reach and longevity of your content and inspire people to use hashtags specific to your brand or niche. If you are interested in improving your hashtag strategy contact us today, or ask us for a free Social Media Evaluation, where we can outline the current effectiveness of your hashtag strategy.