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The Ultimate Guide to Hashtags

Since its first use in 2007, the hashtag has spread from Twitter to almost all major social media networks, including Facebook, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, and even Vine. With hashtags pervasive everywhere, we wanted to take a look again at how your brand can use hashtags with success, on any kind of social media.

#WhatDoHashtagsDo

Hashtags have a number of uses, and it’s crucial to understand their purpose. You can use a hashtag to improve searchability, to tap into trends, to create a conversation around your brand, or to inject a bit of humor into your post (or of all of these at the same time!). It depends on your objective.

#Searchability

It's worth restating: hashtags improve your searchability. On social media networks, where there are reams and reams of information to sift through, users often search for certain hashtags that correspond to their demands and desires. By using a hashtag, you can tap into a popular conversation that is relevant to your brand and become a key contributor to that conversation’s sha­pe and consequences. It’s a whole new way of thinking about categorization, and a great way to give your posts more exposure.

#StartTheConver­sation

By creating a hashtag to associate with a product, campaign, or event, you give users (and yourself) a way to keep a conversation going with your brand. For example, Domino’s UK successfully started a Twitter campaign, where every time users Tweeted the hashtag #letsdolunch, the price of one type of Domino’s pizza would drop by one pence the next day. 85,000 users participated, and the price dropped by almost 50%, from £15.99 to £7.74.

While Domino’s UK might have lost a few pounds on sales that day, it more than made up for that by the tremendous amount of interest generated by the campaign.

#LOL

Hashtags can be added for comedic value––in this way, they can function much like the punchline of a joke. While you should be careful about being offensive or cheesy, some brands have had a lot of success. Charmin created a wildly successful campaign by coining the hashtag #TweetFromtheSeat to describe the use of social media when ‘engaged’ in the bathroom.

Users retweeted the term en masse and it became a viral sensation, leading to a lot of great publicity for Charmin and their clever Twitter marketing skills.

#Too #Many #Hashtags

Be careful about how many hashtags you use in your brand’s posts. Just as using too many hashtags is generally considered bad form on personal profiles, it applies doubly for brands. As we said before in our report on Instagram, abusing hashtags is bad practice, and a major red flag for users, regardless of network. We looked at branded Facebook posts from last month, and our findings support that consensus: Hashtag Graph

Keep your Tweets, Posts, Instagrams, and Vines on a spare hashtag diet, and you’ll be just fine. Including too many, and you might see your users turning away from your content, regardless of its quality.

How does your brand use hashtags? How many do you typically use? Tweet us @Socialbakers, or for more insights, join the conversation at #Engage2014. You can still get early bird tickets for our April 30th Engage conference in London.

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  • Alexis Clearwater

    I'm no hashtagging genius but I can truly say that the use of hashtags can benefit a company in many ways. That said, all the content that I post online is with the help of social media tools like on vwriter.com that would allow me to pre-schedule my posts and update my feeds with its easy-to-use system. I make sure that when I pre-schedule posts, I include hashtags from time to time so that it would make the information I want to get across searchable and I also want to achieve better online presence by doing such.

  • Rick Noel

    We have found that adding 1 or 2 relevant hastags in posts on company pages on Facebook can significantly enhance reach. The fact that much of that reach is outside your fan base is good to increase awareness and build fan base, while reaching a relevant audience.

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