The Power of an Effective Hashtag Strategy and How to Get One
The power of social media hashtags will guide you to increased reach, audience growth, and engagement within your business’ demographic—but without a strategy in place, you’re bound to fail. The social media landscape is changing daily, and it can be very easy to be left behind by your audience if you aren’t keeping up. Hashtags are a data-driven method of staying relevant and providing you the best route to your customers. In just a few minutes of your time, we’ll outline how to develop your own bulletproof hashtag strategy.
Where did hashtags come from and why are they important now?
In the not too distant past, every ad, billboard or commercial had a phone number, which was soon replaced with a website URL, only then to be replaced by “Like us on Facebook” links, and eventually replaced with hashtags.
At this point, consumers don’t want to call, and they don’t need to be told to visit your website or check you out on Facebook—if they’re truly interested, they’re doing that already. The reason that hashtags now appear more prominently in advertising is because they can do amazing things for your audience reach and engagement.
A recent market study showed that posts with hashtags received a 12.6% increase in engagement over posts without them. With over 1 billion Instagram accounts alone and 90 percent of those users following business accounts, these are not numbers to ignore.
So, if hashtags are so incredible, should I use as many as I can every chance I get?
No. When used in excess or without a strategy, they don’t make things better. You could actually be attracting the wrong audience or causing confusion.
Here’s How to Develop Your Strategy
To build a solid strategy, your first step is understanding the three types of hashtags.
1. Brand- or Campaign-Specific Hashtags: The brand/campaign hashtag is one you create yourself to promote your business or product. It should be unique and consistent with your business. This hashtag is used as a way to get people to promote your brand. Once in use by the public, this creates an opportunity to reach out and interact with your customers easily and directly.
2. Trending Hashtags: What is everyone talking about during lunch? Anything important happening influencing your industry? Already in-use hashtags that are trending AND relate to your product or business are opportunities for your message to be seen by a massive audience.
3. Content Hashtags: These are hashtags that relate to your post. These could be location or subject matter based. For example, if you’re selling a new car in Cincinnati, some go-to hashtags to be paired with a shot of the new vehicle would be #newcar #cincygram.
Your second step to developing your strategy is understanding timing. It’s important to keep a finger on the pulse of what your audience is talking about. Stay current on trends and know when something is viral. Know the correct time to execute your hashtags and possibly more importantly the correct time NOT to execute, depending on current events.
Things like this can be monitored by using a third-party application like HubSpot or Hootsuite. Setting up followed hashtags based on your location and breaking news can alert you to trends and current events to keep you ahead. You can also use this as an opportunity to research what your competitors are doing.
Your last step to hashtag strategy before everything goes live: DOUBLE-CHECK EVERYTHING.
Even the largest brands make mistakes, and a social media fail can be detrimental to your brand and audience. This means to always put extra effort into proofreading and double-checking all your hashtags. If you ever have doubt about the hashtags you’ve chosen, it’s usually best to go back to the drawing board.
Look out for:
1. Double Meanings: What means one thing on Twitter may mean something entirely different on Facebook. You might have never thought your hashtag meant something different, but your followers will.
2. Hidden Messages: This mistake is easy to make. Carefully read your hashtag to be sure it doesn’t have hidden words when you lowercase everything and it’s all one "word."
3. Bad Timing: No one means ill will when a major disaster or event occurs, but bad timing with current events and hashtags could place you into an unwanted spotlight.
While building a hashtag and social media strategy can look overwhelming, there are agencies like ICON that help develop and implement social media marketing plans that best fit your business. Developing a hashtag strategy takes time and research, but once it’s in place, you’ll be able to better connect with your customers, find content created by your followers, and grow your business by leaps and bounds.
Written by Stephen Drake
Stephen designs and implements omnichannel marketing campaigns focused on company growth, increased revenue, and considered purchase. His background includes print and digital design, project management, social media, and content strategy. With over a decade of combining his marketing strategy know-how and design proficiency to navigate complex challenges and multidisciplinary projects, Stephen is a Designer and Social Media Strategist for Icon Marketing.