When you’re working hard to ensure your online content is engaging, that you’re utilizing the appropriate social media platforms in your online presence, and even paying to reach the right audience; this added ingredient can make a world of difference in boosting the success of your posts. It’s also something most startups miss out on and desperately need to gain a following.
Why Hashtags Are The Secret Ingredient
This article will outline ways hashtags can benefit the online presence of your brand, business, and even upcoming events.
Yes - it feels like they’ve been around forever and they are, surprisingly, something companies still miss when promoting themselves online. It could be because they’ve donned a reputation for being used for “fun” or entertainment purposes, but entertainment isn’t their only use.
When promoting your company online, hashtag usage can help your brand in a professional way by:
Distinguishing you from your competitors or similarly named businesses If I Google my business name, Davies Designs, I get information and images mostly about knitting patterns by a similarly named business in the U.K. If I scroll long enough, I might see my own stuff - not so cool....BUT if I Google #DaviesDesigns, I get the entire online presence of my business immediately because I use it consistently within my social media posts, website, and additional online content. Creating a hashtag that includes your business name is a simple process and essential to establishing a robust social media presence. It's use doesn't need to be limited to online content, you can include it in printed materials as well to help promote brand awareness.
Allowing you to create an online history for recurring public company events, campaigns, and fundraisers By creating additional custom hashtags for each recurring company event, campaign, or fundraiser that can be reused going forward (i.e., don’t include a year in the hashtag) helps to promote the success of your events. It will also generate and reinforce trust in your brand for those hearing about your company or company events for the first time. If they see the online history (via images, posts, and news articles) going back several years, they will be more willing to make a donation, attend the event, volunteer, etc. Remember, everyone researches everything nowadays, so this added layer of brand trust is essential in boosting any company campaign.
Helping you launch a new book for publication Creating a custom hashtag for promotion of a new book is a great way to engage readers. Encouraging your audience to use your hashtag is also beneficial as this provides added awareness via social sharing (e.g., I just finished reading #TheTallTale, a must read!) and ultimately leads to an increase in sales.
Connecting you with like-minded individuals (e.g., #writersofinstagram, #writersofig) – Just like you are using hashtags for business promotion, individuals are searching those same hashtags for items that interest them. Adding additional hashtags onto your posts that relate back to a topic of interest, or an audience you want to engage with, increases your reach and thereby your following.
Googling "Davies Designs" vs. Googling "#DaviesDesigns" produces very different results in the screen shots below. Using a business hashtag makes it easier for your audience to find you, so why not make it easy?
Busting the Myth
Hashtags aren't just for Twitter. Hashtags can and should be used consistently across all social media platforms to reinforce your brand. On Instagram for example, as you begin typing a hashtag, a listing of popular hashtags comes up in a pop-up window. Each item in the list will have a number of times it has been used, insinuating that these are also the “hot” topics that people are searching under (e.g., #marketing, #fashiongram, #fashionpost from the screenshots below). Why would you want to miss out on this added opportunity for visibility? Adding appropriate hashtags to categorize your posts on Instagram, for example, can mean the difference between zero ‘likes’ and hundreds; not including those who may choose to follow you as well as a result.
Choose wisely when adding relevant hashtags to your posts. In Instagram, when the list begins to populate (as shown above), you will want to choose the hashtag showing the highest number of uses. Knowing that you want to limit the amount of hashtags so as not to appear as 'spamming,' it's a no-brainer that you would want to choose the ones in the millions versus ones that may show uses of thousands, hundreds, or lower yet. The exception here is the hashtag you'll use for your business, that will be new and may not appear and that's okay. Remember every hashtag has the potential to reach a new audience and, as tempting as it may be, adding irrelevant ones to your post to gain followers can have a negative impact on your brand (e.g., #TagsForLikes). This leads us to our next topic of etiquette...
Hashtag Usage Etiquette
Following some simple rules for hashtag etiquette will help ensure the success of the posts you choose to add them to. There are many, but the most important ones include:
Not using another company's hashtag, especially if it is registered, unless the post directly pertains to them or you have been granted appropriate permission
Not using more than 5 hashtags for social media, unless it is on Instagram or at the end of a blog where you can typically get away with more. Even then, Instagram has a limit of 30, but I wouldn’t use more than 8-10, ensuring that additional hashtags (outside of the chosen one for your business name) are related to your post. Note: If you are a startup just getting established on Instagram, you get a free pass to use more hashtags. Just know that once your audience is established, you'll want to cut back so as not to annoy followers into unfollowing you.
Do a spell check to ensure your hashtag is spelled correctly
Curious about what hashtag misuse looks like, click here for some entertaining examples.
FAQs for Hashtag Usage
How do I get started using a hashtag for my business name?
The first step is simple, just do a search for it. If you then find that it’s already heavily in use, then try another similar hashtag name. Once you find one that doesn’t appear to be in use, you can choose to register it.
How many hashtags should I use in my posts?
For businesses, I would choose one or two to use at all times (e.g., - #DaviesDesigns & #Marketing for my business with 'Davies Designs' being the business name and the added hashtag of ‘marketing’ indicating the services we provide). You can typically get away with more hashtags on Instagram, but I would limit hashtag use to five or less on Twitter or Facebook.
Do I really need to use hashtags?
I would Google your business or past events to find out how your results come back, especially if you’re not using paid advertising. If you come up on page two of a search, then you may want to start using hashtags to see how it can improve those results. Don’t forget to see how you appear when looking at an image search as well, especially for events, campaigns, and fundraisers where photos, flyers, and logos would appear. Note: It may be beneficial to go back and edit past posts to include the new hashtag you plan to use going forward to help with creating an online history.
How will people know to search for our business hashtag?
You’ll have to promote it! Let them know you’re using a new hashtag via social media, encourage them to use it as well when mentioning your business or event, and remember that using it consistently across posts also reminds your audience you’re using a hashtag. Note: It will take time once you begin using hashtags for search results to appear, so be patient and don't give up on them before they have a chance to work. Typically results should show in 30-60 days.
Where can I find resources to help me with hashtag usage on social media?
There’s a ton of information out there, but some great articles can be found in these links for Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to get you started, complete with visuals and online tools to help you track hashtag usage. Of course, we're always available to help as well.
If you’re posting online, there are only benefits for your brand by using a hashtag or two, as long as they’re used wisely and consistently. Remember...
Aim to use your business name hashtag in every piece of online content and possibly offline content as well
Create additional hashtags for every event, campaign, fundraiser, soon to be/newly published book; to encourage social sharing, stimulate conversations, increase participation, and boost sales
Topic related hashtags can help you reach a specific audience or connect with like-minded individuals
Hashtags should be used consistently across social media platforms - they aren't just for Twitter
Obey hashtag etiquette to maximize success
In little to no time at all (and at little to no expense), you can be casting your net farther than before and getting a deeper reach into those key audiences. So give them a shot!
Written by: Crystal Davies, Owner, Davies Designs Studio
Crystal Davies is a Brand Consultant and Owner of Davies Designs Studio. Her passion is using her 10+ years experience in corporate marketing and branding to help her clients design visions become reality.
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