Once only used on Twitter to help users find and participate in Twitter conversations, hashtags have become a ubiquitous part of life — even being used (to the chagrin of many) in actual face-to-face conversation. However you might feel about hashtags, though, they are here to stay and are an important part of a successful social marketing campaign.
What’s surprising though, given hashtags constant presence in our lives, is how many people actually get them wrong. Sometimes, getting it wrong simply means that you don’t get the engagement that you might have had you chosen a better tag. In other cases, using the wrong hashtags can cause harm to your brand, even if your hashtag fail is somewhat amusing for a moment.
Avoiding embarrassing or detrimental hashtags is only one part of a successful tagging strategy, though. Understanding why you are tagging, when and where to tag, and how to create effective tags are all important as well. As you plan your next social campaign, keep these important tagging tips in mind.
1. Have a Hashtags Tagging Strategy
Hashtags tend to fall into one of three types: Branding, content, and trends.
A branding hashtag is one you use to market your business or a specific campaign. Usually, this is your company name or a tagline that people associate with your business. For example, a Realtor might use their agency name and a hashtag like #makeyourmove on all their posts.
A content hashtag is one that you might use within your post. It’s typically not branded, but is just related to your content; i.e., a product name, location, or event. The Realtor might tag posts with his or her city, for example, or simply #home to capture an audience searching for those tags.
Finally, a trending tag is exactly that: A tag that is relevant to your content that is trending. These tags can help you capitalize on traffic that is already headed in that direction.
Ideally, you should use some combination of these tags in your posts, so that you can target a variety of traffic.
2. Keep It Simple
Hashtags should be short and sweet. The longer they get, the harder they are to spell correctly, the more likely they are to cause confusion, and the less memorable they are. Your followers are more likely to share content using your hashtags if you keep them simple, so don’t overcomplicate things.
3. Watch for Alternate Interpretations
One of the most common causes of hashtag disasters is that the creator didn’t think through all possible interpretations or uses of the tag. Before you tag, consider all possible meanings of the words or phrases, and do some research to see how the tags have been used previously. Even something seemingly innocuous can be disastrous if it’s already been used in a negative or offensive manner.
You should also consider whether a hashtag campaign can have unintended negative consequences. One prime example of this is the infamous #McDStories campaign, in which McDonald’s asked users to share their McDonald’s stories using that hashtag. Rather than the expected heartwarming tales, though, the fast food restaurant was inundated with stories of visits gone wrong. Before you incorporate hashtags to develop user-created content, consider all possible implications and outcomes from the tag.
5. Be Creative
Using popular or trending tags is a valid strategy. However, some tags are very popular — #family has over 6 million posts on Instagram alone — and aren’t necessarily going to drive a great deal of traffic to your posts. To avoid burying your posts, be creative with your content and campaign tags. Do some research into tags that have been successful in your industry, and keep a running list to choose from.
6. Don’t Overdo It
We’ve all seen posts with a list of tags that’s longer than the content itself. Don’t do that. Not only is it annoying, but it looks spammy. Use hashtags sparingly, and only on the platforms that support it. For example, LinkedIn allows for hashtagging, but not on the desktop site. If you are going to tag a LinkedIn post, be sure that it is only searchable on the mobile app.
7. Place Hashtags Correctly
While you can place hashtags anywhere in your content, when using certain platforms, like Instagram, you want to make sure that you place the hashtags in the photo caption, and not in the comments, where they will be lost.
Using hashtags can drive traffic to your content, help you be a part of a larger conversation about a subject, and build engagement with your audience. Just be sure to check before you tag — and don’t use them in conversation. That’s just silly.