Have you ever wondered how effective can hashtags really be? And whether you’re using them in the right way? Or even if you should be hashtagging at all? And most importantly, will they really bring that extra traffic into your social media pages?
If you own or manage a business and this business has a presence on social media, then your end goal will be to attract as much genuine interest and attention to your pages as possible. When you use hashtags correctly, strategically and with the right content you can indeed increase the visibility of your posts and that of your business profile. More visibility can signify potential customers, and hopefully more sales.
When you use hashtags, you’re increasing reach and engagement on your social media content. Posts tagged with at least one single hashtag can reportedly get an average of 12.6% more attention than non-tagged posts. Therefore, in this article, we will argue that hashtags can still be something worth doing your research.
Stick around and we will help you demystify these seemingly elusive hashtags.
How did hashtags become trendy?
Made popular by Twitter in 2007, hashtags are not a new thing and have since then become an essential social media feature that has been adopted by other networks like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, etc. Because of its mobile-friendly, public and free to use nature, hashtags have rapidly disseminated and show no sign of diminishing in popularity anytime soon.
How do hashtags work?
Imagine you are moving places and that you’re packing up a box of, let’s say your office supplies. You tape the box and then you write on it ‘office supplies’ so that you know which box to open when you need these items back, or where to put it when on the receiving end. Every good organiser knows that it’s essential to label things as if you’ve got 10 unlabelled boxes that look exactly the same from the outside you will probably lose time opening them all to find what you are looking for, or you might never even go look for it again if you’re over bared with boxes.
In layman’s terms, as we won’t bore you with the computer science behind it, and much like an index, that’s essentially what hashtags will do for you. By using the hash symbol (#) followed by a keyword or short sentence you will be naming your content in the virtual world, making it easier for algorithms and search engines to find pertinent information to bring to the user.
How to make hashtags work for you?
There is a fine balance when using trending hashtags. Hashtags bid for people’s attention on social media and will attract more or less traffic depending on how big these posting accounts are, using their engagement rates as currency.
After all, the hashtags will only identify content but then it’s up to the social media platform to rank and present this content to the user. For this purpose, computer scientists and programmers elaborate complicated mathematical algorithms that favour certain content in detriment to others.
On Instagram, for instance, content marked with hashtags are presented in two parallel pages:
TOP – On this section, you will find the content that was most liked using any given hashtag, and this is from across the world and with no geographical barriers. The very top ones are likely to be from large accounts with the biggest number of followers, likes and engagement. Content will remain at the top of the search page for as long as that same content is the most liked, commented and engaged upon.
RECENT – On this page content will be presented chronologically and, regardless of the size of your page, you will be featured on top for as long as from the whole network your content was the most recently tagged.
Thus, initially one might think that using a hashtag with a million views might bring more eyes on them, but it seems now that the success of a hashtag campaign will also depend on how big your account already is. Knowing that these algorithms will prioritise bigger and more popular accounts, it means that actually using a certain hashtag might, after all, be counterproductive. Therefore, if you have recently posted you will have a small window to gain visibility on the RECENT page, but if there are a lot of users using that certain hashtag then your content will quickly drop below that visibility line and be lost in a huge pool of information.
Despair not, because not all is lost. The good news is that with over a million active monthly users on Instagram you can still find your niche market and find ways to beat the algorithm.
If you already know what your ideal customer looks like, and you’ve got all of the demographics figured out you can now use that to your advantage.
Let’s go back to the office supplies example, and let’s suppose now that you sell those same office supplies, you want to advertise them on social media and you want to include hashtags.
Firstly, make a list of the hashtags that faithfully and specifically describe your content, including any USP’s and special features. In the case of office supplies this could be:
Then zoom in on your niche market. You normally target customers that own small businesses and that live and work in and around London. Thus, you can now include location, type of customer, style of the supplies and even the industry where your customers work:
An extra tip is to always add your location to the posts to increase visibility. By adding a geotag to your photo, you are essentially pinning your location to that photo. The function of this tag is that it allows your photo to be found anytime an Instagram user clicks on the same geotag on another photo. Doing this will increase your visibility since every time someone searches for photos taken in a specific location, your tagged photo will show up.
As we’ve examined on this article, whilst hashtagging can help you along the way, it won’t single-handily take you to the top.
For hashtags to be effective they need to be used by the right people and in the right number, at the right time.
Most likely the right hashtags for your business have already been created and are being used and looked for in the right numbers, from the right locations, and you can just join the wave and bask in its potential, dependant on you finding what those right hashtags are.
To find the right hashtags for your business we advise you to:
• Do a bit of research, experiment with different hashtags and slowly build your library. Remember that highly popular hashtags used alone will likely not be sufficient to bring you traffic.
• Always make sure your content is relevant and the hashtag you use accurately describes your customers’ interests.
• Find and share content using general topic hashtags and they zoom in into your zone of expertise and incorporate location in these.
• Include geotags as this will increase your chances of being noticed by users that live in and around your area.
And finally, we recommend a good measure of patience. Unlike what some influencers and marketing strategists might suggest, there is no magical formula to make your social media channels work instantaneously. Hitting the jackpot will take time and dedication, and keep in mind that hashtagging could take you an average of 12.6% along the way.