Trey Edwards
SEO/SMO Client Services Coordinator at Addison Technologies.

How To Effectively Use Hashtags

Trey Edwards
SEO/SMO Client Services Coordinator at Addison Technologies.
5/29/2018

Not Reaching People On Twitter or Instagram? You May Not Be Using Hashtags Correctly! Get More Social Media Impressions, Read What The Experts Have To Say:


Business owners and managers of all levels are consistently frustrated with low reach on social media. They work hard to create quality content on a regular basis, but their audience never seems to grow. Why is this? Many times, business owners and content managers are not reaching their full potential on social media because they either misunderstand or misuse hashtags. If you want to grow your organic reach on social media, understanding hashtags is crucial.

Hashtags are a very powerful tool for digital marketers. Used correctly, they can be the gateway to consistent (and occasionally rapid) growth. A proper understanding of how hashtags work and how they should be used is critical for anyone trying to grow their business.

As one of the leading digital marketing agencies in the greater Philadelphia area for the past 18 years, we know how to succeed on social media. Hashtags are a cornerstone of our content strategy, and play some part in almost everything we do - including SEO. No matter what you are doing, being seen more often by the right people is a key to growth. Hashtags are the most effective way to grow your organic reach on social media.

What is a hashtag?

A hashtag is a word or phrase that has no spaces and is preceded by the “#” sign. It is used by most popular social networks as a way for users to easily sort through and discover public posts on the platform.

What is the most common hashtag mistake?

The most frequent hashtag mistake that we see businesses make online is when the person writing the content tries to come up with hashtags themselves.

Why is this a problem?

As mentioned above, hashtags are a method for sorting through and discovering public posts. You use certain hashtags in order to reach people who follow those hashtags with your content. When businesses try to be clever and come up with their own hashtags, or use hashtags that they think are relevant or what their customers should search for, they too often end up using hashtags with zero or very little reach.

What is a good example?

“You have to go after your customers where they are at, not where you want them to be.”

Imagine you run the social media for a sporting goods store in Florida, and a hurricane is headed towards your state, so you want everyone to know that you have plenty of ponchos and tarps in stock. You compose a tweet, and include the hashtags #ponchos, #tarps, #rain, #hurricane, #flooding, and #badweather. These are all relevant hashtags that draw attention to what you are selling, and the problem you are trying to solve, so they should be effective, right?

Wrong.

The problem is, nobody in Florida shopping for ponchos is going on social media and searching for “#ponchos.” In fact, nobody in Florida is going on social media to find a local store to buy ponchos at. So, your post sees very little reach, despite the hurricane and your state being trending topics online. You have to go after your customers where they are at, not where you want them to be.

What should you do?

“Only use hashtags that already have a very active audience.”

Stop trying to come up with your own hashtags. Stop using hashtags without doing any research. People aren’t going on social media to shop for ponchos in Florida, but people in Florida that need ponchos are going on social media to check the latest news surrounding the weather. Instead of #ponchos, use things like #flwx (short for “florida weather”), and #HurricaneMary or #Mary, if that is the hurricane’s name, for instance. Only use hashtags that already have a very active audience. These will be trending hashtags that already have thousands of people in Florida that need ponchos looking for news and helpful information. And what could be more helpful when a hurricane is heading your way than knowing that the store down the street just got a shipment of ponchos? Insert yourself into those feeds.

How do you know what hashtags to use?

Great question. Here are 3 ideas:

  1. Use a tool like Keyhole, Hashtracker, or Talkwalker. Keyhole and Talkwalker have free versions that don’t require a signup (as of the publishing date of this article), and Hashtracker has a free trial version. All three have paid versions that give you access to a plethora of useful social media tools. If you spend a moderate or significant amount of money on your online marketing, you should consider investing in one of these tools.
  2. Do organic research. Start by doing a simple hashtag-free search for the topic that you are discussing. In our above example, you could search for “Hurricane Mary Updates” for example. Scroll through a few dozen or hundred of the latest posts and see what hashtags are commonly being used, writing them down as you spot them. Repeat this process for several different search terms. Once you’ve accumulated a number of hashtags on a list, start searching just for them. Make sure you are viewing “Latest” tweets instead of “Top” tweets, and see approximately how many tweets are being posted per hour. Since you are doing this by hand, this will be a general number range. Then, sort your hashtags from most active to least active, and use the most active ones on all your posts. This process of finding the ideal hashtags to use can be more time consuming and tends to be fairly subjective, but it has the benefit of being completely free. 
  3. Hire a digital marketing firm. If you don’t have the time or expertise to do all this yourself, you can hire a digital marketing firm to do the work for you. Any knowledgeable firm will have a well-developed keyword research strategy. Make sure you shy away from firms that promise big results for low prices - there are no shortcuts in marketing. It takes time and energy to do it right, and it is a process that builds momentum over months and years. Hire someone that wants to make a long-term commitment to your steady growth. If your company is in the greater Philadelphia area, or many other parts of the East Coast, give Addison Technologies a call. We’re happy to help. We’ve been helping businesses implement the latest digital marketing strategies for over 18 years. 

There is an exception to every rule...

Everything I’ve just told you is wrong - ifyour entire social media strategy is oriented around SEO rather than organic reach and traffic. For some businesses, the sole or primary objective of their social media strategy is to rank their website higher in Google search engine results. If this is the case, then your hashtag use should be designed for automated Google web crawlers rather than human traffic. The Googlebot (it’s actual name) knows what a website is in part by the textual context surrounding outside links to that website. This includes traffic from some social media networks (mostly Twitter), although the extent to which the Googlebot gives credibility to Twitter links is a matter of strong debate among SEO specialists. It also gives a boost to websites based on the number of outside links to that website. If SEO is your goal, focus on Twitter, and use hashtags that closely resemble the keywords that your website is structured around. You won’t see high reach or engagement, but an effective SEO-centric social media content strategy will eventually pay off. Addison Technologies also utilizes these SEO content strategies, depending on the needs of their individual clients.

We hope this article was helpful. Hopefully, you’ll be able to take what you’ve learned here and implement it to grow your business on social media. And remember - if you need help, we’re your digital marketing experts. Read Addison Technology’s blog for more analysis and valuable tips.

Have a wonderful day!