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Hashtags: a help or a hassle?

Hashtags: a help or a hassle?

Social media can be a scary enough place for a lot of companies and hashtags just add even more anxiety to this new-found territory. However, they play a vital role in each of the social media channels and if used correctly, they can be very beneficial in gaining a larger, engaged audience.

Hashtags are hyperlinked, so when a user clicks on a hashtag they will be taken to public posts that include that specific hashtag. This is valuable for any business, especially small businesses as it can push your content out to a wider audience, helping your company gain further online visibility.

You can also use hashtags to find your online audience, seeking out those that are likely to actively engage with your social channel and company. Plus, they are free and you can’t ignore free advertising!

However, there are some areas you need to tread with caution. Sometimes hashtags can be very misleading. We’d like to think social networks are a censored place but if you put #TastyTuesday (in relation to a restaurant) into Twitter you’ll often get shown tweets you probably don’t want popping up on your work computer. I’ll say no more.

Another example of how hashtags can fail comes from McDonalds. They coined a hashtag for their social media to engage their audience and encourage people to share memories relating to the fast food chain. The hashtag they created for the campaign: #McDStories. Back in 2012, when this hashtag was pushed out by the company, the responses they received were overwhelmingly negative, as many users took the opportunity to complain about their McDonalds experiences. Some posted that they vomited after eating in the restaurant and others mentioned finding waste products like fingernails in burgers. Even animal rights activists, PETA joined the hate party towards McDonalds, using the hashtag to claim that they didn’t use real chicken in their nuggets and burgers. Within two hours the promoted hashtag was removed. So, before coining your own hashtag for a campaign, be sure you put plenty of thought and research into it, it could save your company a whole lot of embarrassment!

So, with all this in mind, here are a few quick tips we’d like to offer you for when you are using hashtags on your company social media streams, particularly Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Be geographically correct

Using hashtags for your geographical area can be beneficial as it will gain followers in the correct area and users will engage with businesses that are in their local area. So, there’s no point using hashtags from areas that aren’t related to your company, otherwise you are just going to gain a useless following and people may enquire about services that aren’t available in their area. This idea works for all the social channels – so ensure you’re geographically appropriate.

Use an appropriate number of hashtags – don’t overload your followers

Be sure you don’t use an excessive number of hashtags, as it may irritate those that already follow you. The unofficial rules for hashtag frequency is different for each channel.

For Twitter, filling your tweets – which only allows 140 characters – with 10 hashtags, takes focus away from your content and can make the message you’re trying to deliver very unclear. Stick to two or three and ensure they are relevant.

In terms of Facebook, hashtags are relatively new and people choose to only use a small amount, like Twitter. We would suggest around 2 or 3 hashtags per post.

Finally, on Instagram, hashtags are very important. There is a technique, used by many professional bloggers and “Instagrammers”, to increase following and engagement. Use 3 strong hashtags, in your original post comment. Then comment on your own image with further hashtags that are relevant to the content and the image you’ve posted out. This will then be hidden as users scroll through their feed, but it’s still associated with your page and post, bringing more users to your Instagram page without it looking spammed with hashtags. Foolproof!

Be hashtag appropriate

Don’t use hashtags that are unrelated to your products or services, people are likely to be disappointed when they find your post. You may be tempted to add in popular hashtags, particularly on Instagram as this is a great way of gaining reach and engagement. By adding hashtags that aren’t related, your engagement and reach isn’t doing you any favours – instead it’s just attracting bots and users that aren’t interested in the quality goods or services you have to offer.

Be aware of “social hours”

People from all areas of business, lifestyle and leisure, use social media for different purposes, a lot of these areas have their own hashtag social hours. For example, in the digital marketing world you can find the hashtag #HootChat. If your business is in this sector, then it offers the perfect opportunity to get involved and talk to your target audience. Offering advice, tips and generally chatting to them. Of course, this takes up time, so it’s important to have someone available for that allotted time each week, ensuring you keep a good presence on the hashtag.

Hopefully these few top tips will guide you on your way to using hashtags appropriately and effectively across your company’s social media channels. If you need any extra pointers, give us a call.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you, please call us on 01332 416555 or send an email to info@gravity.digital.