The first usage of hashtags goes back to August 23, 2007, when Chris Messina, credited with inventing the hashtag, suggested their use on Twitter for grouping conversations. More than a decade later, hashtags have become inseparable from social media posts. But we are also using them in day-to-day text conversations with friends, to emphasize points, and in other creative ways.
Being pretty much the language of social media, hashtags should be an important part of your social media communications and marketing strategy. They can play an important role in marketing when it comes to small businesses as they help businesses become more discoverable and be part of trending conversations in an organic way without having to spend on paid ads. Follow along to learn how to use hashtags properly to help grow both your audience and visibility.
But first, you need a strong foundation: domain name & professional website
Using the right hashtags will amplify your content’s reach and help you get in touch with more relevant customers. However, before you delve into that, you need to ensure that you have a strong foundation that makes those customers stay when they visit you. This includes having a good website and registering a quality domain name. The latter is especially important as that’s what will be displayed on your social profiles and it will direct people to your website.
Today, with new domain extensions such as .tech, .store, .space, .online, and .fun, as well as country-code extensions, you can zero-in on domain names that is meaningful, brandable and relevant to your audience. For example, www.name.online or www.name.tech will look a lot more meaningful and credible than www.www.mybrnd-online.com.
How do hashtags help small businesses?
1. Be found easily
Hashtags are like the search keywords of social media. By using them in your posts, you make it easy for people to find you. For instance, if you are a vegan pizzeria in Downtown Toronto, you can use relevant hashtags like #veganpizzatoronto #govegan, and so on.
2. Track conversations
Hashtags are perfect for tracking conversations related to a particular topic of interest as well as for social listening. If people have been using your business hashtag whenever they post about you, you can simply search for that hashtag and see who’s saying what.
3. Flaunt your creativity
Hashtags are often used at the end of your post copy as a witty punchline (we’ve all chuckled at the funny and racy hashtags used by Hot Dudes Reading on Instagram). There’s no reason why your business shouldn’t do the same. Use hashtags to add some flavor to your posts.
Your 5-step guide to using hashtags
1. Track trending hashtags
Make a list of trending keywords in your industry, search for them in the social media channel where you have an account, and see what sort of content shows up. This research can be valuable in finding the right hashtags for your own posts.
Instagram and LinkedIn allow you to follow hashtags, which is a convenient way to keep track of posts that use them. Here’s how you can do that:
- Go to the search bar, select Tags, and type the hashtag you want to explore.
- Click on the hashtag from the search results.
- Instagram will take you to the hashtag page where you can see the number of posts, top posts, and recent posts. Tap the Follow button under the number of posts. You will now be able to see posts that use the hashtag in your feed even if you don’t follow the accounts that posted them.
- Type the hashtag you want to follow in the search bar.
- Click on the hashtag from the search results. LinkedIn will take you to the hashtag page where you will see the number of people following the hashtag as well as the posts that have used it. Tap the Follow button under the number of followers.
As of now, Facebook and Twitter do not allow users to follow hashtags, but there are other tools that can help you do that.
2. Use tools
Hashtag research can be overwhelming because there are too many options to choose from. If the right hashtags don’t strike you all that easily, you may want to take the help of certain tools. Here are a few worth trying:
This is a great tool for researching hashtags for Twitter and Instagram. All you need to do is type in the hashtag and Hashtagify.me will show you its all-time popularity, recent popularity, and a trend forecast. It will also show you other hashtags related to your search.
Pricing: $29-86 per month with a 1-month free trial
If you’re struggling to find the right hashtags for your post, upload your picture or copy on RiteTag and it will show the relevant hashtags for it as well as suggestions for improving the hashtags you are already using. It also shows which of its suggestions are trending.
Pricing: $12-49 per month
Trendsmap can be a useful tool for local businesses as it helps you find topics that are trending in a particular region, city, or country on Twitter. You can also set up alerts for when a new tweet appears for your topic of interest.
Pricing: $0-25 per month
3. Find relevant hashtags
While hashtags are great for linking your posts to the most widely searched topics, you can also use them to reach a different or more niche audience. The tools discussed above can help you find hashtags more relevant to you, but there are other best practices you can follow to ensure that your hashtag game stays on point.
Don’t miss out on important days/events
Festivals, big sale days, and other events are times when people search for content specifically related to those days. Make sure you’re part of the conversations by planning posts around those times and using relevant hashtags. Even if you don’t have a sale going on, you can post an important message or highlight something about your business. For instance, you may not have a sale on Earth Day but you can post something about what your business is doing for the environment, such as using solar-powered lights or recycling office waste, with #earthday.
Find related hashtags
Instagram and LinkedIn help you discover more hashtags that are worth checking out if you’re tired of using the same old hashtags and want to infuse some freshness in your posts.
When you search for a hashtag on Instagram, you will see related hashtags just above the top and recent posts.
Tap the ellipsis on the top right of the hashtag you have searched for and then tap Discover new hashtags.
As of now, Facebook and Twitter do not have the option for finding related hashtags.
Don’t ignore local hashtags
Several people make it a point to support local or small businesses and you should highlight that aspect of your business on social media by using the right hashtags. Some of the popular ones include #shoplocal #supportsmallbusiness and #buylocal. Location-specific hashtags can also help you reach the right audience. For instance, if you’re a pet store, you can use #dogsofinstagram but also #dogsofny or #dogsoftokyo or #dogsofvancouver.
4. Know how many to use and where
Every channel uses hashtags differently, and you should alter your approach to them accordingly. While no channel has hard and fast rules about how you should use hashtags, they do prescribe certain best practices.
Remember that Twitter has a character limit of 280 characters. Don’t waste all your space by cramming your tweet with hashtags.
- Where to use: You can use them anywhere in the Tweet: at the beginning to provide context, in the middle to combine two or more words, or at the end to summarize.
- Recommended usage: Contrary to Twitter, Instagram encourages people to use many hashtags by allowing up to 30 in a post and 10 in a story. But don’t go overboard just because you can. Avoid using more than 10.
- Where to use: You can use them anywhere in your post and also post them as a comment if you don’t want them to overshadow the post copy.
- Recommended usage: 2-3
- Where to use: Facebook recommends using hashtags in your sentences as well as at the end to highlight the topic of conversation.
- Recommended usage: Up to 3
- Where to use: LinkedIn recommends placing hashtags at the end of the post.
5. Get others to use them
Social media is all about sharing great content, whether your own or posted by others. By encouraging others to use your hashtag when they share your content on their pages, you ensure that those shares tie back to you. Here are a few ways to do so:
Create unique hashtags
Owning hashtags and getting people to use them widely increases your authority. It also keeps competing posts at bay as only you and your followers are using those hashtags. You can create unique hashtags for your company tagline, campaigns as well as contests and giveaways. Include using those hashtags as contest rules and ask influencers to use them whenever they post about you.
Add hashtag in your bio
This is a popular practice on Instagram but can be used on any other channel. When you ask people to use your hashtag for a chance to get featured on your page, it works differently from asking them to tag you. Pictures with hashtags will not show up on your page, so you can repost that content without it being repetitive. It also helps generate buzz as when people will search your hashtag, they will be able to see all the people who have been talking about you.
Social media evolves faster than most of us can keep up, but rest assured that hashtags are evergreen. Adding them to your social media lexicon is not only advantageous but imperative. To make the most of them, use a mix of original and trending hashtags in your posts
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This article was written for Webnames Blog by Alisha Shibli, a Content Marketing Specialist at Radix, the registry operator behind great new domain extensions like .store, .online, .tech, .press and others. You can follow Alisha on twitter @alishashibli.