That is the question!
Hashtags can be a cause for confusion for many and I receive lots of questions from clients asking –
What are they?
Should I use them?
How do I use them?
How many should I use?
Each social network uses hashtags slightly differently, therefore for the purposes of this Blog I’m referring to Facebook and Instagram as they are (by far) the most popular platforms in Australia.
What are hashtags?
Basically, a hashtag is a tool that makes it possible for your posts to be discovered in the search engine of a social media platform. They are an essential element of a successful digital marketing strategy.
A hashtag is a word or phrase, aligned with your brand and relevant to your target audience, prefaced by #
Should I use hashtags?
If you would like social media users to discover your content and account to follow, then yes.
The right hashtag or combination of hashtags will expose your brand to a large and targeted audience. This will help you get more likes, followers and potentially, increase engagement.
How do I use hashtags?
Do some research and find out what hashtags your audience is searching.
Suss out your competitors, use hashtags that industry leaders are using or use the Instagram search function to find lists of hashtags and the number of posts they have been tagged in.
For best results, only use hashtags that are relevant to your industry, brand or target audience. The more specific your hashtag, the more targeted your audience will be. This is more likely to result in high quality engagement.
In addition to making your posts discoverable, hashtags can offer additional opportunities such as competitions, user generated content and monitoring brand mentions.
How many hashtags should I use?
Data tells us that interactions are highest on Instagram posts with 11+ hashtags at 79.5% per 1,000 followers.
Even posts containing 4 or 5 hashtags receive an average of 8 more interactions than a post with zero hashtags.
That being said, resist the temptation to tag your posts with 30 hashtags. It will gain you more followers, but not the right followers. By using too many hashtags you run the risk of diluting your message and it can come across as a bit desperate.
Some clever people from Social Media Today, with more time on their hands than me, did some research into the effectiveness of hashtags on Facebook. They collated a bunch of data and discovered that “Facebook posts without a hashtag fare better than those with a hashtag.”
Which makes sense, since Facebook is more of a private platform where we are happy for our connections to see our posts but we don’t necessarily want to open them up to the wider audience.
However, the platform is built with hashtag functionality so I suggest you do some A/B testing to see if it works for you.