Is your hashtag strategy helping or harming your business?
Well, chances are…you don’t have one.
Everyone is using hashtags these days, but without the right hashtag strategy – sprinkling your social media posts with them without any plan can do you more harm than good (see my previous post about banned hashtags here). Also using too many can dramatically undercut organic reach on your Facebook page – often for months to come.
And to make it even more tricky – hashtags don’t work the same way on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
How should you go about using hashtags on the top three social media platforms to help your business? Let’s dive into how to create a hashtag strategy for the different social media platforms!
Creating a hashtag strategy – where to start?
Before we dive into each social media platform separately, a key to a successful hashtag strategy is understanding your target audience and which hashtags they are really following.
Whom are you really targeting? #Mumpreneurs or #Soccermums? What are your followers interested in? Have a look at a few profiles you’re following and see what kind of hashtags they are using in their posts. Are there any patterns?
Start with your target audience before preparing a strategy for each social media platform.
Instagram Hashtag Strategy
The Instagram algorithm uses hashtags to determine the content of your post and make it searchable to all members of the community. You can use hashtags both in your posts and your Instagram stories.
If you click on a hashtag on Instagram, it takes you to a view of all the posts that have been posted with this hashtag. The hashtags on Instagram are arranged into two categories – Top Posts (for the posts under a specific hashtag that garnered most engagement in the first 2 hours of posting – most likes and comments) and Most Recent Posts – those that were posted most recently and are arranged chronologically.
These two categories of hashtags will impact your Instagram hashtag strategy. Your goal is to get as many eyes on your post as possible, i.e. for your post to stay on top of the feed under either ‘Top Posts’ or ‘Most Recent’ posts. This will determine which hashtags you should choose:
- If you can generate enough “buzz” in your community within 2 hours of posting, you can go for the ‘Top Post’ – and choose a more popular hashtag. Make sure you do everything you can to engage your community within this two-hour window – otherwise, your post will quickly drop down the feed.
- If you don’t have a large and engaged community yet – it may make sense to aim for staying on top of ‘Most Recent’ under less popular (niche) hashtags. Don’t go for the most popular hashtags – by popular I mean those that have the highest number of posts and the highest frequency of posting.
- Click on the top three hashtags and check the time between when the most recent posts were posted. If new posts appear under this hashtag more often than every 5 minutes – chances are your post will be pushed down very quickly, and you won’t be noticed. It’s better to stay ‘on top’ of 30 niche hashtags and be seen by 100 people for each than go for top mainstream hashtags such as #marketing #fashion #love. Even though it may seem that by targeting more popular hashtags you will be seen by more people, you will not be able to stay on the top for more than a few minutes – and the chance a lot of people will see your post will be actually really low.
- Having determined the category you aim for, it’s time to find the right relevant hashtags. Head to the search box and type in a few keywords relevant to your target audience, business, and the content of your post. Click on each hashtag to see how many people are following it, and how often posts appear under this hashtag. This will allow you to determine how popular/niche the hashtag is, and choose or discard it depending on the category of posts you have chosen to target.
- Using a hashtag finder and generator might be helpful – Tags Finder gives you the possibility to differentiate hashtags for different countries. If your business is local, remember to include only the hashtags that are relevant to your location/caption area. All Hashtags is another great hashtag generator, which gives you hashtag suggestions based on the previous ones you’ve used, and shows which of the suggested hashtags are currently trending.
- Make sure you don’t include any banned hashtags – these are mostly related to things like illegal drugs or pornography, but some may surprise you. For example, did you know that #russiangirl is a banned hashtag? Using those hashtags will flag your account, remove your post and have a negative impact on your organic reach.
- After you have decided which category you want to aim for, and what hashtags to use to stay on top of this category for as long as possible, aim to include the right number of hashtags. You should use 30 hashtags that describe your content and are popular. Place them either in your post or in the first comment (that doesn’t affect your organic reach).
Twitter Hashtag Strategy
Twitter is the social media platform that introduced hashtags first – so no wonder the hashtag algorithm is the most sophisticated.
Again, hashtags are used to categorize content into relevant streams – but you can search them by Top, Latest, Author (People), and the medium of the post. There are separate tabs for posts with photos and videos only.
Interestingly, Twitter will also suggest which hashtags you should check out based on your location and your interests as well as who you are already following. You can see your suggested hashtags under the ‘Trends for You’ tab (on the right). This will be important for your Twitter hashtag strategy. Make sure you adjust your location in the settings to the location of your target audience, and see what’s trading in your area. Then you will know what your audience is likely to see in their Suggested Hashtags under ‘Trending in <user’s country>’.
Unlike Instagram, Twitter has a strict character limit (280 characters) for each post – including the hashtags. That will have an impact on your Twitter hashtag strategy as well because you will need to be a lot more sparing with your hashtags than on Instagram:
- Use 1-2 hashtags per post and try to make them part of the #sentence as much as possible.
- People often go to Twitter to learn the latest news, so, if a particular hashtag is trending (e.g. #Brexit), people may be more willing to check out both the most recent and trending hashtags to learn the latest news and opinions about it.
- If you want to stand out in the most recent hashtags, you should add an interesting (and relevant!) graphic to your post.
- Be specific by using hashtags that are niche and ‘long-tailed’ (just like keywords) rather than short and generic. Compare: #marketing vs. #InstagramInfluencerMarketing
- Don’t include any hashtags that are not relevant to your post content, business or target audience just because they are trending – it can even get you reported by other users.
Linkedin Hashtag Strategy
Hashtags are relatively new on LinkedIn – they were introduced in 2018. Hashtags on LinkedIn work slightly differently than on Instagram and Twitter. You can use them in your posts (aka ‘updates’) and in your articles (up to 5). But you cannot edit or add hashtags after you have posted them.
- Use ‘Hashtags trending in your network’ to discover the relevant hashtags for your audience. Choose ‘My Network’ and then ‘See all’ under the ‘Hashtag’ section.
- Mix up the popular hashtags (with high follower volume) with ‘long-tailed’ niche hashtags.
- Limit the number of hashtags in your posts.
- Use business hashtags. Google ‘best business hashtags’ and see suggestions for your niche.
- Use LinkedIn’s suggested hashtags. LinkedIn will give you hashtag suggestions when you type your post/article that are relevant to the content of your post.
- Use at least one location-related hashtag if you have a local business.
Facebook Hashtag Strategy
Although Facebook is the biggest social medium (in terms of the number of users) in this round-up, we left it for the end – because the experts are divided whether hashtags on Facebook really ‘work’.
One thing is for sure, although there is no limit on how many hashtags you should use per post, the more hashtags you use, the lower the organic reach.
So, in order for you to have a chance of succeeding with hashtags on Facebook:
- Limit yourself to 1-2 hashtags per post.
- Use hashtags to mark your cyclical posts e.g. #TuesdayTip #FunFriday #ThrowbackThursday
- Alternatively, use popular/trending hashtags. You can use tools like Hashtagify.me to find popular industry hashtags too.
As you know, there’s no point in using social media for your business if you take out the ‘social’ element. Having a clear hashtag strategy for each social medium will help you reach *a lot* more people in your target audience than you otherwise would. Plus, it will help you avoid lowering your organic reach or getting banned.
Guest author: Emilia is a growth hacker with 5+ years of international experience in startup marketing and a marketing strategist at Postfity – social media scheduler. She specializes in SEO content marketing and building marketing strategies for SaaS businesses. She has launched two startups herself (in the UK and China) and has been running a content agency for the past 6 years. Privately an avid long-distance runner and traveler in love with China.