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Hashtags – Your Comprehensive Guide and How to Use Them

Using hashtags on a smartphone

Hashtags have quickly become a “must-have” for social media and digital marketing. With the rapid evolution of the hashtag, the importance of understanding their fundamentals has grown just as quick. There is a lot of the hashtag world that many of us are yet to discover. This includes how to use them, when to use them, and how they can help business growth. Here is a closer look into hashtags.

What is a hashtag?

The Oxford Dictionary added the word hashtag in 2014, stating that a hashtag is “a word or phrase with the symbol ‘#’ in front of it, used on social media websites and apps so that you can search for all messages with the same subject.”  Sounds pretty simple, right? When used to their full potential, hashtags can create business growth, add to brand recognition, and give you another revenue for humour in your posts.

In addition to this, they can help establish communities, movements and trends. An example of this is the #lovewins movement. This hashtag has been one of the most popular to date, being used 12,800,000 times. This hashtag took social media platforms by storm on June 26, 2015, after the US Supreme Court ruled in favour of gay marriage, hence why it is such a popular hashtag for people to use to celebrate equality and love.

Evidently, hashtags have great power when used correctly so let’s break it down.

How to use hashtags?

First things first, how do you use hashtags? Commonly, they are used on social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram. When creating a post, whether you are sharing a photo, video or a Tweet, you can brainstorm words that relate to what you are posting, such as the subject matter, topic, category, location, or aesthetic. It is important to remember that simplicity is key when creating hashtags, using complex, unfamiliar words in hashtags can make it difficult to decipher what is written. Anything longer than three words can be hard to read, and less likely to be used by a wide audience, so keep them short and sweet.

Another way to make hashtags easier to read is to capitalise each word, for example, #OracoAgency or #SocialMedia. This also gives text readers the ability to decipher the text for those who are visually impaired. Once you have brainstormed words or short phrases to use, simply add a ‘#’ in front of them and remove all spaces. Add them in your post, either throughout the text or at the bottom of your caption, and watch your post reach a wider audience. Additionally, they can be used in your Instagram bio to further attract users to your account with who you share common interests.

How to find new hashtags ideas

Brainstorming in the notes of your phone or computer is a great way to start compiling your ideas. However, there are other ways to generate hashtags.  An easy way to find a group of hashtags is to look up a key word on Instagram and take note of the hashtags that are used on the post in that search. Another way of searching for new hashtags is to look up trending ones and choose those that are applicable to you. There are websites, such as Best Hashtags that are dedicated to displaying trending hashtags, therefore finding up-to-date lists are a simple Google search away. Remember, choosing hashtags that don’t necessarily represent your post can discredit you as a user, so pick ones that represent you and reflect your post.

How many should I use?

Although the excitement of them can make you feel like you want to use ALL the hashtags, setting a limit will help you choose the best ones. Many publishing platforms such as Later, put a limit to how many you can include. Instagram has also introduced a limit of 30 hashtags recently. Therefore, choose wisely ensuring you use a range of different ones, giving people the ability to delve into different topics and categories. Different platforms recommend different amounts, and these numbers fluctuate constantly, so staying up to date with the suggested number of hashtags will assist your success rates.

 What do hashtags achieve?

Hashtags can enable business growth, expand reach and collate content into subject groups. They can be followed on Instagram and Facebook, allowing viewers to see all posts that use the hashtag they are following. This is one way your profile could attract new organic visitors. An example of this could be that those with a vested interest in social media management may follow #SocialMediaTips. This allows them to see all the related content to this subject.

Furthermore, hashtags can bring people together, such as #ToyPoodleLovers! They are a way of finding like-minded people who share the same interests.

Location-based hashtags are another great example of using hashtags for your business. Small businesses from a particular area may choose to use a hashtag explaining their location. This informs viewers of their local area in a single glance. This is great for travellers who like to plan their trip and may search to quickly see what the area has to offer. A café in Mornington might use #Mornington or #MorningtonPeninsula to attract visitors and tourists. This is a simple addition to your bio or post that can enable major success!

Keeping track of your hashtags

Creating a list of hashtags isn’t a set and forget task, in fact, it is a good idea to regularly update your list. Hashtags, like many things, go out of style quite quickly, especially trending ones. You also don’t want to sound like a broken record and be too repetitive, or your hashtags will have no effect at all! Updating your list once a month ensures you are getting the most out of them. Organise them by key topics to use in combinations across your posts, allowing you to plan but not sound repetitive. You can monitor the success of your hashtags also! There are many different websites, such as Sprout Social that can provide you with analytics, as well as viewing your Instagram insights to track your success to ensure you ditch the low performing ones.

Final thoughts

The reach of hashtags is hard to predict and will differ each time you use them. Therefore, it is important to know that consistency is key and don’t give up on them. Additionally, they might not show effect instantly, in fact, you might refresh after a night’s sleep to find they were reaching users from the other side of the world all while you slept.

What are your favourite hashtags? Do you use them in every post?

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