Harnessing the power of hashtags in an online-driven world

Social Media Marketing

Here’s a fun fact! Did you know that Twitter initially rejected the use of hashtags because they were too “nerdy”? Originally known as the “pound” sign, hashtags have emerged as a staple element used to group content together and make online posts more discoverable. So, what is a hashtag? Lifewire defines a hashtag as a keyword or a phrase used to describe a topic or a theme, which is immediately preceded by the pound sign (#). The momentum of this online trend keeps growing.

Where it all began

Online use of the hashtag began in 2007, when Chris Messina asked his followers to share their sentiments about using the pound sign in group conversations. Messina found it impossible to separate tweets around a certain topic. In an interview with CNBC, the hashtag inventor expressed that he wanted to create an “instant channel that anyone can join and participate in.” This led to the birth of the “#”. His recurrent use of the symbol sparked a historic online craze that subsequently led to Twitter incorporating the function into their systems. Since then, hashtags are used heavily in online interactions and other social media platforms have adopted it.

What impact is this trend having on how we communicate on social networks?

Hashtags encourage social media users to explore content, become part of a bigger conversation and filter out information according to their interests. Businesses with an online presence can use this feature to drive customer interactions, grow their audience and gain a lot more traction on social media platforms that function as a hub for tech-savvy users. According to Instagram statistics, posts with at least one hashtag score 12.6% more engagement than those with none. Marketers are taking the usage of hashtags up a notch by promoting branded hashtags to further influence interactions. By doing this, brand-specific content does not get lost in a sea of posts.

Using different hashtags for different social media platforms

Hashtags are universal and have made it easier for brands to gain recognition. However, usage matters and it differs on each platform. For example – the way hashtags are used on Instagram is different from Twitter and here’s a quick how-to guide on using hashtags across main social media channels:

Instagram

This platform has evolved over the years and it has become a potent marketing tool for businesses. Instagram is flexible and brands can use up to 30 hashtags in a single post. According to research, using 11 or more hashtags on an Instagram post can increase engagement by 442%.

Facebook

With Facebook, the inclusion of hashtags must be strategic. A study suggests that using more than one hashtag lowers the engagement rate. It is also important to leverage unique brand-specific tags to intensify promotion of content and campaigns.

Twitter

For a social media platform that dismissed the use of hashtags, Twitter recommends using no more than including two hashtags per tweet. This leaves more room for real content and the post looks less like spam.

LinkedIn

Due to LinkedIn being more business-to-business in nature, hashtags used on this platform must be professional and should not be used in isolation. Although it is not recommended for everyday use, creating a relevant tag for a greater campaign can maximise exposure and make content more shareable.

Yes, hashtags are great but…

We have all heard the adage that too much of a good thing is bad. The same applies to the use of hashtags. Although we have established that including them in social media posts is a great move in terms of increasing engagement, it is important to stick to the limit required to increase the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.

The key to reaping greater results is using simple and brand-relevant hashtags to make posts more discoverable. If used correctly, hashtags can play a crucial role in expanding brand reach and boosting marketing efforts. Whichever platform you choose to include in your digital marketing strategy, it is best to find out the correct usage of hashtags before getting started.

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