Hashtags have been around since 2007. That’s right, hashtags are almost ready to get their driver’s permit. But while they’ve existed for over a decade, many small and mid-sized businesses don’t know how to use hashtags effectively in a social strategy.

To help these businesses improve their social media approach, we’re talking about hashtags: how hashtags work, what their purpose is, and how you can use them to optimize your content. 

3 Hashtag Myths

When hashtags were first introduced to the world, companies didn’t know how to use them effectively. In fact, most people didn’t fully understand how social media algorithms used hashtags to make your content more discoverable. 

That misunderstanding bred many myths that are still highly prevalent—some people today consider them to be absolutely true. Here are three well-circulated myths we want to debunk once and for all.

Myth #1: Hashtags Can Make Your Content Go Viral

Picking the right hashtags cannot make your post go viral...

Some people falsely assume that the right combinations of hashtags can turn their content into viral sensations. 

This is not true.

Hashtags have the power to display your content to the world, but they are not a fast-pass to viral content. You can’t produce half-baked content and expect your hashtags to do the rest of the legwork to make your content a viral sensation. For that to happen, you need incredibly engaging and useful content (we’ll explain how to do that a little later in this article) and a heavy dose of luck.

Myth #2: Popular Hashtags = More Customers

Popular hashtags are not the most valuable hashtags.

There is some sound logic to the myth that hashtags allow your posts to be seen on discovery pages by people who don’t follow your account. Therefore, if your content is more discoverable by your audience, that means you can gain more followers, right?

Not exactly.

Hashtags do make it easier for potential customers to find your content and discover your brand. In fact, research shows that companies can enjoy 29% more post interactions when their posts have just one hashtag (and interactions increase to 79% with 11 or more hashtags).

You’ll find that increased engagement is all that hashtags can offer—there is no significant proof to suggest hashtags can help you gain more customers or increase sales. Therefore, hashtags should not be your primary tool to capture new leads.

Myth #3: Using the Same Hashtags Over and Over Can Penalize Your Content

Another fairly popular myth floating around is that you need to diversify your hashtags so you don’t get flagged and penalized by social media sites as spam. 

False.

A quick look at any big brand’s social media account can quickly debunk this myth. Many of the most popular brands like Apple and Nike recycle the same hashtag or set of hashtags over and over again. Their engagement clearly isn’t becoming penalized in any way, and neither will yours.

How Do Hashtags Really Work?

Now that we’ve gotten those hashtag myths out of our system, it’s time for the good stuff: how to use hashtags effectively in your social strategy. We’ve outlined some essential tips to help you better use hashtags to improve the shareability of your posts the right way.

Good Strategy + Good Content = Virality

Of the many problems behind business’ social media approaches, a bad strategy can do the most damage.

If you want viral content, you had better start with a solid strategy that helps you produce valuable content. But before you get too excited about this simple equation, know that the math isn’t perfect. Just having a good strategy and great content does not guarantee high levels of engagement on social media. But, if you do it enough, you can certainly improve your chances of going viral.

Developing a Flawless Content Marketing Strategy

To create a high-quality content strategy, you must first know your audience and your company’s mission and goals. That means asking yourself these kinds of questions:

  • What value does my content offer?
  • Who am I trying to reach with my content?
  • What do I want my audience to do after they’ve read my content?

While there are many more variables to creating a flawless content marketing strategy, these questions can at least lead you in the right direction.

Creating Engaging Content

After establishing who you are talking to and what you’re trying to inspire, you’re ready to create your content. While there are hundreds of ways to create unique and informative social media content that engages and informs your audience, here are just a few ideas to spark some inspiration in your noggin:

  • Make it shareable: Your followers will want to share your content if it can solve a problem in people’s lives or if it triggers positive emotions.
  • Focus on visuals: Especially when you’re posting on Instagram, you need an image or video that grabs attention. Once you’ve drawn that attention, you can direct them to a link or an informative caption.
  • Be unique: Your customers will want to follow you if you offer some unique perspective or stand out from the crowd. If you just try to replicate what other brands are doing, those customers might as well follow them instead.

Boost Your Content with Hashtags

Now that you have content that’s worth sharing, you’re ready to post and promote. And as we’ve learned, hashtags can make your engagement skyrocket. When used in proper synergy with outstanding and shareable content, hashtags can turn your social posts into lasting impressions. 

Focus on Hashtag Relevance, Not Volume

If hashtags aren’t what make viral content, why use hashtags at all? Because they help your content get discovered.

The goal of using hashtags is to get interested leads viewing your content—you don’t want just any pair of eyeballs. You want hashtags that can help you narrow in on your audience and gauge their interest in your products. 

To do this, you can’t indiscriminately throw hashtags onto your posts because they seem related; it’s time to do some hashtag research. Here are some methods and tools you can use to optimize your hashtags:

Research Your Competitors

It’s time to stalk the competition. Look at posts from major brands in your industry and any influencers who promote similar products. Take a look at their hashtags, how many they use, and how frequently they use the same ones. This approach will give you a rough idea of how your competition engages with its audience and how you can start to do the same.

Find Trending Hashtags

Once you have a good idea of what kind of hashtags to use, it’s time to trim those down to the keywords that are trending. The following programs can help you track which hashtags are trending and help you decide which ones to target:

  • Hashtagify – Shows popular hashtags on Twitter and Instagram.
  • RiteTag – Finds popular hashtag suggestions for your images.
  • Trendsmap – Organizes popular hashtags based on geographic location.

Use Hashtags That Were Successful in the Past

After you target trending hashtags for a while, you should review which brought the most engagement. We recommend creating a list of these high-performing hashtags so you can easily recycle them whenever you create relevant content.

Specific Hashtag Rules to Know

What NOT to do and WHY with Hashtags...

Although every social media platform uses hashtags in the same way, each one has different rules and regulations to be aware of. So let’s quickly go through the difference between the “Big Four” of business social media marketing (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn).

  • Facebook
    • Optimal hashtags per post: 1-2
    • You should not use too many hashtags on Facebook. Doing so may seem unprofessional or irritating to readers, resulting in fewer views and less engagement.
  • Twitter
    • Optimal hashtags per post: 1-2
    • Hashtags can easily broadcast your tweets to a larger audience, but don’t add too many hashtags. Limiting your hashtags to just one or two per tweet will keep your content homed in on a focused topic.
  • Instagram
    • Optimal hashtags per post: 10-30
    • You should not use hashtags that are associated with inappropriate content. You can find a list of these flagged hashtags here. Using them will result in your posts becoming hidden, thus limiting your exposure.
  • LinkedIn
    • Optimal hashtags per post: 1-3
    • Hashtags are primarily used for brand awareness on LinkedIn, so they should only target industry-specific terms.

Think Beyond Hashtags

We don’t want your content strategy to be bogged down by hashtags. While they’re important tools to boost engagement, we want to help you refocus on what really matters: powerful content.

In 2020, we helped Instant Tax Solutions increase their Facebook followers by over 214%, thanks to a regular content posting schedule and a comprehensive Page Likes campaign. This resulted in over 2000 visits to the landing page.

At Big Leap, we specialize in holistic social media marketing solutions so you can see better results in a shorter amount of time. Contact our social team to find out how we can help you

Julie Snow
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