Hashtags are increasingly important in social media marketing campaigns.
They enable content marketers get in front of their target audience and identify social media conversations that are relevant to their business. Only 24% of tweets include hashtags, but those that do receive twice the engagement of those without them. When used well, hashtags can be powerful tools that drive brand recognition, increase reach, build community, create buzz, and positively impact customer loyalty.
What are hashtags?
Hashtags are labels for content. They are a way to track topics on Twitter and other social media platforms. Anyone sharing content can add one to their messages and posts, and they help people quickly find information on that same topic. The syntax is a word or phrase preceded by the hash sign (#), such as #contest and #sweepstakes. Each hashtag is clickable and redirects users to a page that displays all messages and images that use the same hashtag. The use of hashtags enables people to wade through the fire hose of social media posts and interact only with the content they find relevant.
Platforms that support hashtags
If you use Twitter, you know that the use of hashtags there is prevalent. They can help you organize your tweets and use your voice to deliver targeted brand messages. You can view trending hashtags on the sidebar of your Twitter page and at Hashtags.org. It's easy to join in a hashtag conversation by clicking on one in your own tweets or those of others. You can track hashtags to see which ones resonate most with your audience.
Facebook added hashtag support in June 2013, and their use hasn't really caught on. Every hashtag on Facebook has a unique URL, and clicking on one will redirect you to its feed. You can also click on hashtags that originate on other services. You can search for hashtags from your search bar using the syntax #Yourhashtag or by typing facebook.com/hashtag/Yourhashtag into your browser. In each case, replace Yourhashtag with the tag you're trying to find. You can also create posts directly from the hashtag feed or search results.
Pinterest uses the same hashtag approach as other platforms. You apply a tag that represents the topic of the post so that people can find your content in related searches. The hashtag is bolded slightly in your post, and it becomes a search link that forwards users to pinterest.com/search/?q=Yourhashtag. When people now run that same search by clicking the hashtag on someone else's profile, they'll discover your content in the mix.
Using hashtags on Instagram can help maximize your reach and create a network of influential brand followers. If you don't employ hashtags on Instagram, your photos effectively remain private, making it difficult for your target audience to discover you. Instagram photo challenges contain a unique set of hashtags. For example, #ThrowbackThursday encourages users to post retro photos. Try to use at least one hashtag per photo to maximize shares.
Using hashtags is a good way to get your Google+ posts noticed in search engine results. When users click on a hashtag in Google+, the search results page (SERP) includes the original hashtag as well as posts with similar tags and keywords. Users can choose to arrange hashtagged posts chronologically or see the "Best of" posts at the top of their streams. Google+ will also intuitively add hashtags to posts if it thinks that they are relevant.
Don't overuse hashtags
Make sure to use a maximum of two hashtags per post. Including too many will leave the impression that you are spamming your followers. This video with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake does a hilarious job of illustrating the pitfalls of overdoing it. :)
Using Hashtags in Social Media Marketing is a post by Pam Dyer on Pamorama | Social Media Marketing Blog. A Forbes Top-25 Forbes Social Media Power Influencer, Pam is a Seattle-area marketing professional and Seahawks fan. Follow her on Twitter at @pamdyer.