So hashtags, you’ve seen them on Facebook posts, Instagram posts, Twitter posts, LinkedIn Posts, pretty much everywhere. It is easy to whack a #blessed or #photography or #wagga at the bottom of a picture or post, but what does that actually do?
What is a hashtag?
A hashtag is an added metadata tag on your post or photo. What does this do? It allows the social media platform to sort the information and deliver it to the correct feeds and searches. Essentially the hashtag is a brief way of describing or grouping content that the platform’s algorithm can use to deliver it to an end user.
As the end user interacts with content that has the hashtags attached, the social media platform can see the viewing pattern they have developed and connect that pattern with their profile, and in the future the platform will present content that it thinks the user will like.
The importance of Hashtags
Using the correct hashtags will enable content to be directed towards users that have already shown an interest about that information, whether they are directly searching for that type of post, or if they have been interacting with related posts with similar hashtags.
This is important to know from a marketing standpoint as posts that are missing tags or using the wrong tags won’t reach the audience that posts that are correctly hash-tagged will. But using the correct hashtags will help target the audience wanted, as well as potentially pushing the content to a larger audience.
Another use for hashtags is to have your audience use specific hashtags, so that you can find their content and communicate with them. This is often seen with events or competitions, and is often used in conjunction with offering to share the content if a specific hashtag is used. A good example of this locally in Wagga is the #visitwagga tag on instagram.
Can you hashtag too much?
The short answer is no, and realistically the long answer is no too. The more hashtags you use the better, each hashtag opens up another avenue for your post or image to be seen, so its always best to have all those avenues open to communicate, the more you use the more effective the post can be. Some platforms have a limit, for example Instagram’s is 30, but there is no reason not to fill up those 30 hashtags if you are serious about hashtagging.
The only real arguments I could find against using all the hashtags possible is the aesthetics of having a wall of hashtags at the end of a post, and that maybe the algorithms don’t like spamming lots of hashtags at once (but it is a maybe, as the algorithms are a closely guarded secret and there is no evidence this is true).
Some sites will recommend a specific amount of hashtags per post (11 seems to be a popular number), but again there is no evidence that this is actually true and once more we don’t know how the algorithm takes number of hashtags into account.
Choosing the right hashtags?
When adding hashtags to your post there are a couple of factors that need to be taken into consideration:
Relevance - does your hashtag match up with your content and the audience you want to reach? If you have a post about cooking chicken you’d want to use hashtags that relate to cooking and that would appeal to people who like cooking, rather than use hashtags that are about car repairs. (i’m not saying mechanics don’t cook, but that people who like to cook definitely do)
Popularity - Its important to use hashtags that are already getting traction, while it might seem better to use one that is unique, so that you have no “competition”, a more popular hashtag means it will show up in more feeds and people are more likely to search for it. As explained before, the social media platform use hashtags to sort content and present it to end users according to their viewing patterns, but a hashtag that has very little use or interactions will be unlikely to be shared in this manner.
One good use of unique hashtags is that they are really good if you want to create a hashtag that people can use to communicate with you, like the earlier #visitwagga example.
There are a lot of sites that will help you choose the right hashtags, that will give you the statistics on their usage, that suggest common hashtags that you post relates to or that works for the audience you want to reach.
Should I always use hashtags?
Mostly, yes. If you platform allows it there is no real reason not to, Facebook is probably the only one with an argument against using hashtags, few people use them so they often feel out of place. A much more effective option on Facebook to expand your reach on Facebook would be to use Facebook advertising to target new audiences based on interests and behaviours.
On other platforms they are often a necessity to get good traction and grow your followers, especially on Twitter or Instagram.