The Art of the Hashtag

How and when to use the hashtag to your advantage
September 08, 2015 Hannah Whitten
3 minute read

Once confined to Twitter, hashtags are now used across every major social site as a way to categorize and discover content. Facebook, Instagram, and even Google+ have implemented the hashtag, allowing you to expand your audience quick and easily.

Unfortunately, ease of use can lead to abuse (rhyme intentional, this is important)! Though it seems like throwing a ton of hashtags at a post is a good way to get it in front of more potential customers, this can send the wrong message and turn off your audience. Like any marketing tool, hashtags should be researched and planned before being used.

We've identified 3 common missteps with the hashtag, and how you can avoid them:

Too Much Vs. Too Little

Hashtags are a delicate balance. You want to use enough to get your point across, but not so many that you seem desperate for engagement.

The magic number of hashtags is different for every social site. While engagement (favorites, replies, and retweets) increased by 50% on Tweets with one or two hashtags, engagement actually decreased by 17% when more than two hashtags were used.

how to use hashtags for your business

On Instagram, the more hashtags used, the better the post performs. The only limit to how many you use is how many relevant hashtags you can think of (more on that later).

Though Facebook does allow hashtag use, posts without hashtags actually perform better on the site. If you must use a hashtag on Facebook, keep it short and sweet, and try using the same one on every post for maximum SEO value.

Hashtag Relevance

While it's a good idea to check out what's trending when choosing hashtags, don't make the mistake of using a hashtag only because it's trending. Hashtags are basically keywords used to search for content — when consumers are searching a hashtag, it's because they're interested in content that is relevant to the keyword. Crowding a trending tag with irrelevant content is irritating and will turn customers off.

Irritation at incorrect hashtag use is a force to be reckoned with, and has even sparked a website of its own.

Use a site like tagboard.com to search hashtags relevant to your content and see what's trending. Choose a handful of hashtags that have a high usage rate and relate to the content you're tagging.

Search Your Hashtags

The last and most important guideline when choosing hashtags is to always search them prior to use.

Hashtags often have a deeper meaning that can only be understood once you see what kind of content is connected to it.

The best example is DiGiorno's attempt to jump on a trending tag in 2014. The tag #WhyIStayed was trending on Twitter to bring awareness to domestic violence survivors. Without checking the content of the tag, DiGiorno jumped in, Tweeting "#WhyIStayed You had pizza."

A lot of embarrassment could have been spared with a simple search. It's a good idea to search all your hashtags, even ones that seem self-explanatory. Your content will be lumped together with all other posts using the tag, so check out the company you'll be keeping when deciding what to use.

The hashtag is an incredible tool for optimizing your content to reach as many interested parties as possible. But, with great power comes great responsibility. Follow these guidelines to ensure that your tagging is helping rather than hurting your business.