By guest author Brian Zeng
Hashtags are nothing new, but they still seem to get a lot of attention. Remember Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon’s take on the hashtag a couple of years back where they simulated “what a Twitter conversation sounds like in real life?” It was a hilarious and a classic example of how silly one can sound with the overuse or misuse of the hashtag.
Hashtags are great if you want to publish posts and conversations related to a similar topic as well as for some clever jokes and commentary.
In fact, if you want to convey irony in or context of a post, hashtags are awesome, but some basic rules need to be followed.
This is especially applicable to marketers who have been taking advantage of this tool since it was first used on Twitter in 2007. While hashtags can help your e-commerce business gain exposure, they can hinder your marketing efforts if you fail to understand how hashtag usage works.
The following are a few dos and don’ts to remember to get the best out of your hashtag campaign:
1. Don’t Use Them Every Time
A hashtag, in a nutshell, is a filter of a word or phrase preceded by the ‘#’ sign (without any space) to make it easier to find posts or conversations related to a particular topic or event. Just because Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other leading social media sites allow you to add hashtags to your posts doesn’t mean you should use them all the time. A BuzzSumo report published in 2016 found that posts without hashtags generated more reach compared to those with hashtags. They studied over 1 billion Facebook posts from more than 30 million brand pages.
According to Ian Cleary, founder of RazorSocial, “Use hashtags (1 or 2 only) when they make sense and when you use something relevant that people can filter on to find more relevant conversation.”
The bottom line is: don’t add loads of hashtags just for the sake of it. People are less likely to care about or monitor such hashtag trends. Instead, try to limit the number of hashtags in your posts and always mix it up.
2. Don’t Add Too Many or Overly Long Hashtags
Hard to read, isn’t it? That’s exactly the point. Spaces have a purpose. Many people use long hashtags to get their point across quickly, but in reality, such hashtags are difficult to read and look utterly spammy.
Remember, when it comes to hashtags, less is more. Use them to summarize the topic and build your brand.
3. Don’t Hijack Hashtags
A few weeks before the Rio Olympics, the U.S. Olympic Committee banned companies from using the official hashtags such as #TeamUSA and #Rio2016 on Twitter, not even for wishing athletes good luck. Why? Because they wanted to stop the Olympic-level versions of “hashjacking.”
Hashjacking or hashtag hijacking occurs when a hashtag that has nothing to do with the original topic is used in a post. In other words, the hashjacker is simply trying to take advantage of the hashtag’s popularity and/or search results. This too is a form of spam and especially gets worse when you are trying to take advantage of tragic events.
4. Don’t Add Hashtags Only At the End of a Post
Now this may not be as serious a crime as those mentioned earlier, but waiting until the end of your post before adding hashtags can cause problems. On Twitter you are bound to obey the 140 character limit, which means you may have to rewrite your post. Most importantly, when you are using hashtags at the end of a post they are more likely to be overlooked or written off.
The best practice is to include hashtags somewhere within the content itself (where they are a natural fit within the sentence) for better visibility.
5. Do Promote Your Product
Hashtags are highly effective when it comes to getting your products or brand discovered. For example, the Search and Explore feature of Instagram is immensely helpful for viewing the top hashtags for your particular vertical and demographic. You can easily use 3 to 4 of these relevant hashtags when launching your next social selling campaign.
In fact, once you find a relevant hashtag that can be associated with your brand, use it in all your posts, emails and other promotional material to improve your brand exposure.
6. Do Use Hashtags to Engage Your Audience
Direct interaction with brands is one of the most important e-commerce trends for 2017. An increasing number of shoppers will engage with their favorite brands as much as they can. Hashtags can really help you here.
Use them to ask questions, start a conversation, or even reward your audiences with cool tips and amazing information about your product. For example, Winner, a popular Canadian apparel store, uses the hashtag #WinnersFabFinds across their social channels and also in-store to encourage customers to share original content.
You can even use funny hashtags as humor goes a long way in engaging the audience.
7. Do Use Hashtags to Check the Competition
Hashtags are not just meant to promote your own brand. Remember, the whole point of hashtags is to make it easier to search for a given topic by combining together related posts and conversations. Use your competitors’ popular hashtags to see what people are saying about their brands.
This will help you understand what your competitors are up to and where you may be lacking.
When used correctly, a hashtag is an effective and powerful marketing tool that can provide great opportunities to expand your market reach. Follow the simple tips mentioned in this post and you will find hashtag marketing has the potential to generate more leads and revenue than traditional advertising.
About the author:
Brian Zeng is the owner of Ponbee.com, through which he aims to share his insights on an array of topics related to business, e-commerce, digital marketing and entrepreneurship.