Content creation and hashtags — when you’re talking about social media strategy, these terms need to be on the top of your mind. You already know that in order to be successful, social posts need to be built around high-quality, valuable content that gets people talking, but you can’t rely on social shares alone to get your content in front of new audiences. That’s where hashtags come in.
Now, many marketers understand why you’d use hashtags to boost your content marketing, but understanding how is a different story.
In this piece, we’ll breakdown the basics of using hashtags and content marketing in perfect harmony: why it’s important and how to maximize their effectiveness.
Most people understand what hashtags are — words and phrases marked by a # sign that group together posts and conversations about common topics. For the less socially-inclined marketers, the reasons why brands need to use them may not come as naturally.
Think of a social media site like a search engine and hashtags like keywords. What happens if you produce an organic blog post or web page without keyword optimization? It flops in the search rankings, and fewer prospective leads and customers will see your content. The same goes for social media. No matter the platform, posts without hashtags will be limited in their effectiveness if your goal is to maximize reach.
Imagine you run an optical retailer and you want to advertise that you have the largest selection of glasses in the industry, so you post on your Instagram about it. The problem here? This post will likely only be seen by your followers and these people may already be aware of this leverage point. With hashtags, on the other hand, you could see your engagement skyrocket. Even the addition of #glasses at the end of your post copy could put your content in front of thousands of new eyes.
Getting Your Content Seen By Your Target Audience
Let’s take the analogy a step further and talk about using hashtags to target your content to the right audience. This is where hashtagging tends to confuse people — is it more important to use common hashtags, or uncommon ones? As it turns out, a mix of the two types may work best, depending on the platform in question.
“Choosing more “niche” Instagram hashtags (ones that aren’t used by as many people) than popular tags might feel like you’re going to appeal to fewer people. However, the truth is that you’re simply making sure that you’re attracting the right people.”
That’s Jill Potasnik, a Social Media Marketing Strategist and Visibility Consultant for her own company, SocialElevator, LLC. She specializes in helping content reach the eyes of a brand’s audience, which she says is harder than it seems, and takes a deep understanding of your audience:
“Instagram hashtags help your posts to appear in front of your target audience, but only if you know what they are searching for.”
And, the results tend to speak for themselves:
Sneh Ratna Choudhary, Senior Content Marketer at Beaconstac, executed a test with one of their posts. Measured before and after optimizing a piece of content creation with hashtags, they observed a 351% boost in reach and a 1000% increase in engagement.
Here’s why you won’t find us telling you the optimal number of hashtags to use on different platforms: like Google’s algorithm as it pertains to SEO, small changes in these platforms and the way they elevate certain posts means that things — like hashtagging best practices — change fast. Just like how a Google update made keyword stuffing harm a page’s SEO ranking, Instagram changed its algorithm to detect posts that use too many hashtags and penalize them for being “spammy”.
It would be easy to read this article and immediately start jamming hashtags in with your content on every platform. A reasoned, strategic approach means understanding the shortcomings of some social media platforms.
For example, Facebook doesn’t support hashtags like Instagram, Twitter, and Linkedin do.
According to Taras Prystatsky, Content Marketing Strategist at Respect.Studio, “Facebook’s hashtag search is merged with the general keyword search… I find it a bit ineffective to use hashtags on this platform. That is why I use no more than 3 niche hashtags.”
Instagram is a different story — Prystatsky recommends using around 15 keywords to optimize content in the post itself, and more in the comments.
Here are some of the most important sites for using hashtags as early as possible to grow your reach:
- Pinterest: Pinterest marketing is not as widely applicable for brands, but the platform’s reliance on categories makes hashtags an important ingredient for marketers.
- Twitter: On Twitter, the latest trends and news are hidden behind hashtags — find the latest trending topics, and you have a world’s worth of engagement at your fingertips.
- Instagram: Instagram, like Pinterest, relies on finding your audience in their preferred category or community. When you’re just starting out, putting your posts in front of as many eyes as possible is key, and hashtags help you do that.
Strategies to find the best hashtags to use in posts do vary from platform to platform, but not too much:
- Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and other platforms have lists of the top (or “trending”) hashtags being used. Once you find a top hashtag, look at posts for that hashtag and identify how it’s being used
- Finding leading influencers and authorities in your industry and look at the hashtags they’re using to drive engagement
- Follow competitors in your industry and do the same thing
- Study your customer avatars to try and predict their interests on social media
- Survey customers and clients to see what types of hashtags they pay attention to
- Simply learn via trial and error — social media is cost-effective enough that you can afford to make a few mistakes, as long as you’re learning and optimizing your content as a result
There are countless tools out there to help you find top-performing —meaning they allow you to maximize engagement — hashtags. Here are a few examples:
These are databases that use software to generate thousands of hashtags for any brand in any industry.
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for ways to increase your ROI on social media — especially without using paid ads — hashtagging is a great way to start. But content marketing hashtags is a lot like anything else in the content marketing sphere: without valuable, high-performing content to start off with, your social posts will fall flat.