Look, we know hashtags aren’t a new concept, but for most, knowing how and when to use them properly is still a bit foreign. So, today we are going to go through a few dos and don’ts that will hopefully help you become the next hashtag #expert.

First, let’s define exactly what a hashtag is. According to HubSpot, “a hashtag is simply a keyword phrase, spelled out without spaces, with a pound sign (#) in front of it.” Some perfect examples which you may be familiar with are #ThrowbackThursday and #MondayMotivation.

Although hashtags have different uses on each platform, they essentially assist in making your content or message more discoverable. And while we’re not saying you should start littering your posts with as many hashtags as humanly possible, they are definitely fundamental to your success on social media.

Now, on with those dos and don’ts we promised.

Dos

1. Engage in Trending Topics
You know the ones - #ThrowbackThursday, #MondayMotivation, #TransformationTuesday - just to name a few. These hashtags are those that tend to get a spike in usage on their respective day, so when applicable you should definitely plan on scheduling content around that particular topic.

Now, of course there are instances when a particular topic will unexpectedly begin to trend (anyone up for some #covfefe?) which forces you to decide if, as a brand, it’s something in which you want to engage. For example, let’s say that you are a pizza company and it just so happens to be #NationalPizzaDay. You see the hashtag start to creep up on the “trends” section of Twitter, so naturally you would want to post something to jump into that particular conversation.

On the flip side, you also want to make sure you are engaging in a trending topic with which you want to be associated (more on that in the don’ts section).

2. Use Multiple Hashtags


Fortunately (or unfortunately for us long-winded folks), with Twitter you are limited to 140 characters, so there is little room to clutter your post with hashtags, but with Instagram there are no character limits. Hold on though, I’m not telling you to go out and load up each post with a million hashtags, BUT don’t be afraid to use more than one. I tend to lean towards 3-5 in the actual post caption and if you feel more are necessary, add them below in an additional comment. This way you can still fit in more of the discoverable hashtags without muddying up the post itself.

3. Use Branded Hashtags
What is a branded hashtag you ask? It’s a hashtag that’s been specifically created for your brand or marketing campaign. It’s a good way to track the success of a particular campaign because you can just go in and search to see how many posts have used that exact hashtag.

One thing to note is - Do your research! The worst thing that could happen is that you come up with this fantastic hashtag that is so super clever and you’re just so proud of how smart you are (because you are like, really, really smart) only to find out that it’s already been in use for a few months or even years. That makes it much more difficult to track actual usage when you’re wading through all the user posts that have nothing to do with your brand or campaign.

Don’ts

1. Engage in Trending Topics
I know, I know “but you just said that was a do?!” Just hear me out. While, yes, it is important and valuable to jump in on the conversations that are trending, it’s even more important to ensure that they make sense for your brand. There are just too many examples of brands trying to capitalize on a trending hashtag only to find out later that the subject matter was unsavory, politically charged, etc. (seriously, we could do a separate blog post on just that). As I stated above in the branded hashtags “do”, make sure you research said hashtag to see how and if it aligns with your brand or campaign.

2. Use Irrelevant Hashtags
Earlier, I mentioned that using multiple hashtags in your post was a good tactic to have in order to make your content more discoverable, but that comes with a caveat. While adding more hashtags increases your chances of more likes and followers, you want to ensure that they are quality likes and follows. For example, let’s say you are a travel brand and you have a piece of content that you want to amplify via Instagram, you’re more likely to receive more valuable likes and follows with relevant hashtags such as #travel, #tourism, etc. rather than #likeforlike and #followforfollow which will get you a bunch of bots and fake accounts.

If you’re still a bit unsure of what additional hashtags to use, take a look at what some of your competitors are using and use that as a bit of a guideline as well.

3. Create Super Long Hashtags

#ICannotStressThisOneEnough! It’s a hashtag, not a sentence. People don’t want to read a long hashtag let alone try to write it out in their own posts when mentioning your brand or campaign. You run the risk of misspellings and incorrect usage making the initial point of the hashtag moot. Many say that the optimal length is six characters, with others saying not to exceed 20 characters. Of course, you can go even shorter to abbreviate (ex: #tbt for #ThrowbackThursday), but if you must go longer, anywhere between 6-20 characters is what you should aim for.

So there you have it, our quick guide to hashtag usage. And if you’re still #confused, VIRGEN Digital Brand Marketing can help you navigate the world of hashtags and social in general.