Here’s the thing about hashtags… they’re really useful when you use them right, but almost useless if you’re not quite sure what you’re doing. Let’s start by setting some things straight. Hashtags are for Twitter. Hashtags are for Instagram. But please, oh please, don’t use the humble hashtag on Facebook – it’s not worth it.
And here’s where it gets a bit more interesting, especially if you’re a brand trying to make a name for yourself in the age of social media. You might have heard the rumours, and we’re here to say they’re true – hashtags really do serve different purposes on Twitter and on Instagram.
Twitter’s hashtags are all about finding conversations that you want to be part of, finding like-minded people, not necessarily like-minded opinions. But at the end of the day, you’re all talking about the same thing. If you search for the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, you know exactly the kind of conversation to expect. And if you use the hashtag #ShareaCoke, you’re probably creating some user-generated content for Coca-Cola’s long-running campaign.
As a brand, the Twitter hashtag’s a great way to bring your customer community together, and if you get trending, it’s the best way for people to discover what it’s like to be part of that community. As a side note – when you create a campaign or brand hashtag, whatever the purpose, it’s important that it’s not too difficult to write or spell (and also not too common for other applications). And definitely triple check what it looks like before you go viral.
Know your product and know your audience too though. McDonald’s clearly forgot that they were quite a controversial brand when they created their #McDStories campaign back in January 2012. They asked people to share their favourite #McDStories along with the hashtag. And as you can probably guess, they weren’t all the kind of tales that the fast-food giant was hoping for – #FoodPoisoning #FoundAFingernailInMyMcNuggets #McDStories. The promoted hashtag was swiftly removed.
Over on Instagram, it’s less about finding conversations, and more about sharing emotions and finding inspiration (which, as a brand, is where you can really WOW your customers). The most popular Instagram hashtags of 2017 include #love #instagood #photooftheday #happy #selfie #tbt. Paired with relevant (and good) photography, using these hashtags make you more discoverable to people who might not necessarily come across your account by searching for you directly.
It’s a case of balance with the Instagram hashtag though. Go too broad, and you’ll blend into the mass of other people using that hashtag, go too narrow and no-one will find you. At Fox, we tend to use a healthy mix of the two when we’re doing Instagram posts for our clients. The key is to experiment, to find what works for your business. If you want brand awareness, it’s probably better to use more generic hashtags, but if you’re looking for meaningful engagement, it’s better to reign it in and find people who really want to be part of your community.
Here’s a recent post we did for our client Brother Sewing UK.
#sewingmachine – 335,955 posts right now. This is pretty broad to attract new followers.
#sewfab – 4,455 posts right now. Only people who are really into their sewing on Instagram are likely to search for this, and as a result, they’re probably the kind of people who will engage with the content they find.
So what have we learnt?
Well, it’s clear that hashtags can make or break your business on social media. And it’s good to know how to use their power to your advantage. We’ve got a lot of experience with what works for our clients across a range of industries, so get in touch if you’d like to chat about creating a social strategy that works for your business.