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The Role of the Hashtag

By Snap Agency July 27, 2018

Hashtags. I’m sure you’ve seen them everywhere. From billboards to social channels to people verbally saying “hashtag” followed by something ridiculous. It’s surprising to see the number of people who use hashtags and don’t even know what they actually do on social channels. If you’re a brand, it’s important to recognize the strategy behind the tags.

Here at Snap, we’re all about optimizing and perfecting your social media marketing strategy to make sure you’re seeing a strong ROI. As hashtag gurus ourselves, today we’re going to break down the power of hashtags.

What is a Hashtag?

Let’s start off with what a hashtag does. While hashtags were originally created on Twitter, their use has since been expanded to sites like Instagram and Facebook. Across all these platforms, hashtags are used virtually the same way. While Twitter and Instagram have strong track records for success with using hashtags, Facebook has had some mixed results. Studies in the past, like Buzzsumo’s in-depth look at 1 billion posts from 30 million different brands, have shown that Facebook posts that incorporate hashtags aren’t seeing the spike in engagement that Twitter and Instagram posts see. In fact, they tend to have less engagement when compared to posts that don’t have any hashtags. So, when it comes to using hashtags, focus on your Twitter and Instagram feeds.

As one of the most powerful tools you can use for social media marketing, hashtags are a way to carry on a conversation with a large audience. It is the perfect way to engage and bring brand awareness to consumers that might not know who you are. You can rock hashtags by “social listening,” which means watching what’s trending online and keeping an eye out for trending hashtag that make sense for your industry and your prime demographic.

You don’t want to just join in on conversations by using hashtags that don’t make sense for your company. Dropping popular and appropriate hashtags will allow you to engage with current followers, as well as attract a new audience to your brand. Also, don’t just spam your posts with hashtags. Too many hashtags can make your posts appear unprofessional. Using any more than 3 makes it appear like you don’t understand how hashtags work and the true reason behind them: to generate meaningful conversation with your consumers.

You’re not just limited to jumping on board with current popular hashtags however. Whether you’re a big or small company, creating your own hashtag campaign can be beneficial for your brand. Coca-Cola’s #ShareaCoke campaign went along perfectly with their redesigned bottles fitted with popular names. The movement prompted engagement and helped boost sales for Coca-Cola Co. for the first time in nearly a decade. In fact, because of the success, they are still sticking to the campaign today.

How about a more localized example? Minnesota’s own Great Lakes Clothing’s #escapetothelake campaign allows for their followers to post pictures of them spending time at their favorite lakes and incorporate the hashtag for a chance to be featured on Great Lakes’ Instagram page. This hashtag works great with their lake-loving target market.

Tools for Thought

Here are a few online resources that can help you perfect your hashtag campaign.

  1. Hashtagify me: Find, analyze and amplify your content with trending hashtags and search by category. The tool to find associated hashtags within this platform is one of our favorite features, and makes this one of the best tools for this purpose. You can see popularity rankings and come up with a bunch of new hashtags to use created around targeted keywords. Our Social Media team has seen great interaction using this feature—especially on Instagram, where you can drop 20 hashtags in the first comment, and they quickly get covered up by other comments (if you have enough traction.)
  2. RiteTag: RiteTag helps you create effective hashtags when you write a post. This tool highlights your hashtags with red, green, or yellow depending on how likely it will be to get interactions based on how popular the hashtag is.
  3. Keyhole: Search real-time metrics on hashtags to see which are rising and falling in popularity. You can even keep up with your competitors with their account tracker, which monitors all your accounts as well as your competitors.

When it comes to native search, don’t neglect the tools within Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for their search functions. They each have algorithms for showing the most interacted with content first, for good or ill, and their business models are contingent on featuring stuff their users want to see. That means the best plan for brands is to cater to the appetites of the market. Which of course is always important, but each of the social platforms is making this truth even more pronounced. Give the people what they want.