How to Use Hashtags - A Guide for SMBs
We have talked about the importance of using hashtags quite a few times already here, here, here, and here. Wasn’t that enough? Not by far, it wasn’t.
In this post, I’m going to break down what hashtags are, how small businesses can use hashtags to make their content 10x more visible on social media.
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If you’re not well affiliated with hashtags up till now, here’s a brief intro.
What are Hashtags?
Hashtags are literally words joined with # signs to form a tag. You can add them to your posts on Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin. It’s an easy way to make your content searchable.
Hashtags are also sometimes used to see what’s trending and join in. On platforms like Twitter and Instagram for instance, a certain event like New Years might prompt people to use the hashtag #happynewyear with their content, which will make it more visible.
Why should small businesses use hashtags?
Branded hashtags are a great way to encourage employee and customer engagement. Here’s an example; Hubspot Life is the employer brand for hubspot and they use the hashtag #hubspotlife with their posts. This encourages their employees to use the hashtag with their workplace pictures on Instagram.
Nike’s #justdoit hashtag has 18M posts on Instagram. The success of their tagline certainly helps, but a hashtag that customers can use with their pictures makes them feel included and can boost brand loyalty too.
For small businesses, using a branded hashtag can help them stand out and seem more human and friendly than their competition.
Using the right hashtags helps your content get more engagement. Scott Ayres’s experiments show that posts with at least 1 hashtag can get your content about 70% more engagement on Instagram, almost 30% more views on Linkedin, and 100% more engagement on Twitter.
So it’s almost always better to use hashtags then to not. More people see your post, and get a chance to interact with it.
Though make sure that your hashtags are always relevant to your post. Otherwise you may get more engagement, but it might mean nothing if the people engaging with your post aren’t people you wanted to target.
One strategy that works for us is using an app like UnionMetrics. It can help you find out what kind of hashtags have worked best for you, and then you can use the ones that work.
What are the best platforms for hashtags for small businesses?
A lot of social networks use hashtags. They’ve become a mainstay for Twitter, Instagram, and Linkedin. Though they’re used slightly differently in each of those platforms. We’ll talk about that further in the next section.
How many hashtags should you use?
On different platforms, you’ll realize that there is an ideal number of hashtags that you should use. A) Because of how they appear on the screen. B) Because of how the social media platform treats them. We’ll go into more detail here.
On Linkedin, since it is a professional platform, you should not be spamming your post with as many hashtags as you can. Instead, play it smart. Using at least one hashtag is always better than using no hashtags. But Linkedin suggests that you use no more than 3 hashtags.
A good format for hashtags on Linkedin is shown below. You can use them in your caption or place them below the caption.
The ideal number of hashtags you should use on Instagram can range from 7-30. The maximum number of hashtags you can use in an Instagram post is 30. And according to Scott Ayres, the Social Media scientist at Agorapulse, 30 hashtags is always better for likes than 10 hashtags on a post.
But it might be difficult to think of 30 hashtags every time you’re posting, so you might add 8-10 hashtags. In this case, experiments suggest that 8 hashtags might be the way to go.
Word to the wise though, the best way to find out what the best number of hashtags is for your account is to experiment with 8, 20, 25, 30 hashtags on your own, and see what works for you. For example Hubspot’s social media manager says that for their account 22 is the magic number. It might vary for you too.
On Twitter, 4 hashtags prove to be the ideal number of hashtags, according to this experiment by Scott. Twitter however recommends using at most 2 hashtags in your tweets. As a small business, make sure these two hashtags are the best ones you can use. More detail in the next section.
What hashtags should I use as a small business owner?
It matters what hashtags you use in your post just as much as how many you’re using.
At Willow, we help you identify the relevant hashtags so that you don't have to worry about them. Leave your us your info so we can get in touch!
For small businesses, it is especially important to not use too many broad hashtags. Instead of hashtags like #marketing, a hashtag like #smallbusinessmarketing can help you stand out more. Think about your niche, and use more specific hashtags.
To find out the best hashtags to use in your posts, you might look at a tool online like Best Hashtags. But that might not always work and here’s the reason. The top hashtags that are suggested by a tool like this might have close to 1M posts. This means your content will be competing with a lot of posts in order to be shown.
Instead, the best strategy might be to look for hashtags related to your content that have 100k-500k users. This ensures that your hashtag is popular enough to attract more impressions on your post, but it is not drowned out by a million other posts.
On Linkedin, you can take advantage of hashtags to discover new content, and to help other people discover your content. On your Linkedin homepage, you can see this box on the left. If you click on Discover more, you’ll see related hashtags with their follower count below it.
This is especially helpful. You can follow hashtags that are relevant for you, but also find hashtags that have a moderate number of followers to use in your own posts. Go niche. Since Linkedin recommends a maximum of 3 hashtags, use a mix of broad and niche hashtags to cover both aspects.
Use Community Hashtags
Another great way to find the best hashtags for your small business is to do some research into industry leaders and influencers. Find out what niche hashtags they’re using to target their community and then add those to your posts. Community hashtags can work like groups on Linkedin. The best community hashtags bring together a small number of people who are active, and can give your content the engagement it needs.
Twitter allows you to take advantage of hashtags in a few ways. You can always keep an eye on the Trending hashtags section in your location or click on the gear icon to change the location to your customers’ location. This allows you to immediately draft a relevant tweet around a trending topic. This ensures that your tweet leverages the hashtag’s trending status and gets seen by more people.
You can see here that here the term ‘Messi’ is not even a hashtag. Twitter now recognizes if you tweet about a trending topic without expressly using a hashtag. In the future, Twitter’s Topics will also let you make content around popular Topics. This blog by Twitter explains Topics in detail.
You can also use Hashtagify, a tool recommended by the best, to look for good hashtags to use.
Hashtagify also helps you see which influencers are using the hashtag, giving more credibility to it. In the paid version, you can simply paste your tweet into the box and it suggests the best hashtags to use along with the tweet.
Hashtags are used by businesses for branding and increasing their content’s engagement on social media channels. Hashtags are also used to start an AMA (Ask Me Anything) whereby the business or individual can ask people to use a unique hashtag to prompt people to ask them questions.
The best platforms for using hashtags for small businesses are Linkedin, Twitter, and Instagram. Other platforms might allow for hashtags but they are either not ideal for small businesses or hashtags have very little impact on those platforms. In almost all cases, using a hashtag is better than using no hashtag as it increases reach and engagement. On Linkedin 2-3 hashtags work best, on Instagram 30 hashtags get most engagement, and on Twitter 2 hashtags are recommended.
It is good practice to use a mixture of broad hashtags and niche hashtags to ensure visibility of your content. It is also great to keep an eye on what hashtags industry influencers use, and then use those whenever relevant.
What strategy works for you? How many hashtags get you the most engagement? Let us know!