When I think about hashtags the first thing that comes to mind is Jimmy Fallon's skit on the Tonight Show with Justin Timberlake, hilarious! If you haven't seen this you are missing out (check it out here). And yes hashtag use can get a bit obnoxious, especially when your seventeen year old niece puts seventeen different hashtags in her Instagram posts. But there is real value in hashtags from a digital marketing perspective and with a little research you can identify a few that are commonly used by your target demographics and start contributing to their conversations through social media. We like to call this strategy "hashtag mining" and we think hashtag mining is #awesome!
It All Starts With a Persona
Before you can implement an effective hashtag strategy you need to know who you are trying to reach. Getting a better understanding of your target persona's age range, occupation, interests, pain points, decision factors and which social platforms they use can help you not only find these people but also create effective content specifically for them. By defining a core group of people this will also help you follow and observe their posting habits and find hashtag trends.
There are a variety to tools out there that will help you search hashtags or hashtag trends. Basic tools would be the search features within Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Google+. Each of these will allow you to plug in a hashtag to find posts that use the same hashtag. This is a good method to check if others are using the same hashtag and gauge the relevancy of your chosen hashtag. You can also use this to find trends of similar hashtag use buy scanning through your results and looking for repeated use of other hashtags. For example, I ran a search for #hiking on Twitter and found multiple keywords that users were also including that I could start to utilize, #outdoors, #adventure, #trails, and many used location hashtags to identify where they were #hiking, like #himalayas, #utah, #zion, #runyoncanyon, or #bozeman. Armed with this knowledge I know that I can now target people with similar interests or that are recreating in specific geographic areas by contributing valuable posts to these hashtag conversations.
Hashtag Research Tools
In the world of hashtag research and monitoring there are a few tools that I really like, Tagboard and Trendsmap. These are both paid services but offer a unique ability to dig deeper with your hashtag mining.
Tagboard is designed as a tool that you can integrate onto your website that will pull any social media post that uses a hashtag that you specify. It also gives you the ability to curate posts to eliminate harmful or offensive posts from your boards. What I like about their website is I can utilize their hashtag search to do research. Right on their home page they have a search bar which allows you to search hashtags across all social platforms and review right there. It's a great way to quickly research multiple hashtags across multiple channels. This tool on Tagboard's website is free.
Trendsmap is an awesome tool that blends hashtag trends with geography. Users can zoom in and out of a map and see clusters of hashtag bubbles indicating real-time trending posts and their locations. The free version is a bit limited but they offer two enhanced paid versions that allow you to zoom deeper, utilize filters, review historical trends, and more. If you are looking to target specific geographic areas with our social media marketing this could be a great tool to add to your arsenal.
When it comes to using hashtags in your own posts there is a fine line. A good rule of thumb is to limit your hashtag usage to no more than three. You will often see self proclaimed "Instagram Models" load up their posts with about twenty-five hashtags, many of which are irrelevant. Proper use of hashtags helps you to contribute to and comment on a topic or conversation. With some initial research about your target personal and some quality hashtag mining you should be able to identify five to ten hashtags that you can start adding to your posts to engage more social media users and increase your brand exposure.