When I think about hashtags, the first thing that comes to mind is Jimmy Fallon's skit on the Tonight Show with Justin Timberlake. If you haven't seen it, you're missing out (check it out here). And yes, hashtag use can get a bit obnoxious, especially when your old-high-school-buddy-turned-influencer puts seventeen different hashtags in her Instagram posts.
As silly as it may seem, there is real value in using hashtags from a digital marketing perspective. 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. This strategy is commonly called "hashtag mining" and we think it's #awesome! Here's everything you need to know about executing your own hashtag mining strategy.
It All Starts With a Persona
Before you can implement an effective hashtag strategy, you need to know who you're trying to reach. First, gain a better understanding of your target audience's age range, occupation, interests, pain points, decision factors and which social platforms they use. All of these attributes make up a persona – a fictional representation of the person you're trying to reach – which helps you create content specifically for them. Then, follow this core group of people who fall within the bounds of your persona, and observe their posting habits and hashtag trends.
There are a variety of tools available to help you search hashtags or hashtag trends. The most basic tools are search features within Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Google+. These platforms allow you to plug in a hashtagged term to find posts that use the same hashtag. This is a good method to check if others are using the same hashtag and gauge its relevancy. You can also use this method to find other commonly used hashtags by 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, like #outdoors, #adventure and #trails. Many also used location-based hashtags to identify where they were #hiking, like #himalayas, #utah, #zion, #runyoncanyon, or #bozeman. Armed with this knowledge, I can 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 two tools that I really like: RiteTag and Hashtagify. These are both paid services but offer a unique ability to dig deeper with your hashtag mining.
RiteTag provides instant hashtag suggestions for your images and text based on real-time engagement. It integrates with the social media apps you're already using, like Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest, so suggestions pop up as you're creating a post. You can also easily compare a set of hashtags based on the number of people using them over a set period of time.
Hashtagify is an analytics dashboard for all things hashtags. Search a hashtag and gain all kinds of data about it, like its relevant popularity, related hashtags, its popularity trends over time, and where people are using it geographically. Like RiteTag, it also provides hashtag suggestions for your posts. As you can imagine, it's also a great tool for social listening.
When it comes to using hashtags in your own posts there are some key things to remember:
Don't go overboard.
While you can use up to 30 hashtags in an Instagram post, only use what's truly relevant to your post. Users don't love seeing their hashtag feeds spammed with irrelevant content. If your content is truly relevant to your audience, you won't need to include unrelated hashtags.
Put your hashtags in the background.
You don't want your hashtags taking up precious real estate in your post. Instead, add line breaks between your caption content and your hashtags. If you have a high number of hashtags, consider adding some into the first comment on the post instead of the caption.
Use Title Case in Your Hashtags.
For example, use #OnlyInBozeman instead of #onlyinbozeman. Why? It makes your hashtags more accessible to all readers, including those who use screen readers, and people with dyslexia or cognitive disabilities.
Create a Hashtag for Your Organization.
For many brands, it often makes sense to create one consistent hashtag for your organization and include it in your Instagram and Twitter bios to encourage people to share content relating to your brand. This way, it's easy for you to track other users' conversations about your brand and respond to them appropriately. You might similarly create hashtags for particular campaigns.
Remember, proper use of hashtags helps you contribute to and comment on a topic or conversation that's relevant to your brand. With some initial research about your target personas and 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.
Looking to take a more strategic approach to social media? We're here to help you at PRIME. Let's talk about how we can reach your social media goals together. Contact us today.