Great content marketing reflects an ongoing cycle of Research, Amplification and Monitoring. Hashtags have a role to play at each stage of the content marketing process.
Last week, we partnered with Dan Mazzini, of hashtagify.me for a webinar about Hashtag best practices. Here are our top action points and insights into how hashtags can help drive your content marketing reach.
At their most basic level, hashtags are content amplifiers. People use them to search for information on social channels. Thus, tagging your content appropriately makes it easier for an audience to find you.
This amplification factor matters greatly because of the explosion of online content. The time and energy that an audience has for consuming online content is not growing as quickly as the volume of information at their disposal. The resulting “Content Shock” means that anyone who wants to gain or grow an online audience will need to pair stellar content with energetic amplification.
It’s a competitive content world, and making your content stand out requires a multi-faceted amplification strategy. Hashtags should be a part of that.
“A hashtag is a promise, just like a title for a piece of content,” Dan says. If you use a hashtag with your content, you are setting your readers’ expectation of what they will find in that article or post. Failure to deliver on the promise or expectation you’ve set with the hashtag can hurt your content marketing strategy in the long run, causing your audience to think of your content as spammy.
Imagine opening a door labelled “people.” The label leads you to assume that you will find at least one or two human beings inside. If you what you actually find is an advertisement for a software service, you will be disappointed and less likely to trust the source in the future.
Using a tool like Hashtagify.me’s free Hashtag Encyclopedia can help you to quickly discover hashtags that are related to your content.
Once you have identified several relevant options, you can choose the hashtags that have enough popularity to be useful in amplifying your content. It’s important to keep in mind that the most popular hashtags also have the most information competing for audience attention. Opting for a somewhat less popular hashtag can create a little more space for your content to shine.
For example, #DigitalMarketing has a popularity rating of 63.5. That rating means that a lot of people are using the hashtag, which in turn means that there is a lot of competition for attention. The hashtag #instagrammarketing has a lower popularity rating of 38. 2. It’s still high enough to have an audience, but not as crowded with content. Thus, it may be a better choice for tagging content.
Use existing hashtags to piggy back on a trend. When beginning a hashtag strategy, it’s good to identify existing hashtags that overlap with your content. You can use these hashtags to join ongoing conversations and draw attention to your content.
In considering which hashtag to use, Dan recommends looking for hashtags that are trending, or gaining in popularity, even if they aren’t as popular now as other related hashtags. For example, #TwitterMarketing is popular, but it’s not trending up; #InstagramMarketing is less popular now, but it’s also gaining popularity. Experimenting with the trending #InstagramMarketing may create additional opportunities for new content to be noticed and shared.
Creating new hashtags is best for use with events, or for brands that have sufficient resources to sustain the new hashtag.
Proceed with caution! Google can produce 632,000 results for the search “Hashtag fails” in less than .5 seconds. These fails range from comical to offensive to sinister. Suffice it to say that it’s best to give any new hashtags you create a second look. Check the spelling, check slang dictionaries, check how the tag is already being used on Twitter, check on how the tag looks with different capitalizations. Then, check again. Hopefully, that type of discipline will keep you from creating ill-advised hashtags like #BSwebinars.
It’s important to know when to tag, where to tag, and how much to tag. Here’s the rulebook:
Our analysis of one billion Facebook updates showed that posts with hashtags got fewer interactions than posts without hashtags. (To avoid including spammy hashtags in our results, we limited our analysis to status updates from publishers like CNN and Buzzfeed) Our result lines up with other research done about the use of hashtags on Facebook. Dan suggested that one reason for this may be that Facebook has the feel of a more private network, where friends and family connect with each other. Using a hashtag on Facebook is a bit like shouting out the topic you want to talk about during a family gathering. (Of course, we aren’t talking about the hashtags that people might use as a joke or to express an emotion #ThoseAreFine).
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Instagram, where hashtags are essential. In fact, according to Social Media Today, Instagram posts with 11 or more hashtags get the most interactions overall. The textual content of a hashtag is necessary to help people find the types of images they are interested in Dan says. To connect your content with an Instagram audience, consider using popular hashtags like #TBT or #MotivationalMonday. Other good choices are hashtagged place names, product types, industries, or websites. #TheSkyIsTheLimit
Using one or two hashtags with Tweets does improve interactions. But, more than a couple is too much, making your tweets look spammy, Dan says. One audience-building use for hashtags on Twitter is to consider hosting a Twitter Chat. In that scenario, the hashtag holds the conversation together.
The other visual network, Pinterest, seems ambivalent to hashtags. The platform itself suggests not using them, and Pinterest experts like Kim Vij of #PinChat advise against using them, or at the very least keeping hashtags to a minimum.
At the same time, people who use hashtags also don’t seem to be penalized for doing so. The best practice with Pinterest is to use only branded tags, according to Pinterest marketer Alisa Meredith. And, Kim suggests that if you do use tags, you include the text of the campaign pitch.
“Hashtags on Pinterest work primarily as links to search result pages,” explains Danny Maloney of Tailwindapp.com. “Using a hashtag won’t add your content to that feed of results, so there’s not the same advantage in discoverability as there may be on other networks. So, by adding a hashtag to your pin description, you may be driving users away from your Pin and the underlying content. The one exception may be very unique branded hashtags, such as your domain or blog name. If a user clicks on such a tag, the search page would likely show mostly your own content- but you should confirm this in advance. Even then, you’ll likely notice results that don’t contain the hashtag.”
With Google+, specific hashtags, like those used on Twitter for events or chats, don’t perform well, according to a post at moz.com by Ann Smarty. Instead, the preferred tags are topical, linking content clearly to its type orkind. The network will even auto tag posts with hashtags when the system can clearly identify what the update is about.
Hashtags are a valuable tool to help amplify content. Using them correctly requires research and attention to detail. Every social network has its own social rules. When applying hashtags, you need to adjust your strategy from one network to another.