In the dynamic landscape of social media, where every post competes for attention, the humble hashtag was once touted as a game-changing tool. Originally conceived as a simple organizational symbol, hashtags have evolved into a potent element of social media campaigns to increase visibility of your posts, reaching audiences interested in those topics and keywords. The birth of the hashtag can be traced back to Twitter in 2007, but evolved to becoming a powerful driving force in conversations, trends and campaigns. But today, with platforms like TikTok coming onto the scene and constant algorithm changes on Instagram trying to compete, it’s no wonder why we’re left wondering if hashtags still matter. In this blog post, we delve into the multifaceted role of the modern hashtag, and how an experienced social media firm uses them properly.
The Early Days: What the Hashtag Was
In the early days of social media, hashtags primarily served as organizational tools. Users employed them to categorize content, making it easier to find posts related to specific topics. For instance, #foodporn would help food enthusiasts discover mouthwatering culinary creations, while #ThrowbackThursday would unearth nostalgic posts from the past.
As social media platforms gained traction and new ones emerged, hashtags morphed into cultural phenomena. They became the driving force behind trends, movements, and viral challenges. #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, and #IceBucketChallenge are prime examples of hashtags catalyzing social change and mobilizing communities around important causes.
Businesses swiftly recognized the marketing potential of hashtags. Brands began leveraging popular hashtags to expand their reach, enhance brand visibility, and engage with audiences. However, as the social media landscape evolved, the strategy for effective hashtag usage also needed to evolve. You can’t simply tag your skincare posts with #BestSkincare and expect to receive millions of likes because it’s a highly followed hashtag. In the same vein, you can’t create a brand-new hashtag and expect it to go viral immediately. Today, Hashtag strategies need to be carefully considered and researched to get the most out of them.
Optimizing Hashtags in 2023
Relevance Over Trendiness
While jumping on trending hashtags can be effective, relevance should always be a priority. Choose hashtags that align with your content and resonate with your target audience. Generic or unrelated hashtags may attract the wrong audience or come across as disingenuous. Similarly, don’t only use the hashtags with the largest reach, as your content will likely be drowned out in a sea of similar posts. Instead, look for more niche, specific hashtags that have followings between 200-400k. That way, you still get a large potential audience, but your posts have a higher chance of being viewed by your target demographic.
Strategic Hashtag Research
Before incorporating hashtags into your posts, conduct thorough research to identify the most relevant and effective ones for your industry. An experienced social media firm would be able to help you use analytics tools to discover which hashtags are resonating with your audience and driving engagement.
Create Branded Hashtags, and Use Them Consistently
Having a unique, branded hashtag for your company can boost brand recognition and encourage user-generated content. Encourage your audience to use your branded hashtag when sharing experiences related to your brand, products, or services. It’s a great and easy way to brand your posts, and when clicked on will conjure up all of your posts, and those posted by influencers or customers about your brand, all in one place. Furthermore, when you have a product launch or a special campaign going on, you can create branded hashtags for those too to promote them specifically.
Balance Quantity and Quality
To get the most eyes on your posts, you should use a ton of hashtags – right? Wrong. While on the surface that makes sense, this is definitely a huge no-no to an experienced social media firm. In fact, many social media managers and influencers have been tracking the ‘sweet spot’ for the number of hashtags. Research has found that having too many hashtags can reduce your reach, and the recommended amount is actually only 3-5 hashtags per post. Having hundreds of hashtags in the caption – or even in the comments – can distract your viewers from the actual quality of your content and make the post look spammy. Instead, focus on a select few high-quality, relevant hashtags. This maintains the aesthetics of your content while still expanding its reach.
Tailor Hashtags to Platforms
Different social media platforms have different hashtag norms. While TikTok has no limit on hashtags, Instagram and Twitter require a more focused approach. Additionally, which hashtags have high follower counts and traffic will differ. Therefore, it’s essential to track the following and reach of each tag across platforms and evaluate what works best.
From their early days as organizational tools to becoming symbols of cultural movements, hashtags have come a long way. In 2023, effectively utilizing hashtags involves a strategic and thoughtful approach that emphasizes relevance, quality, and engagement. By aligning hashtags with your content strategically, you can amplify your message, enhance your brand’s visibility, and foster meaningful connections in the ever-evolving world of social media. To learn more from our experienced social media firm about content, click here.