So What’s The Deal With Hashtags?
For those unfamiliar, the hashtag (#) is how people expand their reach on social media. By adding #love to a picture on Instagram, it will show up for anyone searching the word #love. In fact, you can currently add up to 30 hashtags per post on Instagram. Additionally, Instagram recently made it possible for Instagram users to subscribe to hashtags. For instance, I can subscribe to #coffee and regularly see all posts related to that tag.
However, with so many options for hashtagging, it can feel impossible finding the right ones. Just like Google (or any marketing really), it’s important to know what your target market is searching for.
So here are some things to keep in mind when picking your hashtags to use for your posts.
Although there are many ways to create demographic divides, we’ll focus on differences in hashtag use between men and women in this article. According to rese
arch published in the Journal of Hospitality Marketing & Management, there are indeed differences between how men and women use hashtags. The researchers split hashtags into two general categories: informational/emotional and positive/negative. An informative tag simply describe an object or fact i.e. #coffee; an emotional tag adds a descriptor to the object or fact i..e #lovecoffee or just #love. Positive/negative tags refer to which type of emotion is exhibited by the tag i.e. #bestcoffeeever vs. #hatecoffee.
In applying these categories, the research revealed that men are more likely to use informative tags while women are more likely to use emotional tags. Additionally, in using emotions, men and women were more likely to use positive tags over negative tags. However, as a distinction, men were more likely to use neutral or negative tags than women.
***Bottom line: in choosing your hashtags, remember to consider your target and actual followers on Instagram by gender and choose hashtags accordingly.
Frequency of Use
As can be expected, not all hashtags are used equally. In fact, there are even hashtags that have never been used. In choosing the best grouping for your business, be sure to observe how many times the tag is being used. Instagram not only gives the number but also gives related hashtags as well. Simple differences such as adding an “s” can create rather large disparities in the number of people using that particular tag. For instance, #dad has been used 15+ million times while #dads has been used less than 1 million times.
As a caveat, we have found it best to not ONLY use hashtags with extremely large or small uses. Tags with 1 million + uses mean that a whole lot of people might be looking at that tag. However, it can also mean that your post will get lost in the proverbial sauce. It’s good to use extremely popular hashtags paired with localized tags that have a lower audience while increasing the likelihood that your photo will not get lost in the mix.
***Bottom line: track the popularity of hashtags and use a mix of highly popular and focuses hashtags to grow awareness.
Insider Tip: We’ve found that location tags (vice hashtags) frequently have photos of the average local consumer and provide a way to engage with non-business accounts.
Besides looking at frequency of use, it’s also important to see who actually uses the hashtags that you’re looking at. This can be done simply by selecting the hashtag and reviewing the top and recent posts.
Some hashtags don’t align with your initial impression with the word. For example #mentalhealth may make you think of positive images or quotes; the actual results are a mix of selfies, gym photos, food pics, random shots, and quotes.
Other hashtags are used predominantly by businesses looking to market to new customers (and maybe not by the actual customers); these often include location hashtags (separate from location tagging – confusing I know). For instance, #irvine shows a number of photos by local businesses or businesses serving the Irvine area. It’s an excellent way to find local businesses but may not be the best way to connect with your customers.
The goal is to find a hashtag that is unified in its posting type and hosts of community of people with the same interest. An example of this could be #food52. It is a hashtag that is nearly 100% pictures of food and nearly all of it will make your mouth water.
***Bottom line: Not all of your hashtags will target niche communities but your goal should still be to find them. Take time to review a hashtags posts to ensure that it connects with your brand and marketing campaign.
The only thing better than finding a community-focused hashtag is creating one. Going back to #food52, this hashtag is also the name of an account on Instagram @food52 which has several other branded hashtags including #f52grams. As you develop your hashtags, find / pick one that has not been used or is not used very often. Be sure to tag your own posts with this hashtag but also encourage others to use this hashtag as well.
TOMS, the social enterprise shoe company, has previously used the hashtag #withoutshoes as a way to connect people and grow their brand awareness. During a specified time-frame, they would donate a pair of shoes for every photo tagged with #withoutshoes. By the end of their 2015 campaign, they gave away 296,243 shoes. Essentially, nearly 300k people promoted TOMS to their own group of followers during their 2015 campaign by simply posting a picture.
***Bottom line: Create a branded hashtag and build a community and following around it.
Industry and Location Specific
One final consideration to look at when choosing hashtags is being industry and location specific. It is tempting to use all extremely popular tags like #love (it’s the number one hashtag from 2017) because they are also extremely generic. However, it’s a good idea to mix in industry and/or location specific hashtags (while using the above criteria) as well. For example, for hairstylists in Orange County might want to occasionally use #ochair since it is both location and industry specific to ensure that anyone looking for a hair stylist sees their content as well.
***Bottom line: Create a mixture of hashtags that spreads your brand name and connects with customers on an industry and location basis.
If you’re looking for further help in selecting hashtags, check out the below sites that either rank or recommend hashtags.