It’s hard to believe, but the hashtag is now officially more than a decade old. That means there’s an entire generation of youngsters on Twitter who never knew a world without it, though most marketers certainly do. Since its inception in 2007, the hashtag (or pound symbol, for traditionalists) has taken off as a digital marketing mainstay — and for good reason.
It allows users to quickly join or initiate a conversation by tapping into a shared group consensus. Now, you’re no longer just casually grabbing a taco on the second day of the week. You’re out for #brunch on #TacoTuesday, along with thousands of like-minded individuals who share your same interests.
In a world where so many flash-in-the-pan tactics have failed, why has the hashtag remained a constant? It has less to do with the symbol itself and more to do with the sense of community it immediately implies. Take the #MeToo movement for example, and consider how many people were connected across the globe who otherwise wouldn’t have found each other had it not been for that simple tag.
The digital marketing industry as a whole can be a complex and overwhelming sphere to live in, and as such, something as unfussy and straightforward as the hashtag offers a breath of relief, not to mention extreme usability.
Yet, there’s a difference between hashtagging (yes, it’s a verb, too) strategically and over-using the technique. A pointed message can quickly become lost in translation if #every #single #word is underscored with the symbol. When utilized correctly, however, it can make all the difference in an effective social media marketing strategy and one that fails to deliver. Here are a few pointers for how to get it right.
1. Don’t forget to tag locally
Local advertising is one of the most powerful tools in your outreach arsenal. In fact, local advertising revenues bring in more than $145 million annually, with traffic derived from customers right within your own backyard. While it’s true that digital marketing affords us the opportunity to reach a wider geographic audience than ever before, don’t discount the power of selling to your own community. You’ll likely find followers who are passionate about supporting a local business and those types of local supporters are invaluable to growing your brand reputation.
Leverage local hashtags in your tweets, posts, and pins to grow community awareness and add your voice to the conversation. Whenever possible, you can also organically hashtag your location to remind web visitors where you’re located and make it easier for local shoppers to find you.
2. Consider hashtagging in Instagram comments
Especially on Instagram, it can be easy to lose your message amid the thousands of other businesses who are also tagging everything and anyone in their posts. Stand out for all the right reasons by skipping hashtags altogether on occasion and instead, adding them in a comment on your post immediately afterward. You’ll still rank for the hashtags, but your post won’t look the least bit spammy.
Research reveals that Instagram posts with 11 or more hashtags earn around 80% more interactions compared to those with only two. Therefore, don’t eschew tagging altogether on this platform, but be a little more selective and strategic about how you display them.
3. Avoid generic and broad hashtags
Sure, everyone can hashtag #selfie, but there are currently more than 338 million people who had the same idea on Instagram. You may show up in the top of recent posts, but you’ll quickly move down the line as others replace you. Instead, focus on industry niche hashtags that people who are truly interested in your products and services will search for. This strategy works for virtually every industry, from retail to Food and Beverage and myriad sectors in between.
Restaurant owners can tag their individual menu items; financial services providers can use tags to help customers compare rates; small business owners can tag their merchants and vendors when a new shipment comes in. This way, there is less competition and you’ll have a greater chance to showcase your posts. Do a quick audit of what other companies in your sphere are tagging, as well as what your target audience is searching for, and tailor your hashtagging strategy accordingly.
To make sure the hashtags you’re using are relevant, it’s helpful to analyze their performance to see how much traffic they help drive to your site. An effective hashtag isn’t just one that includes you in an industry community. It’s one that draws web visitors in and encourages them to explore your product offering further, eventually leading them down the path to purchase. You could have the most creative and carefully curated tags in the world, but if they aren’t helping you generate a larger following and building your bottom line, it’s time to rethink them.
Hashtag Your Way to Success
In today’s Digital Age, it can be easy to assume that any attention online is good attention. After all, if people are talking about you, that’s good brand buzz, right? Well, yes and no. Standing out and getting noticed should be an aim, but not at the expense of your business integrity and reputation. Hashtagging sporadically or without intention can render your efforts ineffective or even detrimental to your brand. The next time you go to press that pound sign, make sure you’re ready to add that tag to your voice and associate your name with that dialogue. Then, you can press “post” with confidence.
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