If you’re reading this article, you’re probably heard of a hashtag by now, but perhaps you’re wondering how to develop a hashtag strategy for your brand. In order to understand the wider strategy of hashtags and how to successfully use them, let’s start with the basics.
A hashtag is a short phrase preceded by the symbol # that classifies or categorizes the accompanying text (such as a tweet, or post). This links the content to other posts using the hashtag on the social channel, and is a way that platforms categorize content.
By using accurate, effective hashtags, you can build your community, increase engagement, and generate brand awareness online. Optimize your hashtags by using phrases or keywords pertaining to your industry, which will make you more discoverable and aid in the volume of social media traffic [i.e. impressions or profile clicks].
A branded hashtag is a hashtag created for the purposes of promotion, usually by a brand or organization, to amplify a message and leverage the searchable functionality of the hashtag. The benefits of utilizing a branded hashtag range from sourcing UGC, promoting life at your company, or generating awareness that you otherwise wouldn’t have obtained.
You could be thinking, “Why isn’t the copy enough? Why do I even need hashtags?” In some cases, you’re right. Platforms can pick up the keywords in your post and associate them with others based on trends and hot topics going on in that moment. The catch? You don’t get to choose which keywords get picked up by the platform, they do. Hashtags give you that control back and keep your content connected to your campaign and brand.
Hashtags can be leveraged across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, Youtube, along with other social channels. Though the definition of a hashtag is relatively the same across all channels, the application and effectiveness vary.
Regardless of the channel, it’s important to keep your audience in mind when leveraging hashtags so as to not provide them irrelevant information or portray a brand voice that’s not your own. In order to be strategic with your selections, ensure that your hashtags are limited, targeted, and that only two clickable fields are included in each post. This includes handles and links, and will more clearly communicate your message and desired outcome of the post.
Hashtags can also be leveraged to aggregate and source User Generated Content (UGC). As a tool, hashtags are a powerful way to get your audience involved with your message or campaign. A strong example of this is when Yeti released its “Charcoal Collection”, using #BuiltforTheWild to encourage followers to share their Yeti experience with that same hashtag. Users across social channels wanted to be part of the conversation, and as a result, Yeti has built a powerful online community.
Developing your Hashtag Strategy
Prior to developing your hashtag strategy, it’s key to also have overarching social media strategies to help guide your messaging. If your intent for your content or campaign is to educate your audience, the way you communicate and use hashtags will reflect this. This is true of any objective you outline, so it’s key to revisit these (or outline them again) when considering what hashtags to use.
To select hashtags, use social listening to look at general topics, specific topics, competitor conversations, as well as branded hashtag options to begin building out a selection of hashtags to draw from. If you’re a retail brand, perhaps you use more general hashtags, like #fashion or #style, alongside a branded hashtag. For example, Zara uses branded hashtags for each of its divisions, including #ZaraMan, #ZaraWomen, #ZaraKids, and more. By sharing posts including these hashtags and engaging with user content sharing the hashtags, Zara positively reinforces the customers and community members.
Another component to consider within your hashtag strategy, which Zara also leans on, is your content pillars. Utilizing your content pillars to build out hashtags, both general and branded, will help your hashtags be more targeted, increasing the discoverability for your target audience.
Consider the format you’re sharing the content in. Hashtags can be incredibly useful in organic content, but for paid content, they should only be used if they aid in campaign awareness (e.g. for a brand launch) or the overall messaging of the campaign. Otherwise, the hashtags can muddy up your message, causing confusion and drawing attention away from the objective.
With this in mind, hashtags are not recommended for use in the copy of paid campaigns, unless they aid in the awareness of a key brand message or initiative. Instead, hashtags can be leveraged within targeting efforts to reach those who have engaged with your brand hashtag, an industry or event hashtag, or a competitor hashtag. Hashtags can also be used to discover new terms to incorporate into interest-based targeting.
In conclusion, a thoughtful, well-executed hashtag strategy can be a key component of your overall #success on social media. If you would like to learn more about overarching social strategy and ways our Strategic Services team can help, comment below, or follow this link to learn more.
- Dakota Lowe, Associate Strategist, Strategic Services, and Megan Codd, Associate Strategist, Strategic Services