How to avoid making a # of your hashtags

An Intro to Hashtags for Brands

Hashtags are a great way to give your content a little organic oomph on social media.

Using them correctly will increase discoverability, categorise your content with other brands and connect your content with relevant consumers who share interests that align with your brand. By adding hashtags, you will be widening your reach to consumers who perhaps have never come across your content.

But finding those killer hashtags is not always easy. As simple as it may seem, for hashtags to be worthwhile, there’s a lot of thought that should go into your hashtag strategy that will ultimately improve the visibility of your content.

So, let’s break it down.

First, the basics…


What is a hashtag?

Hashtags are words or phrases (written without any spaces, symbols, or punctuation) preceded by the hash symbol (#). They are a way for users to tag content, as a form of ‘micro-blogging’, with keywords that enable individuals and brands to participate in worldwide conversations with the end goal of raising awareness.


Why should you use a hashtag?

First used on Twitter, hashtags are now common across many different social platforms to help boost your reach and engagement.

As we’ve already identified, using hashtags is a great way to increase organic engagement. It facilitates your content becoming part of a bigger conversation and in turn, reach a wider audience that otherwise may never have come across your content or brand. It’s an essential part of a successful brand awareness strategy.

Remember though, different hashtags will gain different traction depending on the platform – what works on Twitter might not work the same for Instagram.

By using relevant hashtags, you are maximising alignment with your brand strategy and values – something that will undoubtedly be an important factor for your consumers.

A hashtag is also a great way to add context to your post or to signpost users towards a trend that you are piggybacking onto. For example, if you’re creating a post about an anniversary of your business or a throwback to when “Steve” started at the company, you might choose to share an image or story relating to when they began and accompany it with the hashtag “#TBT”. By using this hashtag and jumping on the ‘Throwback Thursday’ trend, you are participating in a conversation that people will be having all across the world. Depending on which hashtags you choose to accompany your “#TBT”, you’re extending your reach to an audience who will share an interest in the background of your business.


How do you find the best hashtags?

Believe it or not, putting any old hashtag after a post or image will do you absolutely no favours. Whilst they may seem like a menial part of the post, they hold a lot of gravitas, and in order for them to be successful, you need to put your research in. Here is where to start:

  • Competitor Analysis
  • Start by taking a look at what your competitors are using and the success rate of those posts too. Also take time to assess what hasn’t worked quite so well. That information is just as relevant.
  • Research Trending #’s
  • Take some time to research what is trending at the time of your post. You can do some prior research and perhaps think about generating a bank of #’s, but you will need to incorporate relevant hashtags in order to join current conversations.
  • Use System Tools
  • We all know that technology is improving quicker than we care to acknowledge, but why not use it to your advantage? Social media listening tools allow your brand to discover which hashtags are best to use for each social media channel. Software like Hootsuite allows you to ‘follow’ certain hashtags or keywords to undertake ongoing monitoring. Your search results will be continually updated without having to do all the searching yourself.
  • Analytics
  • Assess the analytics of your previously used hashtags and look at what has worked and hasn’t worked previously for you. A bit of self-reflection never hurt anyone!
  • Avoid Hashtag Generators
  • There are many hashtags generator tools online that will simply do what it says on the tin. Be careful though, if you use these generators, it can be easy to fall into the trap of littering your posts with hundreds of broad hashtags that will struggle to make any impact on the visibility of your content.
  • Keep It Fresh
  • A successful brand will use a mix of popular, relevant, and perhaps even a branded hashtag. Whilst using generic hashtags are a great way to jump on global trends, make sure you bookend that with something a little more niche – that way, you’re reaching the right audience and maintaining your relevance, but doing so on a wider scale.


Determining High vs Low Value Hashtags

When it comes to choosing the hashtag that is “just right”, put yourself in Goldilocks’ shoes; you don’t want anything that is too big, nor too small.

During your research, you may have found some great hashtags that are relevant and appropriate to the content you are posting. But be reflective of the number of uses that particular hashtag has had – if it has hundreds of thousands of uses, you risk your content being swallowed up in a sea of posts and therefore damaging the possibilities of organic reach.

Some research has shown that using hashtags with around 500,000 posts attributed to them have the best engagement rates. (Remember what we said about Goldilocks? Not too big, but not too small either – believe us, this figure is “just right” in the world of social media!) This mid-range number of posts will increase your chances of reaching your target audience, without thoughtlessly throwing the net out into the big wide world of the internet and hoping for the best. You’re joining relevant and large-scale conversations, whilst also speaking to the appropriate audience too.

Don’t be afraid to go smaller either. If combined with hashtags that have bigger user rates such as those recommended above, smaller, more niche hashtags (think between 25-100k) can be crucial in hitting that sweet-spot for reaching certain users.

Variety and value is key.


Our Top Tips

There aren’t any particularly definitive answers when it comes to hashtags, but taking the time to compile a strategy, with a good understanding of your audience and what works well across different platforms are key elements of the puzzle to push your success.

And as trends change and technology continues to advance, it’s important to remain vigilant and update your research and strategies to remain current.

Nevertheless, to summarise, here’s our top tips when approaching hashtags:

  • Don’t use spaces, punctuation, or symbols – they won’t work! You can make your hashtag more digestible and accessible by capitalising each word instead, i.e., #TopTips.
  • Keep hashtags short and sweet, punchy and to the point. Your audience is more likely to remember them that way.
  • Keep hashtags relevant and precise. Throwing a more generic one in there won’t hurt, but you want to be specific to engage the correct audience.
  • Less is more! Don’t spam your posts with hundreds of hashtags – it will only put your audience off and is not favoured by most algorithms!
  • Avoid repeating the same bulk of hashtags – Instagram will frown upon you!

Grace Durbin.