Hashtag This, Hashtag That. Optimizing Hashtags for Growing Brands

Social sharing is everything on the internet

  • We share the delicious meal we’re about to eat with friends who couldn’t make it.
  • We show off that amazing new thing we just bought or did to our supportive friends.
  • We squeeze our friends close together cheek to cheek for an epic selfie in some far-off place.

With each new picture or video clip, we’re quick to caption it, slap some hashtags on it, and post it online for others to see.

But why do we use hashtags? Are we looking to reach out to the millions of people on the Internet to connect with others of similar interests? Or are we looking to grow as a brand and gain a stronger social presence in our market? If you’re looking to expand your social reach to the right audience, you’ll need to know how to use hashtags effectively.

What is a #Hashtag?

Hashtags, like keywords, is a way to categorize your posts so people can find it with ease. Here are three basic guidelines when using hashtags:

Keep it relevant. Let’s say you take a picture of your amazing corgi puppy and want to make him an internet star. Relevant hashtags for this picture would be corgi, cute, dog, puppy, brown, love, adorable, etc. These hashtags describe your subject and make it easy for people to find the cute, brown, adorable, corgi puppy you love. The more descriptive you get, the more refined your audience will be. Also, note that the inverse is true: The broader you are, the more generic your audience.

Don’t attract the wrong audience. Although your first instinct may be to reach everyone and anyone, this might not always be the best strategy. When you are first growing your audience, you want people who are genuinely interested in your content. Broadcasting your dog-specific content to cat lovers, for example, may bring you an audience not as appreciative of your content than true dog lovers. This leaves you with an inflated reach of a false or disinterested audience.

Keep it simple. As stated before, the simpler and broader your hashtag, the wider your audience. Lengthy and unpopular hashtags can be witty and funny, but it doesn’t help your content’s reach. People would have to look for that specific tag to find your post which may not be worth their time. The only exception would be if #SomeStringOfWords is trending and relevant to your content. Only then would I suggest to join the conversation.

So How Many Hashtags Should You Be Using?

Hashtags have become industry standard to get your content out there. But be mindful of how many hashtags you do add to each post.

Use too few, and your reach has a 5-yard radius.

Use too many, and you risk getting a rep for over-hashtagging and annoying your followers.

Too Many Hashtags

So how many hashtags SHOULD you be using with each post? Well, it depends on the networks you’re using. Below are three popular social media networks and after countless studies, social media experts recommend the following:

Instagram: 11+ Hashtags. Studies have shown that this range gives you the best output for reaching your targeted audience. As your brand grows and you’ve reached a desirable audience and follower count, this number can reduce to as low as two or none. If you’re having trouble thinking of the right hashtags, search for similar posts and take some of their tags. Otherwise, there are plenty of online tools for you to help you out. I’ve been using Hashtagify.me.

Twitter: 1-2 Hashtags. Twitter is a little tricky. With the 140-character count limit, you can’t fit what you have to say AND the ten or so hashtags. So choose carefully and give some breathing room for your followers to retweet and add their spiel to it. Aim for 100-characters including your hashtag(s).

Facebook: 0-2 Hashtags. Using hashtags on Facebook is still new, but the general consensus is that you shouldn’t use hashtags much if at all. Facebook’s news feed algorithm isn’t as search-based like the other two networks. Rather, the algorithm focuses on content relevancy. So using hashtags on Facebook isn’t necessary for expanding your reach and growing your audience. The only exception is if you want to take part in a trending conversation.

As you can see, each of these three major networks has its own hashtag practices. And while it may be easy to cross-post from Instagram to Facebook and Twitter, it would be wise to take the time to edit each post for each network. (Side-note: It may also be wise to not cross-post to every network to avoid repetitiveness and spamming your audience. But I’ll get into that in another post.)

Hashtagging forward…

So before you start #HashTagging everything #LikeABoss, take a moment to consider how you should optimize your posts with hashtags. Also, take note of which social network you’ll be targetting and adjust accordingly. Just remember to keep it relevant, attract the right audience, and keep it simple and short.