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Hashtags 101

If you’re a social media novice, hashtags are those short links preceded by the pound sign (#) that are everywhere on Twitter, Instagram and slowly becoming a 'thing' on Facebook, too. Though, they may seem confusing and unnecessary, they are integral to the way we communicate online, and it's important to know how to use them. They work in such a way that the pound sign (or hash) turns any word or group of words that directly follow it into a searchable link. This allows you to organize content and track discussion topics based on those keywords. I love using this search method when there is an awards show happening and I want to see what all the stars are wearing. For example, the Billboard Music Awards are happening tomorrow night (May 1), I can stay up to date with what is happening live by following the already created hashtag #BBMAs or I can search the fashion using #bbmasredcarpet.

I am not going to go into too much detail regarding how hashtags work and why you should be using them with every single post you make to Instagram, but I will say this.

If you are looking to attract your ideal client, or grow your following, you have to start doing your Hashtag homework.

That homework is this:

1. Determine which hashtags pertain to your product/business.

2. Find ways to incorporate them into each post.

3. Analyse them, weekly.

4. Engage with those users who also use your hashtags.

Now, lets dive a little deeper into what this means by answering the following questions:

1. How do you find which hashtags pertain to your product/business?

  • What is your business?

  • Where are you located?

  • What hashtags do others in your industry use?

  • What message are you trying to send to your clients?

For example, I am a Social Media Manager based out of Olds, Alberta and I am sending the message to my followers that I am a knowledgeable source when it comes to Social Media. Some hashtags I could consider are: #socialmediamanager #socialmediamarketer #socialmediatips. If I wanted to include my location I could choose #albertamarketing #olds.

2. How many hashtags should I include with each post?

The maximum number of hashtags you can include in a post is 30. However, if you can't locate/choose 30 right away, that's okay, make sure that you have at least 11 per post. I like to break my hashtags down into 3 categories, this makes them easier to search, locate and choose. Those 3 categories are: Generic, Specific, and Custom.

generic: are hashtags that have 7 million or more images associated with them. It's suggested to use these ones sparingly because they have images posted to them every second, meaning your image will get lost in a hurry (which is not what you want). An example of this would be, #love. It updates every 3 seconds! Posting to it would be worthless and a waste of a hashtag.

specific: are hashtags that have between 250,000 and 7 million images. You want to use these tags the most. Yes, like generic, they have lots of content but the feed doesn't move as fast, resulting in your posts being seen over time.

custom: are hashtags that have less than 250,000 images. You also want to use the tags sparingly because though your content will be highly visible for a long time, low image count on a hashtag means that people aren't likely searching for it. For example, if I was to use #brennapiepersocial as a hashtag for potential clients to see my work, this would be good for me because it's custom to my business and people would only stumble across it if they were searching for me specifically.

Now, I bet you are thinking, THAT IS TOO MUCH TO THINK ABOUT, Brenna!! Where do I even begin? Let me tell you, it's super easy! If you want to use 30 hashtags per post break it down into 5 - generic, 5 - custom and 20 - specific. If you only want to use 11, break it down into 2 - generic, 2 - custom and 7 - specific. This allows you to make a listing for each category and having the ability to change them as you see fit.

3. Now that you have your hashtags, where do you put them?

Instagram rewards profiles where users spend time on their content, so essentially you would want to add your hashtags to the first comment of your post. If, you use a scheduler, this becomes a little difficult so feel free to post them below your content making sure that your users have to tap 'read more' in order to access them. FYI - storing your hashtags in the notes section of your phone saves hours of time if you don't use a scheduler that saves them for you, like does.

4. Once you have your hashtags and you have started using them, how do you know if they are working?

The easiest way to truly know if a hashtag is working is to search it and see where your image lands. If your image is showing as you scroll the TOP tab this is amazing, great work!! If it isn't, that's OK too, take a look at the RECENT tab, if you have to scroll a ways to find an image of yours then maybe that hashtag isn't for you. I normally analyze my hashtags weekly, but make little to no changes until a full month or two has passed.

5. How do I grow my following using hashtags?

This is probably the most work when it comes to hashtags but at the same time, the most rewarding if done consistently. Most of us post to our Social Media and forget it, then, get pissed off when a post only gets 4 likes or we haven't received any new followers in a while. Let me just say that if you aren't being social on your platform(s) why are you expecting your followers to be? What I like to do after I have my 30 hashtags chosen is, PICK 9 of them where I want to see growth, get followers or be the TOP POST. It is where I want my followers to find me if they search a particular hashtag. Once I have my list I start engaging with the top 9 posts each and every day. I ensure to comment something that will encourage a comment back, I don't just put "awesome profile", "great content". I take a personal interest in that profile because I know my ideal client is on their followers list and I want them on mine, too.

#sorrynotsorry that this was a tonne of information to absorb. Hashtags are complicated at first, but once you take the time to learn how they work and how you can use them to your advantage they become fun.

See you next Tuesday!



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