In spite of the incredible volume of marketing blog posts along the lines of “Do Hashtags Work?”, the question is no longer whether or not to use hashtags, but how to use them most effectively.
If you need a quick update on what hashtags are and how they work, you may want to read our other post before you continue.
Twitter reports that tweets with hashtags can increase engagement by 50% for brands and about 100% for individuals.
Marketing researcher Dan Zarrella found similar results, reporting that tweets with at least 1 hashtag are 55% more likely to be retweeted than tweets without hashtags. However, it’s important not to take these statistics as license to #add #endless #hashtags #to #every #tweet, à la Jimmy Fallon.
To quote Twitter Support’s best practices:
Using hashtags correctly:
- Don't #spam #with #hashtags. Don't over-tag a single Tweet. (Best practices recommend using no more than 2 hashtags per Tweet.)
- Use hashtags only on Tweets relevant to the topic.
Limiting how many hashtags you use in a tweet has a measurable benefit – according to the HubSpot research team, tweets with 1-2 hashtags receive 21% higher engagement than tweets with 3 or more.
Also, keep in mind that for each hashtag you use in a tweet, you’re sacrificing some of your message – 140 characters isn’t a lot. Focus on one or two hashtags that sum up the main theme or message of the tweet.
Hashtags Beyond Twitter
Obviously, Twitter isn’t the only social media platform that supports hashtags – they are now explicitly supported by Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+, Instagram, Linkedin, Tumblr, Vine, Gawker, Kickstarter, Flickr, and more. However, while the data on using hashtags might vary a bit among these different platforms, the general guidelines in this post should apply to each hashtag-supporting social site.
Hashtags are great for marketers because they expand the potential impact of your tweet by increasing your reach beyond your followers, to those who also have interest in the hashtag.
However, you should only use hashtags to give context and make your information more accessible to interested readers. Only relevant tags should make it into your tweets, and that includes weeding out overly general ones. The minute they start obscuring your meaning rather than clarifying it, you’ve gone too far.
While it’s easy to focus on a social media shibboleth like hashtags, don’t forget that they’re not the only element of tweets you can or should optimize – there’s solid data on other elements like optimal length, use of quotes, placement of links, how photos are shared, and tags that you can use to increase engagement.
The most important thing of all:
To earn genuine engagement, the content you’re sharing must be targeted to your buyer personas. If it’s not worth reading or interacting with, no amount of optimization can bring you success.