No doubt you likely understand hashtags (those little # symbols adorning Tweets and Instagram posts) are important as a social media marketing tool. But chances are you don’t understand exactly how they work best.
Hashtags were originally intended to help users (Twitter users, specifically) find similar conversations. So, if they wanted to start a group discussion about “science” they could put #science on their Tweet, and other people who wanted to read “science” tweets could simply search that hashtag. When they did every Tweet with #science appeared and they could share, or comment or whatever, accordingly.
Fast forward to today and everybody is suddenly shoving dozens of hashtags on every social media post they make because they think then everyone will find it.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Also, not an effective use of your time.
First, hashtags only work if people are actively searching for that subject. So before you #hashtag #every #word #in #your #post – maybe try searching for one hashtag on the service you are using. See which posts appear which are relevant to your subject and which conversations you’d like your posts to be a part of.
Think every word is ok for a search? Ask Rick Santorum how that strategy worked for him.
Second, just because a hashtag has been searched a million times doesn’t mean if you use it your content will suddenly go viral. Hashtags are searched constantly, and those search counts accrue constantly. So, maybe in the last five months 1 million people have searched on Instagram for #science. But today they are searching for #datascience. Or #kimkardashian. Or #smothersbrothers. To use hashtags effectively you don’t need to know what are the most popular hashtags ever, you need to know which are the hottest hashtags today. Right now. Try checking trending hashtags using one of the free tools out there, like Hashtagify. If you can tailor your content to fit in with a hashtag which is popular now, you stand a much better chance of getting the results you are looking for.
Finally, use your common sense. Hashtags are just one tool among many which can help people find your content. But finding your content is only half the battle. Giving them content worth engaging with in some way is the other, more important, half. If you correctly hashtag your spam link all you’re going to do is get your account blocked that much quicker. Or, perhaps your content isn’t spammy, just boring or uninteresting, or unoriginal. You’ll have the same problem getting people to share what they couldn’t care less about.
To Recap: Only use hashtags which make sense for your subject and desired audience. Use hashtags which are currently popular to get the most exposure. And only hashtag content which you think might be relateable and shareable for other users.