How and when to use hashtags to grow your audience

Every Tuesday in my free Facebook group I share a tip to get your business noticed, through social media, blogging, your website or by getting into the press. This week I shared an easy to action tip about hashtags – how and when to use hashtags to grow your social media audience.

What are hashtags?

Hashtags are a way of grouping similar content together to make it easy for a reader to find that content. For example, on a Saturday night thousands of people take to Twitter to chat about X Factor, all using the #xfactor hashtag. If you then want to go and see what everyone is saying, you can simply search for it and every tweet appears. It is a great way to find product, services, news and more.

Where can you use hashtags?

Hashtags work on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest but not Facebook. Facebook is not a place you go to, to search for something. Here you want to procrastinate looking at your friends cat or the like. But on Twitter you often go to search for news so the hashtag helps – simply type in something that is Trending (popular) and you will find out what is happening in the world, often faster than from the actual news. People use hashtags on Pinterest and Instagram to find inspiration such as wedding dresses or kids birthday cakes.

How do you use hashtags?

On Twitter you only get a small number of characters so you should focus on using key words that people are likely to search for. This is great when linked to special days such as World Baking Day or the like. For example, if you wanted to share a cake you had made on that day you would simply check the correct hashtag and write it into your tweet.

On Pinterest you should add hashtags into your descriptions of the pin (the image). It is best to add key word linked to the image NOT your business: for example, if the image features a pair of red shoes, I would add the hashtags #shoes #red #redshoes #fashion. These are all the key words that the reader is likely to type into the search bar. Once you have added these you may then want to add hashtags linked to your business but I would prioritise the image ones first.

Instagram is different. You can use up to 30 hashtags so it is a great idea to firstly add the key word hashtags – so if it was a paid of red shoes you would use the same hashtags that you used on Pinterest. But Instagram has other popular hashtags that are a little more unusual such as #shoesoftheday #shoeporn and #iloveshoes. These are what I would call creative hashtags that collectors, or real fans would know and search for. A great way to find these is to use a hashtag finder such as Hashtagify. – you simply type in your key word and they will suggest more unusual but popular hashtags. Another way is to look at other users that have nailed Instagram to see what hashtags they are using.

Hashtags aren’t something too complicated but some people make out that they are. The biggest piece of advice is to actually use them in the first place on the 3 social platforms.

And is it OK to use silly hashtags?

It is totally fine to make hashtags up or use silly ones, but I would suggest focusing on the key words first. No one is really searching for #sorrynotsorry but it is totally cool to use them!

I would suggest creating some for your own brand as it will help you to search for your content plus you may see others starting to use them too. We use #nobsmarketing and #authenticmarketing to summarise what we are about – while they won’t be what people are searching for, it is a great way to showcase what we are about.

Eleanor Beavis