How to Use Hashtags to Drive Engagement on Social Media

Driving authentic engagement on social media really comes down to the fact that you need to be “social.” You should push to create meaningful conversations and connections with your target audience, not just try to sell them on your offerings. 

Hashtags do more for your business than just tagging them in with captions you write but should help you understand the types of content that’s already being shared, conversations taking place, and further understanding the way people are using them to connect.

What are hashtags?

Hashtags are, in effect, keywords used by social media sites to categorize your posts by their main topic or niche. Social media sites use algorithms to rate posts’ authoritativeness using a number of metrics, such as the niche of the page publishing the post, whether the hashtags used are trending, whether the content is original, and the value of the content.

A Twitter user first used a hashtag to organize his content into groups in 2007. Twitter is known for adopting their early users’ suggestions, like referring to Twitter posts as Tweets, using the @ symbol to tag other users in posts, and coining the term “retweets”. 

Finding the best hashtags to use

A hashtag is essentially a keyword, and you can approach researching the best hashtags to use in much the same way as you’d do keyword research for your blog or website content. 

There are paid hashtag search tools for business owners that make short work of finding the best hashtags for your posts, like Hashtagify, Ingramer, and Hashtagsforlikes. Alternatively, there are free hashtag tools like Sistrix, Kicksta, and Display Purposes that can help startup businesses out until they’ve grown enough to justify a monthly subscription.

If you don’t want to use a hashtag generator tool, enter hashtag ideas of your own into the search bar of social media sights and the results page will tell you how many posts there are pertaining to that particular hashtag. 

Hashtag strategy

In order to ensure that you’re utilizing hashtags in a way that will be beneficial to gaining reach, engagement, and ultimately, site visits, product/service inquiries or even purchases, you will need to have a solid strategy in place. 

Narrowing down the social networks you will need to manage and have a brand presence on is a great start. From there, you can then learn the ins and outs of how many hashtags each allows and what you need to test such as the content. 

Here are different hashtag strategies and tactics worth testing:

  • Go for popular and niche.
  • Include branded hashtags where it makes sense.
  • Include other like-minded branded hashtags.
  • Be contextually relevant.
  • Have the right expectations. Virality shouldn’t be a goal for every post. Authenticity first and always.
  • See what types of conversations are happening with hashtags you want to use and find a way to participate in those conversations for brand visibility.

Measuring the effectiveness of hashtags

Your most popular trending hashtags are going to draw in users who’ve never seen you before and know nothing about your business. Their effectiveness only works for a few minutes though. If the post doesn’t go viral within the first few minutes, it’ll get buried under newer posts.

Moderately popular hashtags last for a few days and give you a longer window of opportunity to reach new followers. When your posts get consistent activity, social media platforms will rank your posts as top performers for your niche-specific hashtags, and that content stays in that slot for months.

Don’t forget to make sure the action buttons on your social media profile are activated. By using this tactic, you can drive lots of new traffic to your website and push to make sales.

How do you know if your hashtags are working? It comes down to engagement and then seeing if there are any direct actions taken that help you track and measure the effectiveness. Truly, make hashtags a part of your overall social media strategy such that you have KPIs tied into them in some way shape and form.

The best way to find out what works best for your business is to continually test. For example, testing out different messaging, CTAs, and captions will all play a role in helping you determine what really generates the type of engagement that you’re looking for.

Wrapping it up

Hashtags are difficult to ignore. They help draw attention to messages on social media. They also help social media users find and follow topics and conversations that interest them.

No doubt, hashtags are a powerful tool you can leverage across all social media platforms to spread your brand’s message and attract your ideal customers. By paying attention to the best practices for using hashtags, you increase your chances of carrying out an effective social media marketing campaign.

Lastly, here are key tips that I dig from GaryVee:

Here are three simple rules to follow when you’re using hashtags to grow your business. These rules apply regardless of the platform.  

  1. Your account needs to be public–if it isn’t, users can’t find your content.
  2. Ride the wave of what’s currently trending, don’t try to make your own hashtag.
  3. Don’t include too many hashtags in one post, or users/your community/your target audience will assume your content is spam.

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