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What hashtags should I use?

24th August 2016

If you have had any training or advice about social media, it has probably been pointed out to you at some point that you have to use hashtags on certain channels to increase your reach. You may understand why you are using hashtags, but get stuck on which ones to use – and how many. For a lot of us, using hashtags seems alien, or even unnecessary, but that really isn’t the case. It’s about which ones you use and how you use them which make them effective. So let’s start at the beginning.

What is a hashtag?

A hashtag is simply a way of becoming involved in a wider conversation. You can search for different subjects using a hashtag and find other like-minded people speaking about the same things you are interested in.

Hashtags work on Twitter and Instagram. It’s not necessary to use them on Facebook as they don’t bring any further engagement.

How many?

On Twitter, stick to using 2-3 hashtags, however on Instagram you can go hashtag crazy – engagement goes up after 11 hashtags but clients have found that using 20+ is best for them. You have so much more opportunity to build engagement on Instagram because of this – and using different types of hashtags (as long as they are relevant to your post) allows you to target a wide audience. It is important to use generic hashtags as well as more tailored hashtags.

For example, if I was to put an Instagram post out from Cosmic, I would use generic hashtags such as #socialmedia #digitalmarketing #websites #websitedesign #IT but also I may go more detailed, for example #socialmediasupport #digitalsouthwest #videographyservice and even use the location #Honiton . What this does is attract a wider array of people.

Searching on Instagram for the hashtag ‘social media’ brings up 3,324,202 posts whereas ‘videographyservice’ brings up only 72. This doesn’t mean that the lower amount isn’t good – it means that less people are searching for it so you will get seen. Trying to be seen in over 3 million social media posts will be almost impossible, so it’s about opening up more opportunities.

So this is where the question comes in – what hashtags should I use? And how do I know?

There are a number of tools that can help you with this. The main one we use is Hashtagify.me. This is the first port of call when we are researching for our clients. It is very simple to use, all you need to do is pop in a certain word or term and it will come up with all of the hashtags that are connected with that search. For example you will see below that searching ‘socialmedia’ brings up some other typical hashtags that are connected. If you hover over each one you see the popularity and the correlation from the original hashtag. By searching further into the table view you can see the weekly and monthly trend of each hashtag.

This will give you an idea of the most popular hashtags related to what you are talking about, so it would be an idea to start using these within your posts.

GetHashtags is probably one of the easiest and best tools to explore new hashtags for both Instagram and Twitter. Start by putting in your hashtag of choice and it will show you a number of different options around that choice. By clicking on an individual hashtag it brings up the most popular other hashtags used alongside. Again, we have used the example ‘socialmedia’ and by clicking on the top Instagram choice, it shows you the most popular other hashtags used with ‘social media’ and also gives you the top 30 to copy and paste into your Instagram post.

Twitonomy is a fascinating tool to explore what other accounts are doing on Twitter – you may want to look at influencers within your industry and find out what hashtags they are using to join in on those conversations.  Not only can you monitor their hashtags but you can also see other analytics based on their twitter activity.

Tagboard is another tool that you can monitor your popular hashtags on, throughout all of the social media channels. This doesn’t help you search for new hashtags, but what it does is let you see what is being talked about within the hashtag you are interested in. And it collates the content from all social media channels. This can help you stay ahead of the game.

Tweet Binder is a paid for tool which also helps analyse hashtags, and although it doesn’t tell you associated hashtags, it finds the accounts using them the most, images associated with the hashtags as well as the popularity during a certain timeline.

And finally, Top-Hashtags.com not only lets you know the top 100 hashtags on either Instagram or Twitter (do any of these fit in with your subject that you can use?) you can also search your preferred hashtag to see where it places.

Regardless of what tools you use to help you find the hashtags to use in your post, make sure that you are using relevant hashtags to your industry, and the audience you are trying to target. There is no point me using a highly popular hashtag such as #dogsofinstagram to promote a digital marketing post, because although the audience is huge for #dogsofinstagram, the content I am sharing isn’t relevant and so it won’t get me any engagement or followers.

And keep track of which ones you are using, alongside how popular your posts are. It is good to keep evaluating the engagement you are getting on your posts to make sure you are hitting the right people.

So to summarise;

  • Keep them relevant
  • Use a range of generic & detailed hashtags
  • Use less for Twitter, more for Instagram and none for Facebook
  • Evaluate and monitor

Let us know how you get on, or if you have anything else to add by tweeting us @Cosmic_UK – we look forward to hearing from you!