How to Use Hashtags Effectively: The 3-Step Process

April 19, 2016 Rachel Riley

Hashtags—the little waffle-shaped symbol that changed how people use social media forever.

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Once known as a “pound sign,” hashtags today ignite, unite, track and organize social media conversations around the world. Whether you use them or not, you’ve certainly seen hashtags before on platforms like Twitter and Instagram, on TV and in the news, or even in the dictionary. But have you used them to boost the results of your social media marketing yet?

Learning how to use hashtags effectively can be done in as little as three steps. In this post, we’ll walk you through the three-step process for sourcing and leveraging effective hashtags that will help you extend the reach of your brand on social media and build relationships with potential customers.

How to Use Hashtags Effectively: The 3-Step Process

Step 1: Understand how people use hashtags

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There are many ways you can use hashtags in and to amplify your marketing. Reasons marketers use hashtags include branding purposes, improving brand awareness, marketing events and engaging followers on a specific topic.

Regardless of how you want to use hashtags in your marketing, it’s important to first understand how they’re already being used across platforms to help you maximize your efforts. We’ll break down best practices on three of the most popular social media networks where hashtags currently exist: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

  • Twitter: Twitter is where the hashtag became what it is today, and thus it’s largely acceptable to use them when posting to this platform. Studies show that tweets that include hashtags receive twice the engagement as those that don’t, but best practices indicate that including up to two hashtags per post is the smartest move.
  • Facebook: Hashtags have only been used on Facebook since 2013, but have become a commonly seen feature on the site. Stick to using two hashtags per post max as, like with Twitter, best practices state that including more than that can lead to a drop in follower engagement.
  • Instagram: Unlike with Twitter and Facebook, on Instagram, the more hashtags the better. Buffer shares that interactions are highest on Instagram posts with 11 or more hashtags, so feel free to get creative.

Step 2: Perform hashtag research

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Effective hashtag usage begins with a little research, just like with the keywords you’re targeting in your content marketing and SEO efforts. There are a variety of free and paid tools you can use that will scour social media to determine the best hashtags to use to engage your specific audience. Some of the most popular include:

  • Hashtags.org: Want to jump in on a conversation that’s already begun? This site offers users the ability to see hashtags that are popular or currently trending.
  • RiteTag: Once you’ve entered a tweet with hashtags, this tool helps you assess which hashtags you used give your tweet the highest chance of being discovered by highlighting them in red, blue or green.
  • Hashtagify.me: This tool explores Twitter hashtags and their relationships, showing you hashtags related to a specific keyword.

Step 3: Create compelling posts using your hashtags

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Once you’ve figured out the hashtags you want to leverage across social media, you’ll need to develop content to promote them. Do some research to better understand what kind of content engages the followers on the platform you want to use your hashtags across—be it Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Then, get to crafting your content. Follow these tips for creating compelling social media content:

  • Add visuals. On Instagram, this is a given, but to drive follower engagement across Twitter and Facebook as well, you’ll want to include a high quality image or piece of visual content along with your post.
  • Tag influencers in your post. To get your post on the radar of social media influencers—who can then extend the reach of your content across their own vast networks—tag them in your posts. Make sure the hashtags you’re using are relevant to their industry or brand first.

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