Are Hashtags worth their effort? The short answer is Yes, and the longer answer is also yes, especially for small businesses. Though there are some haters out there who profess the uselessness of hashtags vs ad spending, for smaller businesses hashtags are a powerful, free tool that can not only expand the reach of your social brand but help you find your community online and grow your loyal client/student base.
Hashtags are an essential tool for getting your content out to more people. Strategically tagging your posts and stories can put your content in front of the people who truly want to read, watch, and engage with what you are offering. The degree to which your content is seen by users is called your “reach,” and hashtags are all about expanding your reach.
Using hashtags strategically requires a bit of upfront effort but the potential outcomes will be well worth it. Once you have your Master Hashtag List created, updating it monthly is a breeze. Dot & Line Digital has created a free Hashtag Handbook to take you through the steps to creating your foundational Master List. Apply these steps to each social channel you are using and create an individual list that will resonate with your target audience across platforms.
What Are Hashtags?
Hashtags are clickable words, statements, questions, or even a series of numbers, symbols, and emojis with a pound sign/hashtag (#) symbol at the front. You can turn almost anything into a hashtag. This potential for tagging can be a lot of fun and highly effective for growing your reach if used strategically. If used without understanding why, they can also mean putting extra time and energy into something that is not only unhelpful but can also hinder the engagement of your content.
Strategically using hashtags on your social media posts and stories can do several things:
- Put your content in front of new potential followers. People can follow hashtags, which means they could see your content in their personal feed without following you. This is how you can reach more people than those who already follow you.
- Connect you and your work with a community. Using community-specific hashtags can expand your reach to other, untapped members of that community. For example, using a community and location tag can such as #yogaalberta will now connect you with users who also follow the #yogaalberta hashtag, and locate your business within their community.
Using tags is a free and simple way to grow your reach and build your connection to your core community online.
It can feel overwhelming when you see the range of possible hashtags to choose from but using hashtags strategically is essential for success. That is why Dot & Line Digital has created this simple 4-step process for creating your Master Hashtag list. Take it one step at a time, and apply the steps to each platform you are currently managing.
Step 1: Brainstorm
Who are you trying to reach?
The central guiding principle of all hashtag use is audience. Who are you trying to reach, what are they looking for on your chosen platform, and how do you connect with them? If you don’t already have a clear understanding of your target audience, take some time to tease these details out. Get to know these people, their interests and behaviours on social media, and most importantly, what they need from you.
Write this down. Pin it up on your wall and refer to it often as you move through the steps.
List all the words, statements, and/or questions relating to your service and brand. This step can be done alone, but it can also be valuable to pull in some friends or loyal clients to help generate ideas. Give yourself some time and let all the ideas out. Get as descriptive as you can, make lists, draw pictures, pull testimonials – put it all down. No-holds-barred here, everything you can think of that describes your work, your business, your clients and your services. What questions do potential students or clients often ask? What do they typically say after experiencing what you have to offer?
Circle 10 of the most relevant words, statements, and/or questions from your brainstorm. Think about what your clients would search for to find you and what you have to offer. Refer back to your target audience outline and highlight 10 key words, or phrases, and/or questions that come out of your brain dump.
Step 2: Kickstart Your Master List
Hashtags fall into a few different categories, here is a list of the most common types of tags:
- Event Specific
- Community group
- Relevant Phrases
- Product or Service
Make Your First 10 Tags
Take the 10 phrases you highlighted from your brain dump and turn them into Hashtags by listing them, each with a #, hashtag symbol at the front. It may be helpful to see which categories your tags fall under and ensure you are including the categories that would be relevant to your business.
Step 3: Get to Know Your Tags
Let’s take a moment and dive deeper into what makes a hashtag useful.
First: is it relevant to your post, business, and target market? Dropping a post highlighting your new studio space and then tagging it with #homelife may not land your content in front of those who would love to see it.
Second: just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it will bring you the attention you desire. The hashtags that will bring your content to those who want to see it the most are more than likely niche or branded tags. That is not to say never use popular tags (typically tags over with over a million posts), just don’t rely on them to get the job done.
Type each of the 10 hashtags you created in step 2, into the search-bar of your chosen social media account.
Most major platforms will show you the number of posts that have used that particular hashtag as well as other related hashtags.
Record the current number of posts using each of your 10 tags. These numbers will give you an idea of how many other posts your content will be hanging out with under each tag.
Generate Related Tags
While you are searching your current 10 tags, make note of some of the related tags. Gather at least 20 related hashtags and add them to your growing hashtag list. Remember to record each tag’s usage amount and to pull tags from a mix of highly popular (200K), somewhat popular (10K – 200K), and niche or branded tags (<10K).
Step 4: Expand Your List
Now that you have a list of about 20 – 30 tags let’s get to know your followers and target audience even better. Check out the profiles of your engaged followers. Look at who they are following, what hashtags they use, and what content they are most engaged with. Add any relevant topics, phrases or hashtags from your findings to your Master List. Remember to do a quick search and discover their usage numbers.
Finally, do a deep dive into the accounts of your competitors, colleagues, community groups, or businesses that offer similar services as you. Take some time and scour each account, check out their content and learn which posts have the most engagement. Write down what hashtags they are using the most and list the top three for each profile in your Master List.
Congratulations! At this point you should have a Master List of 30 – 40 (or more) amazing hashtags you can start using with your posts.
But Wait! Don’t use them all at once.
It may seem like a situation where if a little is good then more is better, but that is not so. More hashtags does not always equal a bigger reach. If your hashtags are not relevant to your post then many social media platform’s algorithms are less likely to get your posts seen. Focus your hashtags to engage with truly interested users.
Grouping your hashtags into content themes is a great way to focus your tags to support your overall marketing goals. Pick 3 – 4 content themes and group your hashtags under each of those themes. Then when you post content that falls under one of your themes simply copy and paste the hashtag group that is relevant to that theme into your caption.
Remember to have fun and keep an eye on how your hashtags perform with each post. Over time you will learn which ones are working for you and which ones you can replace. Be sure to update your Master List every few months to keep your hashtags relevant and engaging.
If you want more guidance or are looking for support in managing your digital marketing, book a Discovery Call now. We can help you bring your services to those who need them most.