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If you're active on any form of social media, you're likely already familiar with hashtags. And if you're a small business owner, you've probably been told on multiple occasions that hashtags are a crucial component to social media marketing.
Hashtags can increase interaction with your audience and community. However, starting your own hashtags, using generic spammy hashtags, or using hashtags just to use them won't necessarily help you.
You use hashtags to attract new audiences to your social media posts, so it stands to reason that the more you use, the better off you are, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, the more hashtags you use, the more likely your content could be viewed as spam by algorithms and viewers.
Some sites like Twitter restrict your hashtag use by limiting your overall character count. When using Twitter, remember that actual content should take precedence over hashtags. Limit yourself to a couple of tags to help characterize the post, and if you're creating a post relevant to a trending conversation, include that hashtag. As a general rule of thumb, if you start cutting actual words to fit more hashtags, you've gone too far.
On Instagram, the temptation is to load on hashtags in the name of promotion. According to Forbes, you can use up to 30 hashtags per Instagram post, but using that many hashtags may turn off your followers. Social media users are savvy enough to know that brands use hashtags to get new eyes on their content, so they're likely to assume that a post with 30 hashtags was created to attract new followers, not to engage existing followers.
That said, it's fine to include a few general hashtags beyond those describing the post. The ones you add could describe your location, your business, your products, or a widespread promotion like #CyberMonday. However, try to limit yourself to 10 hashtags or fewer.
Now that Instagram posts can be co-published to Facebook, you risk having all of your Instagram-specific hashtags appear on a platform where hashtag use should be minimal. Consumers rarely search hashtags on Facebook, so it's best to limit hashtags to instances such as large worldwide events that naturally spark conversation, for example, #Pride during Pride Month.
Have you ever thought about the fact that influencers and other content creators keep hashtags to a minimum while those trying to be influencers put as many as they can?
Our point here is to focus on your content. If you create content that provides value to your audience, it will eventually reach that audience. Sure, hashtags may help a few of those people find you if you're lucky. But if you're putting more energy into researching hashtags than you are your social media posts, you're doing things backward.
Part of knowing how to use hashtags is also knowing which hashtags to avoid altogether. This should go without saying, but you would be surprised at how lousy hashtag usage can sometimes be.
You will often see a post that uses hashtags that make no sense and are not specific. Make sure your hashtags are specific to your niche and target them as much as possible. This is especially true if you already have a target audience you are trying to serve.
For example, if you're a vegan restaurant that regularly posts photos of your food, you can attract new members to your community using #vegan. If you want to be even more specific, you can say something like #veganfood.
Keeping it simple like this, without going overboard, is an excellent method to use. You want to be smart, clear, concise, and to the point, and you'll be able to connect with your target audience without being muddled.
If someone is searching for social media topics, they aren't going to suddenly start following you because you put the hashtag, "pretty girl" on your vegan sandwich post.
If you're posting a recipe for vegan sandwiches, think of what others may be searching to find a post like yours. However, as we said before, don't overthink this. People rarely use social media as a search engine. Put a few hashtags on your post and keep creating great content.
Whether you've just started using hashtags on your company social media accounts or have been doing so for years, it never hurts to take a look at your usual practices. It's always better to stop doing something that isn't beneficial to your company instead of continuing to waste energy.