Why you should use hashtags
Nearly everyone on social media uses hashtags. Most do so randomly and with no visible, cohesive strategy. If you want to get the best results on social media, you need to fully understand hashtags and how to use them strategically so that you can:
Extend your reach
Using hashtags correctly will help you to extend your reach beyond your current followers. Twitter’s research illustrates that using hashtags in tweets boosts views, retweets, likes and comments by almost twice as much.
Note that this includes tweets that use hashtags with no visible strategy, forethought or planning. Therefore, having a good hashtag strategy should lead to even better results: to ensure your content reaches more people, hashtags have to be consciously planned, rather than randomly used.
Expanding your influence on Twitter will also help you build your audience off-Twitter; Google indexes every tweet and displays the tweets of many of the most popular speakers and thought leaders in their search results.
If you tweet frequently and regularly and if you get engagement on your tweets, those tweets will also show up in Google’s search pages when people search for you. The keys here are: consistency, frequency and engagement. Tweet regularly, share great content and engage your followers.
Build a high-grade following
Having a high-grade following simply means that your followers actually engage with you; they demonstrate that they are genuinely interested in what you have to say and what you share. In short, these are the people who help you spread your message instead of passively consuming (or ignoring) it. Excellent followers, though, are not easy to acquire: you have to consistently share great content and you have to add value. You also have to engage with them.
However, sharing great content is not enough in and of itself. You need that content to be seen and to be seen by the right people. This is where hashtags play a vital role in your Twitter activity.
Find the right audiences
Hashtags are invaluable in helping you discover your target audiences.
Connecting – and engaging – with influencers in your field of expertise is one of the most effective ways to increase your own influence. With the right hashtags and the right tools, you can discover who those influencers are as well as their interests and where those interests intersect with yours. This helps ensure that you can make your interactions with them meaningful and impactful.
“Any combination of characters or numbers, without spaces or punctuation, that begins with the hash symbol, is a hashtag. You are free to use any hashtags you want in your posts, and, when you do so, that hashtag will become highlighted and clickable for the reader to easily find all the other tweets using that hashtag.” – hashtagify.me
When you use hashtags, Twitter ignores capital letters; therefore, #HASHTAG is the same as #hashtag. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use capitalisation though. If you use hashtags that combine two or more words, you should capitalise the first letter of each word. It makes it easier for other people to read.
Using random hashtags is poor practice. At the least it is unhelpful and, in some cases, is even considered spammy. If someone searches for #SubjectA and they find your tweet because you used that hashtag but are actually talking about #SubjectB, they will not think well of you and will ignore you. If you’re lucky. Or they might flag your tweet as spam. If enough people do this, Twitter will penalise you and your content.
Even people who are interested in #SubjectB probably won’t like it if you use irrelevant hashtags and may even stop following you.
The optimal number of hashtags for a post on Twitter is 2 to 3. There is also research that suggests tweets with more than two hashtags suffer a 17% decrease in engagement over those with fewer.
How do you ensure your hashtags are relevant?
It’s essential that you use relevant hashtags. How can you be sure that you are? Simple: meet people’s expectations.
If someone searches #QuoteOfTheDay, what do they want to see? Probably an interesting quote from someone well-known or famous. So, if your tweet is a quote that fits the bill, you can legitimately use this hashtag without upsetting anyone.
But if you use the hashtag on a tweet promoting your latest book, that is not acceptable. People may find your tweet useful but if it is not appropriate for a search on that hashtag, you are unlikely to get any worthwhile reaction and may even attract some negative reactions! Before you use any hashtag, consider what tweets you would expect to see if you searched for that hashtag.
Hashtagify have produced two great posts about advanced hashtags. I recommend that you take the time to read through them.