Hashtag DO’s and DON’Ts

We’ve compiled a list of the top ten things to do and ten more you should try to avoid for your hashtag marketing strategy. Meta tagging with #hashtags was an early computer science technique to help classify digital database entries, but now you see them everywhere on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you are an internet marketer or social media guru for your organization, check out our list of different ways to approach your #hashtags for your business or non-profit organization.

DO’s

Learn more about industry hashtags and what works for your competitors. You’ll find a whole ecosystem of native hashtags for your realm of business or charity. Restaurants tend to overdo it with #food and #foodie, but these focused hashtags really help to capture the attention of interested eyeballs.

#BeBrief. #Dontendupwithalongsentencethatisextremelyhardtoread. Keep your hashtags as short as can be. Because you can’t punctuate your hashtags, you need to be brief and use TitleCaps if you go longer than two or three words. #ThisMakesYourHashtagEasierToRead.

Do your research! Learn more about hashtag rules and the best practices in your industry for each platform. Do you know how many hashtags per post you can use on Instagram? What’s the optimum hashtag length? (30 hashtags, and 11 or fewer characters)

Borrow your SEO words. It makes sense to apply your SEO strategy from the web to social media, too. If you get a list of SEO words from your web content team, that’s a great starting point to building your business hashtags. Use what already works to attract customers elsewhere. Consistency is a good thing.

Get help from the pros. There are tons of free tools online to help you find relevant hashtags for your business or charitable sector. One of the most innovative sites you can turn to for #help with your #hashtags is hashtagify.me.  You can search the top trends (check out the Black Friday report) and find inspiration for your own hashtag campaign. KeyHole, RebelMouse, and Hashtracking are other companies with tools to help you find hashtags ideas for your brand and track your stats online.

Be cautious and monitor your hashtags carefully. There are lots of cases where businesses meant well only to see their hashtags hijacked. Irate customers, spammers, and competitors can all divert your message away to something that ends up hurting your brand.

Unique and succinct hashtags are the best. Depending on your industry, your best efforts to use popular hashtags can backfire if they get lost in the hashtag-sea. Try to come up with hashtags less than 11 characters long that are focused enough to be effective. Type in #socialmedia into the hashtag search and you’ll see what we mean.                                                                                                                                                                  

Use popular and trending hashtags. This isn’t a novel strategy on its own, but you can put your own spin on it. If you are struggling for a post idea, check out the top trending hashtags and pick one to adopt for your post. This can help you connect on a regular basis with your followers/customers, but don’t overdo it. If something too good to pass up comes along, don’t be afraid to jump on it. Just remember that this works best when used sparingly. You shouldn’t just #rehash everything you see.

Mix it up with unbranded hashtags. In a perfect world, you would have a nice balance of branded hashtags (i.e. KohlsSweepstakes) and unbranded ones (#UNeedANewPhone from Radioshack). Unbranded hashtags are a great way to connect with your customers and let them help you with promotion and branding without having them feel like company shills. It shows you care about more than mentions online and helps you to connect with your audience.

Time your tags. One thing that many people overlook is the timing of your hashtags. You should avoid heavy-posting times like championship sports games, televised awards ceremonies, and primetime TV hours. Don’t get lost in the fray and try to post early in the morning if you can. When people open up their social apps after they wake up, you’ll be ready to greet them. Use a schedule that works for you and your marketing goals.

DON’Ts

#Don’t #be #a #Hashtag #Spammer. It’s tempting to max out the 30 hashtags limit on every Instagram post to take advantage of every hashtag opportunity. Often, “less is more” when it comes to hashtags. Not only do longer posts get cut off in many mobile apps, but they also give off the impression of being a spammer. Instagram put the #limits in place for a reason – it’s the preferred tactic of spam artists everywhere. Be creative, not a #spammer #with #an #itchy #hashtag #finger.

Don’t go crazy with the acronyms. #DGCWTA might mean something to me, but most people won’t take the time to bother understanding (even after I wrote it the line before). One exception would be an idiosyncratic industry with a lot of acronyms. Insider slang might be the ticket to connecting with some diehard fans, but you probably want to be a bit more accessible to grow your brand outwards. #MAGA is an example of something that works. If you can’t easily say the acronym out loud, it’s probably too long and cumbersome.

Don’t set it and forget it. Hashtags are like an organism that needs a little care and pruning to stay healthy. It’s tempting to blast out a bunch of hashtags and sit back to see results. Keep an eye on the people who use your tag. Follow them. Add them as friends. This is how you build your brand with social media. It’s not passive marketing – get involved.

Don’t be shy to share, retweet, and re-gram. Human beings crave attention and recognition from others. It’s just part of our nature. Use this to your advantage by showcasing your followers when they use your hashtag. Take some time every day to interact with your audience if possible. Even if you’re account isn’t that active, people expect fast feedback from company social media sites. Don’t let anything fester too long without a response, good or bad.

Don’t just use popular tags. You can see this all the time in some industries. If you are a car dealership, it’s not doing much good to use #cars and #usedcars since your posts will get buried pretty quickly. It is okay to pepper the odd popular tag into your feed, but your typical hashtags should be novel enough to narrow the target onto potential customers. Don’t aim at the whole world and expect to hit much.

Don’t lose sight of the goal. Hashtags are fun and dynamic, but they shouldn’t be a frivolous use of your time. Make sure you stay on target with your brand positioning. If you are a quirky and fun brand, make sure your tone matches across your marketing platforms. If you are a serious organization, don’t go too crazy with bad humor and cat photos.

Don’t jump on a popular hashtag blindly. We all remember the classic bonehead move in 2014 from DiGiorno Pizza on Twitter. After seeing #WhyIStayed on Twitter’s list of top trending hashtags, they couldn’t help themselves. “#WhyIStayed You had pizza” was a tone-deaf attempt to use a popular tag for corporate marketing by the social media team at DiGiorno. The hashtag was popular due to an ongoing Twitter campaign to call attention to domestic violence. DiGiorno had to do some backpedaling and apologizing over the days following their tweet. Do your homework before you hashtag with your brand.                     

Don’t be greedy. Social media marketing is so much more than just driving sales and profitability. These amazing platforms allow you to connect to your customers directly with curated messaging. Built loyalty and brand appreciation with more than just spam and calls-to-action. Offer perspective on your business and give your followers something of real value. Don’t forget to promote yourself, but be graceful and take the long view.

Don’t hijack hashtags. It’s really unprofessional to copy or hijack another brand’s hashtags. It makes you look bad, and it’s just not a good idea. There are exceptions but they are very rare. Be original and come up with your own ideas for hashtags. Check out our recommendations for hashtag building and analysis tools. If you can’t find any inspiration and you are just completely stuck for ideas, take a break and ask for help around the office or dinner table. Crime never pays.

We hope you enjoyed this condensed list of hashtag tips and some pitfalls to avoid when hashtag marketing. There are so many amazing success stories built on simple marketing tools like the humble hashtag. Those little strings of characters can change your whole business for the better or worse in the blink of an eye. Follow our guide and read more on our blog to learn more about web marketing and social media strategies for your business. There’s a ton of great ideas and tips to help you unlock your business potential. Marketing is always changing, and we’ll do our best to keep you informed and empowered. Check back regularly for our daily posts about social media, SEO, web design, entrepreneurship, and lots more to help you grow your business using the web. Contact us today for information on how we can help your business grow.