By Daniela McVicker
Hashtags, they’ve become something like an ironic t-shirt print now. Everywhere you turn, people are using them, they’ve even become a part of our verbal dialect, hashtag weird.
As overblown as they are, they are essential to social media. With platforms like Instagram and Twitter, they really can allow your business ideas to grow and your service to be reached by many more people. However, the art of hashtags can be a tricky one to master. We’re here to help.
Instead of telling you what you should do, we’re here to tell you exactly what to avoid. If you find yourself doing them, just hashtag stop. Here are the 9 most common hashtag mistakes to avoid.
What are hashtags?
There was a time when they were used as a number sign, used in databases and cryptographic applications. In 2007, Chris Messina changed the meaning of the key all around.
They’re no used all over the world, as a type of link or tag for users on social media. They basically identify a keyword (or multiple) and the indexed into the realm of social media. They then become discoverable by the other users.
Agreed, they are a tiny bit overused in today’s social media mad world, but they are instrumental. They categorize specific messages, have become a marketing tool by many businesses and lead users to certain discussions and conversations that they wish to be a part of.
Here are just some of the things that you should avoid when using hashtags.
1. Using only the popular hashtags
Yes, you see something trending, and you join the wave. We get it. In theory, it makes total sense — using the ones that have the most followers. However, these won’t get you the results that you’re searching for.
Tagging your pictures with #love or #beauty will put you in a world of hundreds of thousands of posts. Don’t mistake the extra likes for anything meaningful — they usually come from automated robots.
If you don’t believe us, check it out for yourself. Post a picture with generic hashtags like, say, #followforfollow and #motivation and try to find your post amongst the millions of photos. It’s next to impossible and really won’t increase your popularity.
You should always seek to use more specific, relevant hashtags that will speak to your target audience. Looking into your industry’s keywords could help you massively with this.
2. Don’t be too #obscure, though
On the opposite end, you don’t want to use a hashtag that literally nobody knows about. This would be futile.
Yes, it could be beneficial to start your own hashtag and watch your brand grow with it. Initially, this won’t gain you any new visitors or customers or followers.
You really want to be finding that perfect balance between popular and obscure — something which has a couple thousand posts on it, enough for you to be seen, but not too little that nobody notices.
We promise, there are enough out there for you to find, you just need to be a little bit creative and check up on your competitors.
Using way too many hashtags
We’ve all seen it, people posting something which quite literally has a million hashtags on it. Do you need reminding? #Travel #Travelpictures #Travelgram #Instatravel…you know the rest.
Captions which have tonnes and tonnes of hashtags on tend to kill the message you’re trying to put forward. It can be seen as overkill or desperation. The majority of followers and likes you get aren’t ones who engage, shop or provide anything meaningful. They’re programmed, and will sometimes even unfollow you after a set amount of time.
The best copywriting services that know a thing or two about social media and efficient use of hashtags live by the mantra: “quality over quantity.” Using 1-5 hashtags will stop your post looking cluttered and will gain you actually positively interested readers, not just automated likes.
Not analyzing your hashtag use
Social media campaigns rely on hashtags. Without them, everything would be a little bit crazy. That being said, if you’re not analyzing your hashtags properly, it can lead you to quite the #confusion.
For example, you have a social media campaign in which your followers have to use a unique hashtag, that you created. In order to measure your reach, track your growth (and pick a winner) you will need to monitor your numbers carefully.
There are social media tools and platforms which can help you with this, as well as just a very eager eye. You don’t want any angry competition entries, either.
Social media marketing relies on analytics just as much as any other type of marketing including email marketing. So, don’t underestimate the power of the hashtag.
Not using any hashtags at all
You might feel like they look messy, or people will judge them, or whatever reason. Ignore all that, because the biggest mistake you can make is not using them.
Once you have a big brand name, tonnes of followers and organic engagement, the hashtags can come to an end. Yet, when you’re building up your brand, they will become your new #BestFriend.
The little tags should be seen as targeted exposure, and nothing less. Think of them as a search tool — something that people can find your profile and content with. Nobody is too good or too proud to utilize a hashtag, they’re a great marketing tool that will give you so many benefits.
Did you know that tweets containing 2 hashtags get 2x more engagement than those without? It’s quite impressive, and something you should completely get behind.
A lack of research
It’s really no use describing everything you see in your picture using hashtags. To make the most out of them, you need to do a little bit of research.
You should take a look into the world of hashtags, using tools like Ritetag and Tagboard. These allow you to look at trending hashtags and review the performance of your own.
Also, don’t forget to dive into the world of National hashtag days. Things like #SmallBusinessSunday #TransformationTuesday and #MondayMotivation could be great little time markers for you. There’s even #NationalSelfieDay and #NationalNutritionMonth…there’s a hashtag for every event, some might just be great for your business. Check out if there are any more relevant to you and your purpose.
Not trying out new ones
So, you found your perfect set of hashtags, and you use them in every single post. We hate to break it to you, your users notice this (and they get bored), and it isn’t gaining you any new exposure after time.
Never get too comfortable with your hashtags, social media is an ever-changing world, and you need to move with it. You might find some of the best hashtags that you used to begin, are now completely oversaturated or deserted.
There’s always room for new hashtags. Take a nice scroll through your timelines, see what other people are using and see if they’ll work for you. Switch up your current favorites every now and then, checking your analytics to see if they really worked for you.
Not localizing your hashtags
This is especially true for the brick and mortar businesses out there. If you want people to come to your shop, it’s not particularly useful to use hashtags that are only being seen by people hundreds of miles away.
Check out your local community, see what hashtags they’re using, build relationships and gain exposure.
Even something as general as #NewYorkCity might just attract one new visitor to your shop. There’re also location hashtags that will be relevant to your industry. For example, #NewYorkBloggers or NewYorkBusiness will be more condensed, but much more effective hashtags to use.
Side note: make sure to utilize that location button too — more people use that than you might believe.
Using hashtags that aren’t relevant
We touched on using hashtags that are really popular and too obscure, but what about the ones that just aren’t relevant.
Yes, you might have found a great hashtag, that has a few thousand posts — but if it isn’t relevant to you, it won’t help you at all.
Just think about your profile, your target audience, your goals. What hashtag would be really great to go along with this?
As an example, say you’re a new sustainable fashion shop. In today’s world, #sustainable will have thousands and thousands of posts, there’s a risk you won’t be found. Why not try #SustainableFashion or #EthicalDesigner? It’s a little bit more relevant, not so popular and will bless you with specific exposure.
It might seem like a lot, especially listed out like this, but it is actually straightforward. You can easily avoid these mistakes and utilize hashtags to your best ability.
Like with every kind of marketing strategy, there is a bit of a trial and error process. Some will work, some won’t work — emphasizing the importance of analytics and careful tracking.
The truth is, hashtags are the key to growing a following on social media, especially one that engages with you and your brand. So, what are you waiting for?
Daniela McVicker is a blogger with a rich experience in writing about UX design, content planning, and digital marketing. Currently, she is the chief contributor at Trustmypaper where she helps individuals and organizations improve their web content writing, design, and planning skills. Her posts are always packed with examples and actionable content that readers can put straight into action.