There are two different ways to use hashtags to drive your posts. Both will expand your reach - but only one will have a lasting positive effect.
Early one morning last week I was asked by a close friend of mine whether hashtags still matter. My response was, justifiably, abrupt. Yes, obviously hashtags still matter. While their applications may vary from social network to social network, they are one of the few remaining organic tools that social media marketers still have in their arsenal; one that allows them put their content in front of previously un-reached users.
My frustration was valid - you see, my friend is an incredibly tech-savvy professional with a firm grasp on the ins-and-outs of social media marketing. While this would be a respectable question for somebody less clued-in to ask, for her it felt a little… well, silly.
But the more I got to considering the way that some businesses are now using hashtags in their strategies, the more my friend’s question seemed justified. So I apologised for the curtness of my response. I ensured her that it was definitely due to the early hour and my low caffeine reserves, and not at all a result of my now making the majority of my social interactions on Twitter and forgetting what appropriate human communication looks like.
The issue with popular hashtags
Hashtags serve a selection of different purposes. For users they offer a quick-glance insight into the content of a post, while also serving as shortcuts to developing conversations that matter to them. For businesses they are a tool for putting their brand voice directly in front of those users, and of keeping track of their campaigns.
Engaging with popular trends week-in week-out is a great way to extend your reach. The issue where some business is concerned surrounds engaging with hashtags that remain only popular to marketers. Sure they trend - but they only trend because they are overused by social media managers struggling for originality. And you will certainly receive engagement - but it is likely to be from the very same users, and not anybody who could eventually become an advocate for your brand.
Marketers marketing to marketers (often about marketing)
In the past they were used to complement the creation of creative campaigns. However, for some users (not all, mind) they are now more often used where brands are struggling for originality; they have become something to fall back on.
Take #MondayMotivation for example. Now, this may be a relevant hashtag for a family service that focusses on supporting people, but possibly not so much for a corporate electrician. However, the latter might have posted about it once and seen a nice amount of engagement, and so continually do so, unwittingly serving an audience who aren't their customers at all.
At this point we merely have marketers inadvertently marketing to other marketers (often about marketing), and raving about their results... regardless of the fact that those results have just come from other marketers who marketed to that marketer, inadvertently. Sounds bad, right?
Hastags: we must use them - not the other way around
Hashtags are an integral part of your social media marketing strategy. That means that you have to do your research in order to get anything out of them. Simply moulding your calendar around weekly trends and resorting to the same hashtags won’t work. Don’t let a fancy piece of alliteration decide how your posting strategy is going to look.
If you’re struggling to start using better hashtags, consider making use of a tool like Ritetag or Tagboard. The former is a great tool for reviewing the performance of current popular hashtags, whereas the latter has a handy grid layout that allows you to analyse the strength of specific hashtags. Still lost? We'd love to help - reach out @GiraffeSM.