How to use #hashtags to attract customers on social media
What is a hashtag?
Social media does not exist without the hashtag. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr – you name it – hashtags are the keywords that get you found by your target audience.
A hashtag is a number/hash/pound sign (#) followed by a word or phrase, which becomes clickable and searchable on posting.
#bakeryowner #yogaaddict #halfpriceoffer #bestseller
How do you create a hashtag?
Simply put a pound sign (#) before the word/phrase you want to highlight. Capitalization does not make a difference, but generally, a hashtag should not have any spaces in it. So ‘#DailyDeal’ is fine, as is ‘#dailydeal’, but you can’t use ‘#daily deal’ – this would be the same as #daily. Only Tumblr allows spaces between words in hashtags. More on that in the Tumblr section of this post.
You have to ensure that the hashtag is relevant to the content you are posting. A hashtag posted right is instantly clickable and comes up on the platform’s search feed.
What to know about hashtags:
Hashtags are used differently across social media. To make the best use of them, you must familiarize yourself with how to work on each social media channel. Here’s how they are similar and different:
I. Twitter hashtags
This is where the hashtag came into existence. Chris Messina, a social technologist, wanted to get a group of people to talk about the #barcamp and boom! Social media has not been the same.
The most popular way to utilize a hashtag on Twitter is to participate in a ‘trending topic’. Every day, Twitter shows a list of topics trending worldwide or tailored to your region (as per your preference). For instance, right as I’m writing this post, I get to see this:
Here are a few things you should keep in mind while on Twitter:
- Trending hashtags: Tweeting about something a lot of people are talking about is the quickest way to drive traffic to your profile. Join the conversation. If you’re on the desktop version of Twitter, the left column of your Twitter homepage will throw up a list of all the hashtags trending at the current time. On the mobile version, you’ll find the trending hashtags list under the search bar tab. You can tweak the trending lists according to your preference. Find what’s trending worldwide or customize to your region. Participate in these conversations to get into the limelight.
- Special characters: Twitter hashtags do not support special characters (eg, #, @, $, etc). They do support letters, numbers and underscores.
- Number of hashtags: Don’t use more than 2 hashtags per tweet. Ensure they are industry-specific tags. For instance, at OrangeTwig, we mostly use #Etsy #Shopify #Ecwid #WooCommerce #smallbiz, so we know it’s reaching our target audience. Twitter anyway has a 140 character limit. The focus should be on the actual content than hashtags.
- Searchable words: Your tweet can also be searchable by the words in your tweet that are not hashtagged. Basically this means that every word in your tweet is searchable. So as part of your tweet copy, use important keywords that you think people will be searching for.
- Middle of the sentence: Don’t hashtag words in the middle of a sentence. It’s distracting.
- Twitter discussions: Hashtags on Twitter are a good way to join a discussion. For instance, if you’ve been stressing about SEO, it would be a good idea to search #SEO on Twitter and find all SEO related discussions. You can participate or simply be a lurker and scour for information.
- Join a community: You can join a Twitter community based on your hashtags. If you’re a #YogaAddict, the hashtag will bring you in contact with other ‘yoga addicts’, who may, in turn, end up being potential customers.
- Quote Tweet: Quote Tweet instead of the usual Retweet. Quote Tweet is simply a Retweet with a comment. You can add hashtags to a QT, which you can’t to a RT. It’s also a great way to curate content and boost your engagement.
Here’s a quick experiment. Consider yourself a seller of shoes. Suppose you’re trying to sell the following pair of brogues on Twitter. What do you think would be the most appropriate copy? (*our answer is at the end of the post)
PRO TIP: Start a Daily Deal series for your Twitter. When you put up an image as your post, it doesn’t take up any character space, which leaves you with all the characters to use as hashtags. OrangeTwig lets you use a variety of Daily Deal layouts for your social media posting. The deal details are in the layouts themselves, so you don’t have to waste words on them!
II. Facebook hashtags
This is where hashtags are used least. Considering Facebook is generally a content-heavy medium, putting in a series of hashtags without paying importance to content, won’t generate user response. While on Facebook, you should keep the following in mind:
- Special characters: Facebook hashtags also do not support special characters. They do, however, support letters, numbers and underscores.
- Virality: Facebook hashtags, if used, are mostly for monetization purposes. Most of it is merely eye-catching. To ensure that you pop up in the public eye, cash in on a topic that has gone viral. Remember the whole debate about the blue or gold dress? If you were a seller of dresses, you could put up a post about products you have in those colors and hashtag it #blueorgold.
- Occasion: Or try an occasion-specific hashtag. Halloween is coming up, so in the lead up to it, if I hashtag my posts #Halloween, I’ll fall under the radar of all users who have been searching the occasion.
- Other social channels: It’s a good idea to use a hashtag that has originated on another social media channel. Try an Instagram-famous hashtag for instance. It’ll reach a very specific target group.
- Get creative: Create your own hashtag. Although it might not generate traffic instantly, once you get a few posts out under that hashtag, it’ll be a great way to establish your brand.
- Target group: Use specific hashtags that will let users discover content, product, offers. For instance, for OrangeTwig’s Facebook posts we use #Etsy #Shopify #WooCommerce #Ecwid, because that’s our target. Whatever topic we engage in, ultimately our target group comes down to these tags. Find those target hashtags for your audience.
- Short n’ sweet: Keep your hashtags short. That’s more effective. The purpose of the hashtag is to categorize content so that users can participate in public discussions. The shorter the hashtag, the easier the categorization, and more the engagement.
- Minimalism is key: Don’t go overboard. It’s tempting, but if you put too many hashtags on Facebook, your audience engagement will go down. You could leave your Facebook posts with one or two hashtags and you’ll be good.
PRO TIP: To better market your shop, put up sale posters. That way when you hashtag your posts #shopping or #jewelry or whatever category your product falls under, it’ll bring your target audience right to you. Visuals anyway catch attention much quicker than detailed descriptions. Your sale posters can make your first impression, while your post description can fill in the important details. You can use OrangeTwig’s sale layouts to do this easily, since OrangeTwig also lets you schedule and automate your postings.
III. Instagram hashtags
Instagram is all about the hashtag. Twitter started the hashtag but Instagram really owns it. Hashtags get you found on Instagram. Here are some things you should know about hashtag usage on Instagram:
- Special characters: Instagram hashtags comprise letters, numbers, the underscore and emojis! Other special characters are not valid.
- Hashtag limit: Instagram lets you use a maximum of 30 hashtags on each post, which really leaves you with a lot of options.
- Avoid the shadowban: However, it’s best advised that you do not use all 30 hashtags you’re allowed, since that makes your post appear spammy, which might lead to a shadowban. Learn more about the Instagram shadowban and how you can avoid it here.
- Low density hashtags: The hashtags you use should be a good mix of high density hashtags and low density hashtags. High density hashtags are hashtags that are most popular and most used. Low density hashtags are more niche. There’s a high chance of your post getting lost in the public feed of a high density hashtag (like, say, #travel) under a flurry of other posts. With low density hashtags it’s easier to reach out to your target group. Do remember that low density hashtags don’t refer to hashtags that have been tagged only a few hundred times. Those don’t have many takers. Look into ones with a few thousand tags at least.
- Brand name: If you’re looking to establish your brand, create your own hashtag for your store or sale and keep using the tags in your posts to generate something substantial.
- Caption: It’s a popular trend to post hashtags in the first comment of a post to keep the caption clean, but DON’T. Recently, it has been bringing down engagement. If you don’t want your caption section to appear cluttered, draw a line under your caption with a row of underscores and post hashtags underneath. You could also enter periods to create line breaks and post hashtags far below the caption.
- Banned hashtags: Check for banned hashtags. If you use a hashtag that has been banned, even if your other hashtags aren’t banned, your post won’t show up on the public feed (only your followers will get to see your post). To learn how to check for shadowbanned hashtags, go here.
- Relevant hashtags: Relevancy is of utmost importance. Don’t use just any hashtag. Find the ones that are most relevant to your post. Using hashtags that are not related to your posts will make your account appear spammy, and put it under Instagram’s scrutiny. Make relevancy a priority.
- Insta story: You can include hashtags in your Instagram stories as well, so that when someone searches for a particular hashtag, your story will pop up on the feed if you’ve used the same one. It’s simple: hashtags lead to discoverability. However, for stories, restrict your hashtag to one only. Your don’t want your story to drown in hashtags now, do you?
PRO TIP: To make the best use of Instagram’s hashtags, try the hashtag research tool in OrangeTwig’s InstaSuccess Toolkit. It lets you research the most relevant hashtags for your posts, find trending hashtags, find the latest hashtags and much more within minutes.
IV. Pinterest hashtags
In terms of being a visual medium, Pinterest is similar to Instagram but hashtags work differently on Pinterest than they do on Instagram.
- Special characters: Letter, numbers and underscore make up the Pinterest hashtag. Special characters make the hashtag un-clickable.
- Pin description: Hashtags are clickable only in a pin’s description. They don’t work in account descriptions, board titles, board descriptions and profile names.
- Hashtag filter: When searching for a hashtag, the search results can be filtered to just show boards.
- Promoted pins: Promoted pins can use only one hashtag in their descriptions.
- Profile ranking: The Pinterest for Business page says that too many hashtags in your description can negatively impact profile ranking.
- Etiquette: Besides it’s poor etiquette to use too many hashtags on Pinterest.
- Hashtag searches: In any way, Pinterest hashtag searches are often pointless. They throw up all posts that have the hashtagged word or parts of the hashtagged word mentioned in a post description. So suppose you are searching for the hashtag #redcurtain. Your results will show all posts that are red and have a curtain in it.
- SEO: Basically, it’s not necessary to hashtag your post descriptions on Pinterest. Unhashtagged keywords also show up on people’s search feeds, so it won’t be like you’re missing out on anything if your descriptions have relevant keywords. Focus on the SEO.
- Create: If you are keen on using hashtags, make your own hashtag for Pinterest. Ensure that it has nothing in common with frequently used terms. Use an unique hashtag, so that Pinners can come back to your content even if the hashtag leads them away from your post.
- Social media campaign: Use hashtags for your social media campaigns, like for contests and branding purposes. It’s a good way to keep a tab on how your marketing is going.
PRO TIP: You may not be able to make hashtags work on Pinterest, but you can get Pinterest itself to work for your marketing. Post your product posters using OrangeTwig. Pinterest is all about attractive visuals. If your images don’t attract pinners, it’s tough to drive traffic to your store. But are you worried that you don’t have the design skills required for it? Relax, we’ve got your back. You can edit your product posters on our stunningly designed, professional layouts and also generate a marketing plan that will automatically post to your Pinterest to keep your postings consistent.
V. Tumblr hashtags
Tumblr is more of a tool to curate content rather than a social media platform. But if you are looking to get your content out there, hashtags are the way to go.
- Special characters: Tumblr hashtags can have spaces as well as special characters. All of it is clickable.
- Tag section: However, they can only be posted in the ‘tags’ section of a post. Adding # before any word or phrase in the main text section won’t make it clickable.
- Hashtag limit: Tumblr allows a maximum of 30 hashtags. But remember only the first 20 hashtags on an original post will be searchable.
- Reblogged posts: There’s no point tagging reblogged posts because they don’t come up on the search feed. Only the hashtags used on an original post will show up on the feed.
- Hashtag to follow: Hashtag searches on Tumblr throw up the option to follow users who’ve used the searched hashtag. It’s a great way to acquire followers.
- Search results: Search results on Tumblr are by default filtered by ‘Most Popular’. This can be changed to ‘Most Recent’ as well.
PRO TIP: The best way to build good content for Tumblr or any social media, in fact, is to apply the 80:20 rule of social media marketing. This means, that of all your postings on social media, 80% of the content should be educational or entertaining, while only 20% should be directly promotional. This is how audience engagement is built. Otherwise, if you only post your product images, you will lose followers on account of filling their feed with spammy content. Watch the video below for more information on the 80:20 rule.
A quick look at the dos and don’ts of hashtag usage on social media:
Now that you’re all armed with all the hashtag information you need to get your store out to the world, go begin your social media marketing!
(*Poll answer: The best option would be the first tweet. It tells potential buyers exactly what they want to know – about comfort and style. It also makes use of a very customer-friendly hashtag. #Shoeoftheweek is something those interested in buying shoes is most likely to search for than anything else.
The second tweet only uses very general hashtags and says nothing about the product except that it’s a bestseller. Potential customers won’t be very convinced.
The third tweet gives a very interesting offer but there are no hashtags. This will bring down its reach since the keyword ‘shoe(s)’ – which is the subject of the tweet – is also missing from the tweet.)