HubSpot tells us an Instagram post, for example, averages 12.6% more engagement than a post without hashtags.
So, yes, hashtagging -- and social media in general -- are worth your time, even if you’re doing marketing for a “boring” industry like manufacturing. These manufacturing marketing teams prove that every day.
But enough about them -- how should you be using hashtags to expand your audience on each social platform?
Hashtags: What They Are & Why Your Social Media Advertising Needs Them
For those cryogenically frozen for the last decade: A hashtag is a word or series of words preceded by a pound sign (#). It’s purpose? To identify posts about a certain topic.
Visitors following a certain hashtag can see your messages -- even if they don’t “follow” you.
Hashtags make it easier for social sites to categorize your posts and makes them more visible in on-site searches. So if you add #construction on a tweet, you’re telling Twitter your tweet is about construction.
To summarize: It’s a free and fairly easy way to engage your audience. Here’s how:
How to Use Hashtags for Business 101
Some general tips:
- Hashtags are all one word with no spaces.
- Use hashtags in moderation. (See platform-specific guidelines below.) Seriously, #please don’t #create #socialposts that #look #like this. It’s jarring to the point of being unreadable.
- Keep them short. Nobody wants to see you try to #BreakTheRecordForTheWorldsLongestHashtag.
- Don’t use characters (such as apostrophes) in the middle of your hashtag. If you try hashtagging #Don’tGoChasingWaterfalls, the social platform will only hashtag #Don. And then you’re getting the attention of all the Dons of the internet instead of the world’s TLC fans.
- For this reason, you’re usually better off avoiding contractions. Without apostrophes, using these words all squished together with other words can confuse readers.
- To make your hashtag more readable, capitalize each word. This is especially important with longer hashtags.
- Hit the sweet spot between overly generic and way too specific. For example, #metal will get lost in a sea of other posts -- including ones about Metallica and Slayer. But #steel is a specific metal that’s in the news a lot these days -- try that instead. Don’t make it too specific, either -- nobody is looking up #SteelMechanicalTubing on Twitter.
3 Types of Hashtags for B2B Social Networking
In general, there are 3 types of hashtags to be aware of:
Read more to learn how to take advantage of each type for your business.
Consider starting out with hashtags that directly relate to the industry, product, or service you’re involved with. Wix calls these content hashtags. Examples would include #metalfabrication, #finishing, and #aluminum.
Content hashtags will expose your brand to new customers in a hurry.
While the exposure may be less relevant compared with content hashtagging, using trending hashtags and make your brand’s visibility skyrocket. These topic have millions of viewers in the most viral situations. Trending topics might include holidays and industry news.
Don’t hop on the bandwagon without thinking it through. Make sure your posts are adding value to the existing conversation. Value could mean offering:
- An fresh take on an issue
- A unique piece of data or info
- A funny comment or image
If your post is valuable enough, it will be noticed by lots of users, thus increasing brand awareness.
Last, and probably least important to your business for now, is the brand-specific hashtag. Sometimes, using generic or popular hashtags don’t make you stand out. Brand-specific hashtags, however, are totally unique. For example, one of our clients, Horizon Technology, uses the hashtag #PowderMetalDifferently because it’s their slogan.
These hashtags can be used for:
- General branding
If you provide users a compelling incentive to use them (like a discount or prize), you’ll have better luck getting attention. Since these hashtags are shilling for your company, it’s best to offer value to the reader too.
Keep branded hashtags to a minimum until you’ve gained a large enough following to get them noticed.
Social Platform-Specific Tips
Don’t use a rigid approach to your social strategy. Each platform uses hashtags differently.
- Hashtags tend to focus on a conversation topic or a group of people you might find worth engaging.
- When you start a new tweet, enter the # symbol and start typing, Twitter will recommend hashtags for you. You can either pick one from Twitter’s suggestions or do your own thing.
- Stick to 2-3 hashtags per post. Any more than that and you risk a huge drop in engagement, research shows.
- Feel free to use hashtags in the middle of a #tweet or at the end of one. #JustLikeThis
- Unlike Twitter, hashtags on this platform often focus on describing the content.
- Nice perk: You can use the search box to check what your audience, competitors, and top industry minds are hashtagging. Make sure to check out the number of posts for that hashtag and how many likes the first few images with that tag received.
- The more hashtags you use, the more engagement you see – up until a certain point. After about 10 hashtags, you risk losing out on some of that engagement.
- Mark Zuckerberg’s creation started supporting hashtags in 2013. Unfortunately, nobody seems to care. Hashtags simply aren’t used much on Facebook, so don’t feel obligated to use them.
- If you do decided to use hashtags, keep them to a minimum.
- The hashtags you can search for on Facebook tend to be used by brands and publishers more so than by individuals.
- Make sure your post is public so viewership isn’t limited to your Facebook friends. To do this, click on the button to the right of "Post" and pick "Public" from the dropdown menu.
- When someone clicks a hashtag, they’ll see a feed of posts that include said hashtag. Sometimes they’ll see related hashtags atop the page, too.
- You and I probably both thought, “Nope. LinkedIn is for buttoned-up professionals who have no time for silly hashtags.” But in a recent development, you can add hashtags to help users know what kind of article you’re publishing. Remember that on LinkedIn, publishing an article is not the same as posting an “update.”
- In each article posting, space out hashtag use and, when possible, keep them away from the actual important stuff you’ve written.
- To find content you care about, type a hashtagged word or phrase (i.e. #SocialSelling) in the homepage search bar.
- Make sure your public profile is set to “public” so people can find your article with your hashtag.
See how your hashtag use has affected your Social Selling Index:
Hashtagging: Not so Bad After All
Once you get past the “I’m too old/don’t have time for this” excuse (I’m guilty too), you’ll find that hashtagging and social media advertising in general are doable. All it takes is a little research and a touch of creativity to leverage the value of hashtagging.
To keep sharpening your social media advertising skills, you might want to check out some of these resources:
- 5 Ways to Win at Social Media B2B Lead Generation
- 4 Steps to B2B Networking Using LinkedIn
- 6 Social Media Tips to Promote Manufacturing Trade Shows
Editor's Note: This blog post was originally published on June 6, 2018 and was updated on August 19, 2019 to reflect current insights and resources.