It’s not a trap. #IrritateMeIn4Words
— Admiral Ackbar (@_Admiral_Ackbar) April 16, 2016
It’s May 4 and on Twitter and Instagram, the hashtags #StarWarsDay and #MayThe4thBeWithYou reign supreme.
Hashtags are a quick way to search and discover what social media users are discussing, and a way for businesses to direct users to content. In fact, Twitter’s own research shows hashtags can increase engagement almost 100 percent for individuals and 50 percent for brands.
Below are five tips to keep in mind when using hashtags.
Know your platforms: Twitter and Instagram are the most commonly used social media platforms for hashtags. Facebook introduced them in 2013, but didn’t get the same traction. Research initially showed there was little positive effect on reach, but Facebook uses different rules and algorithms. There is still plenty of research to be done and hashtags can play an important role in boosting traffic to Facebook pages. LinkedIn experimented with them, but ultimately gave them up. Other platforms that support hashtags include Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, and Vine.
Don’t overuse hashtags: Be judicious when tweeting. It’s best not to use more than three hashtags on Twitter; otherwise it looks like spam. In fact, research shows that tweets that use more than two hashtags show a 17 percent drop in engagement. Finding and highlighting the words that represent the theme of your tweet with a hashtag is most effective. Since Instagram posts aren’t limited to 140 characters like Twitter, there are often more hashtags. Instagram allows up to 30 tags on a post. It can be wise to use as many as possible in the early stages of building a following, but once the account is established there’s no need overdo it. Research shows the magic number on Instagram is 11, but as few as five can get results.
Familiarize yourself with the most common hashtags: A company can certainly create its own hashtag, but it’s also important to take advantage of existing hashtags to get involved in conversations with current and potential customers. A good resource to find relevant hashtags is Google; there is no shortage of popular hashtag lists.
Understand tags and what’s happening in the world: There are plenty of examples in which using hashtags backfired for brands. In the summer of 2014, survivors of domestic abuse adopted the tags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft following the Ray Rice controversy as a platform to discuss domestic violence. Soon after, DiGiorno Pizza made a huge gaffe by tweeting, “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.” In this case, the social media manager saw a trending topic, and without knowing the background, entered the conversation. Another example occurred when doughnut and cookie manufacturer Entenmann’s attempted engagement with its #notguilty hashtag, asking its followers how they feel about indulging in its confections. Unfortunately, this was the same day the verdict was released in the trial of Casey Anthony.
Use trending hashtags: In addition to common or static hashtags, trending hashtags are essential for enhancing a social presence. Static hashtags are good for day-to-day engagement, but trending tags are used to share news in real time and monitor developing stories. For instance, the shooting at the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo produced the trending topic #JeSuisCharlie that appeared in 5 million tweets in the first three days following the attack. And while that topic was serious in nature, there are certainly opportunities that are much lighter. One of those is today, when people and companies across the world will use Star Wars hashtags to be a part of a larger global conversation. In honor of Star Wars Day, my inner fanboy brings you the best tweets from brands incorporating #StarWarsDay and #MayThe4thBeWithYou (get it?). We’ll be updating this page throughout the day so check back often.
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) May 4, 2016
— Dutch Bros (@DutchBros) May 4, 2016
— Forbes (@Forbes) May 4, 2016
— Auntie Anne’s (@AuntieAnnes) May 4, 2016
A photo posted by Disneyland (@disneyland) on
— Goodwill Denver (@GoodwillDenver) May 4, 2016