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How to use hashtags in 2021

Hashtags as we know them have been around for a while now. Though their relevance and impact across platforms have varied over time, they are still very much an important part of the digital environment. They are also still a powerful tool with an array of applications.

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Let’s get back to basics

What is a hashtag?

A reminder, before we get into anything deeper, of what exactly a hashtag is. It is ultimately a word, phrase, or set of characters that follow a hash symbol. A hash symbol, also referred to as a pound symbol, is this: #. An example you will likely have seen at some point is #ThrowbackThursday, a hashtag that generally accompanies content bringing attention to an event from recent history.

Hashtags have a few different functions, but above all, they serve as an indicator that the content they are attached to has relevance within a specific category or topic.

What can they be used for?

Okay, great, but why bother? What can you really do with a hashtag? Actually, quite a lot.

  • Adding context to a social media post 

Depending on your platform of choice, you need to be smart with how you frame your content. Twitter in particular limits you to 280 characters, so making the most of those is important. Including a hashtag that comes ready-baked with its own connotations and context allows you to maximise your use of space. 

  • Building brand awareness

Creating and employing your own branded hashtag can be an effective way to promote your business. It can also group your content together to make exploring your body of content more accessible. 

  • Show support for issues with which you align

Including a hashtag that refers to a cause, issue or topic that your business is close to can demonstrate to an audience that you support that cause.

  • Helping your target audience find you

On Instagram and LinkedIn, users have the option to follow hashtags that relate to topics they are interested in. If you’re using the hashtags that people are following then you’re in with a chance of reaching a new audience.

  • Disclosing sponsorships

For certain posts, if a brand is working with an influencer, or vice versa, it’s a legal requirement to let audiences know that their posts are sponsored. It’s important to stay on top of this, as failures to display clarification can result in large fines.

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Finding the right hashtags for you

Determining which hashtags to use is a challenge by itself. Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do to make the process easier.

  • Good old-fashioned competitor research

Analyse what your competitors and industry peers are posting on social media. Take a look at the influencers within your space, and those with larger followings who are clearly doing something right! Look at the hashtags that they’re using and, where relevant, try them in your own communications.

  • Hashtag aggregation tools

If you don’t have the time to do your own research, there are tools that do some of the legwork for you. One such tool is Hashtagify.me - an aggregator which shows you hashtags related to certain topics and their popularity. You can keep track of recent trends and try the best performing hashtags out for yourself.

  • Using related hashtags

Once you have decided on some hashtags which work for you, some platforms will help you with what to try next through related hashtag features. Often, they will be more targeted and specific than the more general hashtags which offer the most results. Instagram shows these hashtags at the top of the page in the Explore section and LinkedIn provides hashtag recommendations when you enter your own, through the “Discover more hashtags” link.

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Top tips

There’s plenty of hashtag trivia to keep in mind, but the more you use them the more you’ll learn. 

  • Hashtags always begin with # and will end if you attempt to use punctuation or spaces. 
  • Keep your social profiles public! Otherwise, the hashtagged content won’t be visible to anybody who doesn’t already follow you.
  • Keep it short and sweet. Long hashtags are less likely to gain traction. 
  • Keep it relevant. While targeted is good, anything too obscure is unlikely to be viewed.
  • Don’t use too many hashtags. Less is often more.

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