By Bailey Dunphy, Intern from Thomas College’s Harold Alfond Center for Business Innovation at Marshall Communications

How to Use HashtagsUsing hashtags can often seem a bit overwhelming and confusing. With the unlimited number of hashtags and variety of social media channels using them, you may be asking, “What hashtags should I use? How many should I use? Should I even use hashtags?”

The bottom line is that hashtags should be used, and they do benefit social media marketing efforts when used correctly. They can help improve social media visibility, encourage user engagement and clue you in on industry trends. Here are some strategies a brand, business or individual social media account can utilize to improve their hashtag usage.

Create Your Own Hashtag

Brands and businesses need to have their own personal hashtags: branded hashtags. By encouraging your followers to use your brand’s hashtags, they can build a strong social media community. To add more variety into your content and differentiate your business from other industry competitors, consider creating hashtags for specific social media campaigns. At Marshall Communications, we frequently use “#MarshallPRMaine” and “#PRMavenNation” in our posts.

Do Your Research

Search around on different social media channels for what hashtags are trending in your industry. Take a look at how your target audience is interacting with other profiles, including competitors. This could help you to build a better social media strategy. Also important to note, Instagram now allows its users to search for content through keyword searches. While hashtags are still important, you do not have to worry about overloading your post with them for visibility. Any of the words within the caption will be used to bring up search results.

Hashtags on Different Social Media Channels

Hashtag usage varies depending on what social media channel you are using. Let’s look at some specific guidelines to follow for each channel.

Instagram: Using a mix of three to five branded and trending hashtags is ideal. This number could fluctuate depending on the specific post and situation, so do some research!

Twitter: Using one to two hashtags (typically we recommend using branded hashtags)is most effective on this platform.

Facebook: A maximum of three hashtags is an effective strategy for Facebook posts. This platform is very text and information heavy, making it a great place to drive your branded hashtags into the heads of your followers.

Pinterest/LinkedIn: Similar to Facebook, a maximum of three hashtags is effective on these platforms. Due to the algorithm used by LinkedIn, using more than three hashtags on a post will prevent the post from being shown. If you want to include more hashtags, you can do so in the comment section of the post. Also, make sure that the hashtags you are using are extremely relevant to the post itself.

Measure Results

As with many aspects of your business, it is important to measure the success of your efforts. This same idea applies to using hashtags. Keep track of how consumers are engaging with hashtags. Are followers using your hashtags on their own feed? Are you being tagged in posts with certain hashtags? Pay attention to what posts draw in a new audience and see if those results are connected to the use of a certain hashtag.

Hashtags are not as daunting as they may appear. Be prepared to put in a bit of time and energy to stay on top of new trends because social media is an ever-changing beast. By following these specific guidelines, you can take some of the stress off yourself and go into “hashtagging” with an effective strategy.