Hashtags took the world by storm in the early days of social media. They offered a simple yet effective way of joining on global conversations about a specific topic. But do they actually need to be a part of your social media marketing strategy in 2020?
The #hashtag was initially popularised by Twitter in the early days of the platform, but was later adopted by Instagram and to a lesser degree, Facebook.
Now over 125 million #hashtags are used on Twitter. They are ubiquitous across social media, from Instagram and Facebook to Snapchat and TikTok. They allow users to add context to ambiguous tweets or become part of a wider conversation. During the coronavirus pandemic they’ve been used to rally support for important causes, from #BlackLivesMatter to #WeMakeEvents.
From a business standpoint, hashtags can also be used to drive marketing campaigns (e.g. #ShareACoke), align your business with an awareness day (e.g. #ThrowbackThursday) or observe how consumers feel about your brand.
Using Hashtags in 2020
It’s clear that hashtags have a wide variety of applications. In the ever-changing world of social media, they have remained a stalwart feature since the very beginning. But as social media companies continue to restrict organic reach in favour of paid advertising, are hashtags still worth using?
The short answer is yes. We selected and analysed a few of Noisily Festival’s recent Instagram posts. Each post used between 8 – 12 relevant hashtags, such as #festivalseason, #goodvibes and #festivalinspo:
On average, hashtags improved post reach by 10%. Over 12% of the total impressions came from accounts that don’t follow Noisily. This means these hashtags are helping the festival reach and attract new audiences. By increasing your discoverability, you could increase the amount of followers you have and in turn, the amount of sales you generate. Through Sprout Social we can see our top-performing hashtags are #FestivalInspo, #Festival and #musicfestival. This illustrates the importance of tailoring them to your industry.
Hashtags: Best Practices
The amount of hashtags you should use varies between social media platforms. Twitter is widely known for its restrictive 280 character limit. The platform recommended no more than 1 or 2 hashtags in a recent blog piece:
On Instagram you can use up to 30 hashtags, but we don’t recommend doing this every time. The main argument for not using them is that it can clutter your message, look spammy or simply present your brand as desperate. For Noisily Festival, we find that 10 – 15 is the ideal amount, but this will vary from business to business.
As we’ve mentioned before, make sure the hashtags you are relevant to the content you’re posting. Using them incorrectly could actually reduce your reach. If no one is engaging with your content via the hashtags, Instagram’s algorithm may deem this as ‘undesirable’ content and hide your posts from the Explore feed.
Aligning with trending hashtags are an excellent way to generate reach for your posts. Anything from weekly classics such as #ThrowbackThursday to annual events like #NationalPancakeDay are opportunities to put your profiles in the spotlight. Add to the conversation with your own unique spin and convey your brand’s personality.
Where should I use them?
A question that pops up frequently is whether to place the hashtags in the caption or the comments. We’ve found it doesn’t make much of a difference, but we prefer the comments section as it makes the caption look cleaner. No one wants to press ‘see more’ and be greeted with a 30-strong block of #hashtags.
A lot of hashtag work is based on experimentation. Research the top hashtags in your field, and use different ones to see what works. You can see how much reach they’re generating in within Instagram:
Whilst hashtags aren’t as important as they once were, they are still worth incorporating into your social media strategy. Twitter and Instagram should be your focus, but a recent leak suggests hashtags will start to play a more important role on Facebook:
And let’s not forget about LinkedIn, IG Stories or TikTok. It’s clear that hashtags still have their place in 2020. They have the potential to improve the reach of your organic posts by over 10%, can weave your brand into trending conversations and turn wider communities into followers.