My fellow Americans, today I stand before you to say the state of the hashtag is…well, it’s #complicated and varies from platform to platform. Today, more-and-more brands and businesses are relying on social media platforms to set the tone for their messaging and reach their customer base in a more consistent and convincing way. One question we hear time and again from clients is this, “what is the state of the hashtag in 2019’s social media landscape?” Like we mentioned, the answer is complicated and varies across each individual platform. So, let’s delve further into each medium and find out how you can most effectively use our slanted line little friend to drive engagement across your various social media accounts.
As good a place as any to start is where it all began in the first place, Twitter. While most of us are familiar with the birds and the bees, it was the bird and the blue who birthed the hashtag over a decade ago. In the time since, it has permeated the very fabric of all things pop culture. Each day, 125 million hashtags are used by Twitter users across the globe1 https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2017/08/23/hashtag-turns-10-seven-facts-didnt-know-trending-symbol/ . Turn on a sporting event and it’s hashtag this and hashtag that as broadcasting companies try to drive engagements and free publicity across social platforms. Is your favorite artist dropping their latest album at midnight? There’s a hashtag for that. Just wake up from a dream where the clown from the movie IT chased you around a grocery store until you bumped into each other on aisle 12 and realized you both share similar worldviews on the conflicts affecting India and Pakistan? There’s probably a hashtag for that too. Hashtags were invented as a way to aggregate collective topics so that users could easily be taken to feeds of concentrated information centered around a singular topic. Today, you’ll notice that clicking on a trending topic or entering some key phrasing in a search bar will yield a feed of tweets dedicated to that particular subject, some hashtagged, some not. Twitter will now aggregate all content matching those keywords or trending topics, regardless of hashtags. So, the big question is, do you still need to be using them? The answer is #OmgYesWhyWouldYouEvenAskSuchAThing. While your posts will initially still show up in search feeds and trending topics, the life of said tweets without a hashtag is give or take about 15 minutes2 https://9clouds.com/blog/are-hashtags-still-relevant-for-digital-ad-content/ . By including hashtags you keep your content relevant longer so that hours or even days later, users can still stumble across those crucial 280 characters or less.
Social media platforms are all guided by that mystical force known as the algorithm. Crunching numbers with vigor and might, they determine what we see and what we don’t while we spend our lunch breaks catching up on the world-at-large. In fact, roughly 70% of non-paid content a company or brand puts out on Facebook goes unseen by the masses 3 https://9clouds.com/blog/are-hashtags-still-relevant-for-digital-ad-content/ . So how can you cut your way through the algorithmic clutter? You guessed it, hashtags. A recent study showed that using a simple hashtag or two on your organic posts leads to an average increase of 177 interactions by users versus those sans the artist formerly known as the pound sign4 https://9clouds.com/blog/are-hashtags-still-relevant-for-digital-ad-content/ . Whether you’re seeking likes, clicks, comments or that wondrous free advertising tool that is the share, hashtags can take your posts from pedestrian to productive. With nearly 7-in-10 adults in the United States using Facebook and three-quarters of those users logging in on a daily basis, Facebook remains the go-to social media platform for most businesses and brands in the modern digital age, and leveraging hashtags to their advantage remains one of the best free-to-use tools at their disposal5 https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/05/16/facts-about-americans-and-facebook/ .
In 2014, Instagram had a paltry 200 million users. Today that number sits north of a billion6 https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/instagram-stats . Facebook’s corporate partner in crime is gaining an ever-growing user base where image and video are king. In fact, Instagram is growing at a rate far higher than social media platforms in general throughout the United States7 https://www.statista.com/statistics/426533/instagram-us-user-growth/ . While Instagram might not be the first place you think of in regards to the hashtag, it can play an integral role in making sure the content you’re posting is reaching more than just the folks that already clicked the follow button on your account. A study by Simply Measured revealed that posts with hashtags garner engagements at a rate of 12.6% more than those without8 https://www.bustle.com/p/how-many-hashtags-should-i-use-on-instagram-in-2019-this-is-what-the-experts-recommend-15936290 . With a limit of 30 hashtags allowed per post, that’s a whole lot of engaging you might be leaving out there simply by not including a hashtag or two. There is a flipside, though. Truth be told, hashtags can look out of place, even spam-esque when included in a post. It’s the digital equivalent to trying too hard. No matter which platform you’re utilizing, it’s important not to over-do it. One or two hashtags should more than suffice. In fact, according to a recent study, the optimal amount of hashtags to use to boost post engagements was one, followed next by two9 https://www.inc.com/brent-csutoras/a-quick-and-dirty-guide-to-twitter-instagram-hashtags-2018.html . After that, the engagement rate boost factor plummets noticeably, so don’t get too carried away. Stylistically speaking, it’s also a good practice to attach hashtags on to the end of your post rather than incorporate them within the post’s text itself. Instagram offers an even better solution. A few strategically placed periods with the enter button pressed in between can hide your hashtags below a post’s text making them visible only when a user purposely clicks to see more of your post’s text. It lets you utilize the hashtag without its obtrusive qualities being in plain sight.
Even though it might appear to some like an outdated concept in a digital world that seems to change more by the day than the year or decade, hashtags still play just as much of an important role in reaching your target audience today as they ever have. They can even be the driving force behind your digital marketing campaigns where the creation of brand-specific hashtags can drive your marketing efforts from obscure to owning the limelight. Instead of pizza company using #pizza, which can come across as lazy and not so on trend, that same organization might create its own marketing campaign around the hashtag #HowDoYouZa? It’s important to not only think about the analytical benefits a hashtag can have, but also how it influences how viewers perceive the brand in general. Are they only looking to sell me something, or is this a brand looking to set new trends? Another thought to note when getting your hashtag game on is to spend some time strategically thinking about how users can more easily find your content. Did you just take that perfect picture of a salmon skin roll that you’re dying to share with the masses? Well, while #sushi is sure to have a vast portfolio of seaweed-wrapped delicacies waiting to be visually consumed, your post can easily get lost in the shuffle, pushed so far down a viewer’s feed that they’re highly unlikely to ever set eyes upon it. #SalmonSkinRoll, however, segments that sushi-loving audience into more specific terms where it’s likely to live in a place where more eyes can actually find it even if the subject matter has less posts overall. When in doubt it’s good to remember that old tried and true adage, it’s not the size of the hashtag, but how you use it.