When it comes to creating a social media strategy, having a plan in place for how and when you use hashtags is a must. From forming connections between those interacting with your brand to exposing your content to new and relevant users, these small-but-mighty hyperlinked keywords can be the difference between a social campaign getting engagement and getting ignored.

While easy to throw on to the end of a social post, expert social crafters know that plenty of thought goes into which hashtags a brand should use for various purposes. Not sure where to start? Read on for some helpful tips.

Use Long Tail Hashtags

When deciding which hashtags to use for social posts, your first consideration should be who your goal audience is. As is the case with most social strategies, you will want to expose your content to a target audience and have a choice between two types of keywords to hashtag: short tail and long tail. Short tail keywords contain the first words that come to mind when thinking about a subject, while long tail keywords have more specific, targeted words.

Using a short tail hashtag such as #aviation may be seen by a higher volume of people who follow that tag. The downside? Your post will sit among 9.7 million other posts with the same tag, making it more difficult to get noticed among the digital competition. Using short tail hashtags may also lead to automated comments, follows, and likes, which can get you red-flagged real quick.

Conversely, using long tail hashtags, such as #boeing737 or #ChinaEastern will have far less competition with a high viewer focus. People that click on or search for these hashtags know what they’re looking for and are more likely to engage with your content. If you’re doing it right, these users are your target audience.

While your social strategy can absolutely include the use of short tail hashtags to increase exposure, it’s important to take the time to investigate the long tail hashtags relevant to your industry and incorporate them as well.

Create Your Own Hashtag to Generate Buzz

A great way to receive and track engagement on social media is through the creation of a custom hashtag specific to a campaign. Just as wedding parties create hashtags to track guests posting about their special day, businesses can use hashtags to generate positive buzz on social media. A great example of this Disney and Make-A-Wish’s collaborative campaign, #ShareYourEars.

In this campaign, Disney invited audience members to share pictures of themselves with Mickey Mouse Ears on. For every post, Disney donated $5 to Make-A-Wish Foundation, and it went viral instantly. From celebrities to average Disney-goers, thousands of people participated, and the campaign raised over $1 million, which Disney then doubled to $2 million. While the company could have simply donated to Make-A-Wish, by involving their followers and creating a custom hashtag, they were able to do good while generating great PR for both organizations.

Custom hashtags are also a great way to connect users who are interacting with your brand. Sell handbags? Mark your branding materials with a hashtag that users can follow to see others posting photos of your brand. Planning an event? Make like a wedding planner and create an event-specific hashtag for guests to use and interact with.

IMPORTANT: Search your hashtag before using it. You don’t want your branded hashtag to have a prior association – especially if it’s NSFW (yes, it’s happened). 

Do Some Digging into your Hashtags’ Origins

Exploring the environment in which a hashtag exists is an extremely important aspect of utilizing them in your business strategy. While engaging with the popular hashtags of the moment in real time can be a great strategy to gain exposure, take some time to learn how they are being used by others and why they are popular. Skipping this step has the potential to take your post from good viral to *bad viral*. Not convinced this is important? Let’s learn from the mistakes of DiGiorno.

In 2014, following the video of Ray Rice punching Janay Palmer, thousands of Twitter users took to the app to discuss their physically and emotionally damaging experiences in abusive relationships. They used the #WhyIStayed hashtag to fight Palmer’s victim-blaming critics who questioned why she would marry an abuser. Without doing research, DiGiorno hopped onto the popular hashtag bandwagon, sharing this tweet:

The company faced immediate backlash and the tweet was deleted within minutes. They then posted this tweet:

All of the negative PR the brand received could have been easily avoided with some quick research.

Now get out there and hashtag away! Still not feeling 100% about your social strategy? The Moak Group is here to help.

Jody Greene
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