Since hashtags became clickable way back in 2009, brands and consumers have used them to start, track, and follow conversations on Twitter. Today, hashtags have become a critical part of successful marketing campaigns across many different social platforms. They’re so widely used that brands now feature them on advertisements, TV shows, even the big screen at sports games.
For example, if you’re a fan of The Bachelor, you’ve probably seen the superimposed tweets with the hashtag #TheBachelor on the lower left-hand corner of the screen while the episode is playing. Having a designated hashtag for the show encourages viewers to interact with ABC and other fans of the show on social media.
Executed properly, these campaigns can be very effective in helping brands spread their message to a wide audience. After all, more than 70% of consumers are motivated to explore new content when hashtags are present.
But what about when a campaign isn’t executed well? That stat still holds true, so any hashtag screw-ups can have a big effect on your campaign – just not the effect you want.
Definition: The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.
Using hashtags to categorize Tweets by keyword:
- People use the hashtag symbol # before a relevant keyword or phrase (no spaces) in their Tweet to categorize those Tweets and help them show more easily in Twitter Search.
- Clicking on a hashtagged word in any message shows you all other Tweets marked with that keyword.
- Hashtags can occur anywhere in the Tweet – at the beginning, middle, or end.
- Hashtagged words that become very popular are often Trending Topics.
Example: In the Tweet below, @eddie included the hashtag #FF. Users created this as shorthand for “Follow Friday,” a weekly tradition where users recommend people that others should follow on Twitter. You’ll see this on Fridays.
Using hashtags correctly:
- If you Tweet with a hashtag on a public account, anyone who does a search for that hashtag may find your Tweet
- Don’t #spam #with #hashtags. Don’t over-tag a single Tweet. (Best practices recommend using no more than 2 hashtags per Tweet.)
- Use hashtags only on Tweets relevant to the topic.
How to Find the Best Twitter Hashtags
Including trending and popular Twitter hashtags in your social media posts is a great way to boost your messages to reach people beyond just your own followers. When you use a popular hashtag in a post you expose that message to everyone discussing that topic and looking at the messages relevant to that subject. However, in order to take full advantage of this you’ll need to know which hashtags will work best for you.
Tools to Find the Best Twitter Hashtags
For quite some time this topic has been one of the most widely discussed on the Sprout Social Insights’s blog, so we thought it was due to really build it out to help our readers. We’ve put together a list of nine hashtag tools broken down by category that will help you increase your social reach and brand awareness.
- Find Trending Twitter Hashtags
- Find Popular Twitter Hashtags
- Visualize Your Hashtags
Find Trending Twitter Hashtags
Great marketers have found success in the use of real-time marketing, which is the idea that you include something topical—something that’s trending—in your social media posts to help increase the overall reach.
For example, this Tweet from Doritos used the trending topic #Sharknado3 to post a funny picture promoting its product.
In order to capture the most reach, you’ll need to figure out what is trending at the time and create relevant content for that hashtag. These tools can help you find trending hashtags and give you a description so that you can create fitting content.
The most obvious place to check out trending hashtags is the actual Twitter website as it has the most accurate information on the subject. Not only is this the best source based on legitimacy of data, but Twitter also offers “tailored trends” to each user based on where they are and who they follow.
The only negative to Twitter’s hashtags is that it is limited to the top 10 trending. If you’re looking for more hashtags you’ll need to use a third-party application.
Trendsmap is a navigational tool that allows you to look up the trending hashtags by location. This is fun and powerful for marketers because you can see how different locations are discussing different events online, and use that information to geo-target your messaging.
A cool tool for hashtag research. When you’re researching hashtags to use, it can be beneficial to see which hashtags are already associated with your brand. Sprout Social’s Trends Report analyzes all of your incoming messages and shows which hashtags are trending with your personal brand. Sprout social trends report, once you know which topics and hashtags are being associated with your brand, you can start to use those terms to jump into the conversations with your followers.
RiteTag is an amazing tool for a handful of reasons. The first is that it provides a list of trending hashtags on its site that you can use to take advantage of real-time marketing.
Another amazing reason to use RiteTag is that you can download a browser extension that integrates with popular social media tools and shows you great hashtags to use as you’re creating and scheduling social posts. This makes scheduling and publishing posts about popular trends easy, which is a great way to scale your reach.
Find Popular Twitter Hashtags
Leveraging trending hashtags for increased reach is a great idea, but what’s trending isn’t always what’s most relevant for your brand. However, it’s still a good idea to pepper your posts with hashtags to incrementally increase impressions. Try using hashtags that used to be popular. One example would be the NBA taking part in the “throwback Thursday” discussion.
Tagdef—as in hashtag definition—is a site that lists popular hashtags by time frame, including current, weekly and all-time top hashtags. Tagdef is also great since the site provides the definition for each hashtag, making it easier for marketers to familiarize themselves with the topic before diving in to create the content.
Hashtagify.me makes it easy to find hashtags related to those you want to target. You can then use those hashtags along with your original to increase your reach by that much, leading to more clicks and conversion on your posts.
Visualize Your Hashtags
When you’re creating and managing hashtag campaigns, it can be incredibly valuable to visualize all of the engagement taking place. These tools will help you visualize campaigns, making it easy to monitor all the activity surrounding your hashtag.
Once you’ve started your hashtag campaign you can use Tint to aggregate all of the social posts containing that hashtag into a beautifully designed social hub.
Tagboard is one of the most aesthetically pleasing of all of the hashtag research sites. For each “Tagboard” you create, you specify a hashtag for it to track. Tagboard then displays popular posts containing that hashtag on a board that looks similar to the one below.
You can then easily peruse all of the posts that contain the hashtag you’re interested in. The tool has also incorporated the ability to “Feature Post,” which pulls that post to a separate board, making responding easy.
How To Use Hashtags Successfully on Twitter
How does this little pound sign pave the road to content marketing success? It’s simpler than you think — but there is proper hashtag etiquette. Understand these important do’s and don’ts, and you’ll find yourself with unlimited hashtag potential:
DO Relevance: Just like choosing a good keyword, one of the most important parts of deciding on a good hashtag is relevance. How do your hashtags contribute to your brand’s unique identity? If you’re brainstorming hashtag ideas for campaigns, keep in mind that no matter which hashtag you choose, you need to provide context so that your audience can make the connection between your brand and your overall campaign message.
DO Authenticity: Authenticity is one of the most important parts of effective content marketing. If your audience doesn’t feel that your efforts are genuine, they’ll have a distasteful reaction to your campaign (and brand). Take, for example, the failure of Starbucks’ #RaceTogether campaign.
Many people felt that the attempt at a discussion on race issues was not genuine – particularly because of Starbucks’ reputation for being exclusive and gentrifying neighbourhoods. There was also no attempt to make a connection between baristas writing “#Racetogether” on coffee cups and the issues Starbucks was trying to address. As a result, many customers felt that it was a half-hearted and superficial campaign. Don’t jump on a bandwagon. Make it authentic and genuine.
DO Specificity: The more specific you can be, the better. For example, if you’re a pizza company offering a sweet deal on Wednesdays, choosing a broad hashtag like #pizza will make it very hard for others to find this deal on social media. You’re much better off using a specific, targeted hashtag like #PizzaWednesday. Just as we suggest that you test all your keywords against objective data, be sure to test your hashtags on the social networks you’re using. It would be a shame to find out after the fact that #PizzaWednesday is already being used for a different purpose. Hashtags are easily searchable; do the research up front.
DO Follow Trends: Part of being “relevant” to your customer base means you should be following trends in your industry and on your social networks. You can develop an excellent campaign around something like the #SuperBowl, for example — if you’ve thought ahead about how to do so in a way that makes sense for your brand. Note: be wary of using a trending hashtag without looking at what it means. DiGiorno’s misuse of the #whyIstayed hashtag is a good example of how a failure to understand the context of a hashtag can prove utterly disastrous. And finally, it’s worth a reminder that you do not need to jump on every bandwagon or follow every trend. See: authenticity.
DO Branded Keywords: While it can be extremely effective to jump on a trending hashtag, it’s also worth starting a conversation yourself. Do this by creating a hashtag around a campaign or conversation that you’d like to have. Take Charmin’s clever and noteworthy #tweetfromtheseat, for example. Who knew “potty talk” could be so fun? Just remember: you don’t have any control over this conversation once it starts, so you should always have a backup plan if things go awry.
DON’T Over-Hashtag: Don’t use too many hashtags within a single post. Your message loses clarity, and you risk coming off as spammy. As we’ve already pointed out, using a general hashtag doesn’t add much to your post, and definitely won’t help followers find your conversation. Be picky. As a rule of thumb, you should have no more than three hashtags per post.
DON’T Keyword Stuff: While you might have a plethora of popular branded hashtags, make sure that you use them sparingly. It will feel inauthentic using too many of your keywords in one post. Think about how each one can be used to enhance your brand or campaign individually.
With the do’s and don’ts aside, let’s get into the exciting piece of hashtags: the why.
Hashtags are an extremely popular aspect of Twitter and other social media sites, and should be utilized by brands to assist in their marketing. That’s why it’s important to make sure that you’re using the best tools to research, create and monitor all of the hashtags associated with your brand.
Need help managing your social media? Need ideas for your next social campaign? Seen a great hashtag? Then check this out.