Hashtags: best practices revealed in new research

Hashtag best practices

Hashtags, used on social media sites to categorise posts under a specific topic by preceding a word, phrase or term with the number sign (#), are often employed by marketers for the purpose of giving their content as much visibility as possible. 

Considering how widely hashtags are used, you might be wondering why they are so important. It's simple: they pull your content into relevant topic feeds to reach audiences which extend beyond your own social media following. Furthermore, they can be used to steer conversations around a brand, product or event marketers want to create a buzz about.

As they are such an important marketing tool, TrackMaven have conducted a study on hashtags in order to gain insight on the ideal way to use them. They analysed 65,000 posts across three of the largest social media networks - Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - to determine the ideal length and number of hashtags for engagement on each of the platforms. The following is a breakdown of what they found.

Facebook

Since Facebook introduced hashtags to its platform in 2013, it has remained a controversial topic and is not as widely implemented by users in comparison to Twitter and Instagram. This can be attributed to the private nature of Facebook profiles which automatically limits the exposure of users' content to those outside their friends list.

While they may prove useful for promotions or events, the research also found that using a high number of hashtags within the copy of a post has a negative correlation with user engagement.

Hashtag best practices: Number of hashtags on Facebook

Source: wersm.com

In terms of length, though hashtags with six characters seemed to be the most ideal, the study found no definite pattern up to 20 characters, making it difficult to determine a best practice.

Hashtag best practices: Length of hashtags on Facebook

Source: wersm.com

Twitter

For the Twitter platform, the results indicate that tweets using a single hashtag gain the most engagement. However, based on the data, using two hashtags in a tweet doesn't have as much of an impact on engagement as it does on a Facebook post.

Hashtag best practices: Number of hashtags on Twitter

Source: wersm.com

Twitter and Facebook were similar in the fact that the findings did not determine a best practice for the length of a hashtag due to the lack of a distinct pattern within the data.

Hashtag best practices: Length of hashtags on Twitter

Source: wersm.com

Nonetheless, with Twitter's 140-character limit, it's probably safe to assume that shorter hashtags are preferable as they will help you maximise the space you have, particularly if you're using the hashtag for a campaign.

Instagram

Considering that most user accounts are accessible by the public, hashtags are particularly effective on the Instagram platform as they give a considerable boost to the post's organic reach.

TrackMaven's research recommends the use of nine hashtags as the ideal number to generate the most engagement, eight more than the recommended amount for Facebook and Twitter.

Hashtag best practices: Number of hashtags on Instagram

Source: wersm.com

With regards to ideal length, the data surprisingly indicated that hashtags with 21 and 24 characters had the best performance.

Hashtag best practices: Length of hashtags on Instagram

Source: wersm.com

More than its length and the number being utilised, however, the relevancy of a hashtag is arguably still the most important. Users are less likely to engage with a post using an irrelevant hashtag than a post using hashtags with more or less characters than is ideal for the given social platform.

So, using the correct number and length of hashtags that are also relevant to your message and brand is a guaranteed recipe for success.

Developing your social media marketing strategy for 2017

There is, of course, more to developing a concrete social media marketing strategy than simply mastering best practices for hashtags, particularly as we're about to enter 2017. It's easy to get stuck in your ways and assume current efforts will continue to bring results. This is far from the truth, especially with the dynamic nature of social media marketing.

That being said, here are a few steps you can implement to build and maintain your audience's engagement with your content in the new year and beyond.

Build your content strategy

Any experienced social media marketer knows that success is positively correlated with consistent posting, particularly on platforms that display updates non-chronologically. The more regularly you post, the higher the chances that your audience will see your content and engage with it.

Now, this doesn't mean you can post just for the sake of it or to tick a box on your list of duties. Rather, all your posts must be relevant and worth sharing. For this reason, deciding what and when you publish must be approached strategically by using tools like content calendars pre-loaded with the content you plan to share every month, for example.

Capitalise on current trends

Social media is never static and is constantly changing, so keeping an eye on new trends and incorporating them into your strategy, where relevant, is another crucial key to success. For instance, live streaming has become exponentially popular on social platforms, Facebook and Twitter in particular.

As a social media marketer, it is your job to be fully aware of these trends and positioned to integrate them into your current activities where necessary.

Discover your audience networks

As people continue to merge their everyday lives with social media, marketers now have a clearer view of the options they have to spread their message.

So, whether it's with niche networks like LinkedIn or platforms like Facebook that cater to a wider demographic, you have to publish your content on the networks where  your target audience is most active if you want your efforts to bear fruit. This can be achieved by carefully analysing your existing channels in order to ensure they match your intended audience.

Complement your social efforts with email

Email marketing has always been, and still is, an effective method of directly approaching your audience and attracting new customers. Though emails aren't technically a part of social media marketing, they can make significant contributions to the ultimate goal of initiating conversation with your audience.

For the integration to be successful, however, you must ensure to keep your message consistent. So, if someone clicks the link to your Twitter feed from within an email they've recently received from you, they should be greeted with similar content which prompts them to take action.

By implementing all that we have discussed so far, you're sure to enhance your social media marketing efforts and be fully prepared for 2017.

If you would like to discuss your social media marketing requirements with our team of experts, please get in touch with us.

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