Warning: Appropriate Hashtag Usage on Instagram Will Result in Major Traffic Increase

Hashtags: you either love them or hate them. This blog has pondered hashtag usage before and received a mixed response from readers on their effectiveness and aesthetic appeal. But more than a year after that discussion, one thing is clear. Hashtag usage should be defined more than ever by social platform.

Hashtags? They can be a beautiful thing when used appropriately.

Original photo credit: “Protesters Blur By” by Geraint Rowland via CC BY 2.0 // edited by author


Social Platform Hashtag Usage

Twitter? One to two hashtags raises engagement and can help you reach new audiences. Three or more turn off potential readers because #nobody #wants to #read a #tweet #like #this. Remember, aesthetics matter, especially now that pictures are viewed directly in the tweet and articles can be previewed. CCC Tip: put your hashtags at the end of the tweet if character space allows.

Facebook? Not so much. The largest social network was late to the game recognizing hashtags and its audience doesn’t have patience for them. One or two may bring new eyes to your post, but make sure you tuck them in at the end so they’re as out of sight as possible. CCC Tip: Pass on hashtag usage on Facebook; they do more damage than good. In fact, when we published the previous hashtag post, Facebook was where we received the most negative feedback on the subject.

Pinterest? Meh. The verdict is sill out on this platform, so you may want to use a couple of applicable hashtags, if appropriate, or bypass altogether. Pins are typically easier to find via category (by search) or by board, so make sure to ‘file’ them properly. Also, take advantage of board descriptions! Let your prospective audience know why they should follow a particular board so they’re more likely to see future pins.

Instagram? Gold mine. Some days it seems like hashtags were created for this popular visual platform instead of Twitter. Sure, you’ll see some people complain about the plethora of hashtags used on this site (30 are allowed per photo), but they are SO effective in bringing increased traffic when used appropriately.

Hashtag Guidelines on Instagram

  • First, only tag your photos with hashtags that make sense; don’t tag accounts or hashtags only to fool people into looking at your picture. That makes people mad, so it’s not an effective long-term solution. Example: CCC is a marketing company that specializes in writing (including social media), but we don’t tag a picture of a sunset with #marketing, #writing or #socialmedia (unless it’s applicable for some reason).
  • Research hashtags to check their popularity and what type of photos show up in the search. More popular hashtags (#socialmedia, #writing) mean more people are searching, but more results in the search mean more competition. Less popular hashtags (such as ones you create) have less competition, but you’ll need to promote the tag to draw eyes to it. During your research, get a feel for what type of photos show up in the search. You may be surprised by the double meaning of some hashtags or an unexpected use by another campaign.
  • You can use up to thirty hashtags per photo, but don’t feel obligated. In our experience, most photos don’t warrant that many hashtags.
  • Creating your own hashtag? Try to keep it reasonable in length and avoid special characters (?!#$%), because they don’t work. Numbers do though. Make your hashtag easy to remember and promote, promote, promote!
CCC on Instagram: @jaimeshine

Are you visually inspired? Follow CCC on Instagram! Find us under jaimeshine.

Hashtags & Instagram: An Experiment that Produced Results

I was reviewing our Instagram account on Sunday evening (OK, more like Monday morning) and decided to try adding hashtags to older photos that didn’t have any or only had one or two. I thought it would be worth the time to draw more traffic and possibly bring new eyes to CCC’s posts. Wow! I couldn’t believe the results.

In only 48 hours, we picked up nearly 100 likes, 10 comments and 6 new followers.

These numbers are for an account with 185 followers, under 300 photos and little to no engagement at some points in the past, so we’re thrilled!

Conclusion: Appropriate hashtag usage on Instagram will result in major traffic increase, so please use responsibly.

Join the Discussion

Do you agree with our recommended hashtag usage on the social platforms mentioned above? Or have you had a different experience?

Do you have any Instagram hashtag guidelines to add?

Have you conducted a hashtag experiment on any social platform?

Hashtags: do you love them or hate them?

p.s. It’s Election Day! Go vote and make your voice heard.

A reformed, if reluctant, hashtagger,
Jaime,

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Get Social: 4 Easy Ways to Join the Conversation

At CCC, we’re always telling people to join the conversation. Social media is, after all, about being social. Then one day, a client asked us how, and a light bulb went off. Hey, there’s a blog post in there somewhere!

Make It Personal

When you thank people for sharing your content or answer a question that someone’s posed, why not make it personal? Refer to people by their name (spelled correctly). Look at the user’s profile or recent tweets and mention something that catches your interest. It’s a great way to create dialogue and make someone remember you. As you develop relationships, it’s easier to ask about or note something of interest to people you’re routinely conversing with. Until then, make the extra effort; people will appreciate you.

Do A Little Soul (& Keyword) Searching

Search for popular hashtags and search terms in your industry, so you can check out what people are talking about. (If there are terms you’d like to search consistently, save a search in your social media software or set up a Google Alert.) Join appropriate conversations (not with sales pitches!), and share relevant discussions with your fans and followers to hear their thoughts. This is a great way to stay on top of trends in your industry, gain targeted followers/fans and discover new business opportunities.

Facebook search

You can search for hashtags and keywords on Facebook too.

Hashtag to Happiness (Within Reason)

Searching hashtags is also how you will know which ones to use in your posts to gain the most traction. You can see what type of posts use a particular hashtag if you’re trying to decide between #video, #videooftheday or #videoads, and choose accordingly. It varies with each platform, but generally you don’t want to use more than 2-3 hashtags on a single post. “Overhashtagging” (my word) makes your content difficult to read and turns people off. Remember, space is at a commodity, whether there’s a specific character limit or not. Most people will not take the time to read lengthy social media updates.

Related reading: #Hashtags: Big Business or Bust?

Get Social

Talk to people. Answer questions, ask your own. Engage with other users’ content, and encourage others’ to do the same with yours. Don’t just lurk or broadcast information. Social media is a two-way street, not a one-way marketing vehicle. The more you engage, the better you’ll do. Share others’ content. Leave thoughtful comments. Converse. Be social, and others will be social with you. It’s amazing how branching out to other Facebook Pages, Twitter profiles, LinkedIn pages and profiles, blogs, etc. will encourage reciprocation and help you grow your network.

So there you have it…. How do you join the conversation?

  1. Make It Personal
  2. Do A Little Soul (& Keyword) Searching
  3. Hashtag to Happiness (Within Reason)
  4. Get Social

What would you add to this list? Chime in with your thoughts, recommendations and insight below. If you have questions or would like more information on anything mentioned in this post, let us know. We’d be happy to help you join the conversation!

Get Social,
Jaime

Get Social with CCC!
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#Hashtags: Big Business or Bust?

Hashtags

Hashtags — love them or hate them? Are they good or bad for business? Photo courtesy of Michael Coghlan via Creative Commons License

Let’s take a closer look at the world of hashtags…

On the positive side, hashtags open up your social media updates to a whole new world: non-subscribers, non-fans and non-followers. Searching hashtags brings potential fans, followers, subscribers — and customers — to your doorstep. Whenever I use hashtags, I always receive more traffic from those outside of my network. I’ve also come across brands — both personal and corporate — on Instagram and Twitter that I probably never would have found otherwise.

Hashtags are also a wonderful way to have a conversation online. Stay up to date with webinars, events, ad campaigns, sporting events, etc. by searching for the hashtag and participating in the conversation. As a marketer (or event professional), designating hashtags for your campaigns and events is a great way to invite attendees to join the conversation, build momentum pre- and post-event, involve those unable to attend and integrate your online and offline marketing efforts.

#Olympics hashtag search

The #Olympics hashtag: insight and insanity

For example, Twitter noted that the #SuperBowl hashtag was used 3 million times over an approximate 5-hour time period. As a marketing professional, you’re probably excited to jump in! But slow down — and do the math. That breaks down to an average of 167 tweets per second. And remember, anyone can use a hashtag — not only brands, companies or excited fans talking positively about your product or service. Someone complaining about a sideline reporter’s outfit or a celebrity that’s spotted in the crowd will show up in that hashtag search as well. As Oreo showed us, hashtags don’t make the tweet.

Power outage? No problem says Oreo.

Oreo stole the show on Super Bowl Sunday. No hashtag needed.

Another negative aspect is what I like to call ‘overhashtagging.’ I’m pretty sure that’s not a word, but it is in my dictionary. #Have #you #ever #read #a #tweet #like #this? #Probably #not #because #its #so #annoying. I’ve spoken to Twitter users regarding hashtag use and come across research that noted readership (and engagement) drops after 2 – 3 hashtags. Of course, it’s not just on Twitter; we’ve all seen photos maxing out the 30 hashtag limit on Instagram. As my mom always says, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. #justsaying

In summary, hashtags have good and bad qualities like most things in life. They can be used correctly or abused as some of the pros and cons below show.

Pros

  • gain new followers, fans, subscribers and possibly customers
  • have a conversation online
  • bring event attendees into the conversation, including pre- and post-event
  • integrate online and offline marketing efforts
  • help a campaign go viral

Cons

  • new followers may be temporary or fake
  • aesthetically unpleasing
  • overuse is distracting / hard to read
  • overuse lowers readership / engagement
  • get lost in the sea of popular hashtags

I came across an insightful comment by Daniel Victor, social media staff editor at The New York Times, which sums up my opinion of hashtags well.

“Here’s where I’ll join the rest in unquantifiable hoodoo: I believe hashtags are aesthetically damaging. I believe a tweet free of hashtags is more pleasing to the eye, more easily consumed, and thus more likely to be retweeted (which is a proven way of growing your audience). I believe for every person who stumbles upon your tweet via hashtag, you’re likely turning off many more who are put off by hashtag overuse. We need not banish the hashtag, but let’s start putting more thought into when we’re using it.”

Your Thoughts

What do you think? Are you a hashtag user or recovering abuser? Refuse to use them?

Have hashtags been beneficial to your business? Or hurt your online brand?

Please chime in with your thoughts on the wonderful, wacky world of hashtags! Feel free to link to articles, blog posts, studies, etc. (including your own) on the subject in the comments as well.

Additional Reading

#EnjoytheWeekend!

Jaime

p.s. Sunday, June 30th, is Social Media Day 2013! Join CCC as we celebrate (virtually) the power of social media in our lives. View the event invite for details and social media resources.

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