What’s our hashtag strategy?

It’s a question I think every company has asked itself or its agency partner over the last 10 years. And, it’s a question I’ve written about before.

But a recent Social Media Examiner article got me thinking about hashtags again. Specifically if and how people are using them. This particular author seems to think a lot of people are using them–on LinkedIn. He says “… follow relevant LinkedIn hashtags to keep track of trends and developments in your area of expertise.”

Really? I’ve been using LinkedIn for going on 8-plus years now and I don’t think I’ve followed a hashtag ONCE in those 8 years.

But, I’m just one person, right? What about the masses? I thought I’d ask my LinkedIn community that exact question. Do people use hashtags to track industry conversations and topics on LinkedIn? Here’s what 9 people had to say

JASON DRURY, SENIOR MARKETER, THOMSON REUTERS – I follow #b2bmarketing because I’m pretty contrarian to accepted dogma and intend to spend the rest of my career advancing business marketing toward the high standards set by consumer marketers 😉 The hashtag has marginal utility. (editor’s note: That’s a no, in case that’s unclear!)

STEPHEN DUPONT, VP-CONTENT, POCKET HERCULES – Yes, I do, but I primarily search for company or organization hashtags. For example, if I want to see posts on LinkedIn where #prsa is included, that gives me industry news from a PRSA perspective. (editor’s note: That’s a “kind of” in my view)

EMILY NEGRIN, DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS, GEOSYS – Yes – both for me personally and for work. I just counted and I have 17 the I’m following. I like that it helps to fill my feed with content and topics outside of my immediate network. I have ones like #agtech, #climatechange, #agribusiness that I follow for business but then I also follow things like #branding, #digitalmarketing and others that relate more to my area of expertise. Then a few like #futurism or #editorspicks that give me other topics to think about or consider. For business pages, the hashtags let you engage with content as a brand (but you are limited to three, so I change them out from time to time). (editor’s note: OK, so this is a big yes!)

ERIC WHEELER, SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT LEAD, PATTERSON COMPANIES – I do follow some of the main social media hashtags such as #socialmedianews, #contentstrategy, #twitter, and #facebook. Although they do appear in my news feed, I’m not necessarily checking in on each hashtag. I like to keep tabs on these hashtags to stay on top of the latest trends and news in social media marketing. I also follow a few dental industry hashtags for work; largely for the same reasons, but also to see if there is any content worth engaging with from our company page, to see what our competitors and vendors are doing, and to generally see what industry folks are discussing.

CASEY HALL, PRINCIPAL CONSULTANT, LUMBERJACK SOCIAL – I do! For myself, #EmployeeAdvocacy and #SocialSelling most often. I use it to find relevant articles/case studies to read and occasionally share. I’ll also follow industry-specific hashtags to keep up with news and people for specific clients. In that case, it might be #ClinicalTrials or #CloudStorage or whatever area I’m working with.

JAMIE PLESSER, ASSISTANT DEAN-MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS, CARLSON SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT – Honestly, no. I occasionally add them to job posts on LinkedIn but never use them beyond that nor research based on them. Hashtags have never really seem natural to LinkedIn for me.

CHRIS MARTIN, VICE PRESIDENT, DAVID JAMES GROUP – I’ll use hashtag #COVID19 to curate content for my medical client. LinkedIn also offers a ready-made list of curated content in that area.

SARAH MANLEY, SEARCHING FOR NEW OPPORTUNITIES – Yes in most posts that I author….in the industry that I am part of or interested in…hashtag#marketing hashtag#jobseeker hashtag#healthcare hashtag#talent

KIM INSLEY, SENIOR SPECIALIST-PR, DIGITAL RIVER – Yes – #ecommerce is generally my go-to. While it’s not a niche term, it’s hard to sift through things in my feed and it helps to narrow it down. I will say I probably search more for people than hashtags. I generally want to know what interests that specific person because I am researching them or their company for content I’m producing.

OK, so I’m in the minority. My research with these nine folks really surprised me. I really didn’t think most people were using hashtags on LinkedIn. But, most of these nine were!

Despite my 9-person research panel, I’m standing by my theory and assumption. I still don’t think the majority of people use hashtags on LinkedIn. Instagram? Maybe. LinkedIn? No.

My working theory (based on a basic human tendency): People are lazy.

Searching for hashtags takes effort! People are lazy! No one should be surprised by that claim in 2020.

I would argue most people use LinkedIn in one of three key ways:

  • The 10-minute scroll. People looking to learn something new, stay on top of what’s going on, and keeping up with the industry. These folks may check in on LinkedIn a couple of times a week. They scroll their feeds for 5-10 minutes and they’re out.
  • The job seeker. These folks are looking for jobs–it’s one of the primary reasons people use LinkedIn, right? They’re looking for one thing–opportunities. They start in the jobs tab. And, they might peruse the feed for a few minutes. But, they’re certainly not searching hashtags.
  • The power user. Power users are adept at using LinkedIn for its strength–data and insights. That means researching PEOPLE. That means looking for opportunities to participate in the feed. It doesn’t mean searching hashtags like #digitalmarketing.

I would also argue, much like Jason states above, if you do follow one or more of these hashtags, they’re really not that useful.

Let’s test this theory. Let’s take a peek at two easy ones: #socialmedia and #digitalmarketing.

First, #socialmedia. Here are the top two posts:

A job opportunity (not even close to where I live) and essentially an ad for Harvard Business.

And, get this, here was the next post:

Yep, pretty much spam. The fourth and fifth top posts did feature some content that was mildly interesting and timely.

OK, what about #digitalmarketing?

Again, here was the TOP item under the hashtag of #DIGITALMARKETING!

So, completely irrelevant. Surely, the second top item will be insightful!

Resources for parents? Clearly another irrelevant and off-topic ad. What about #3?

The actual type of post most people hate on LinkedIn! ARGH!

This is exactly why I don’t follow hashtags on LinkedIn. Now, it appears they work for other people, which is great. But, during the course of developing this post, I checked these hashtags regularly, and I saw similar results each time.

So, I guess I stand by my theory: Hashtags aren’t useful on LinkedIn. But, maybe not, in pockets? I can tell you it doesn’t work for me. It’s just not how I choose to use LinkedIn. But, as you saw above, it works for some people–and in certain sectors, I could see that.

What do you think? Do you use hashtags to search for content on LinkedIn? Why or why not?