Hashtags are very useful, and they can help to gain engagement as well as loyalty. But do we use our own hashtags or those that are trending?

We don’t have to mention that hashtags are important. They’re a huge part of social media marketing and have a great role to play in making content searchable and shareable. But they aren’t just about following the latest trending tags. Or are they?

Why create our own?

We can create our own unique hashtags whenever we want. As long as they make sense to our audiences, we have absolute freedom on what we put out there. Yet some brands don’t create their own hashtags.

This could be a mistake. Creating unique hashtags can help a brand develop engagement, pure and simple.

What is a unique hashtag?

They are hashtags created with a specific purpose in mind. #Business, for example, can be used for pretty much anything business-related, but #ShareaCoke refers to a specific brand and is part of a specific campaign. Coke uses hashtags like that one because the campaign is built around the phrase. Also, no other brand is able to use it, it’s Coke’s invention.

A unique hashtag like that one speaks directly to audiences and it speaks to their loyalty. In a sense, it forms a unique message to customers. This uniqueness is needed to differentiate and add value to social media campaigns.

That is not to say that all hashtags should be unique to a brand, obviously. There is a ratio that needs to be understood and followed if a brand is to get the most out of the hashtag usage. We will look at these dynamics after we have taken a view on ‘regular’ hashtags.

The ‘regular’ hashtags

There are many generic hashtags, too many to get hung up about. There are ways to make sure you are using hashtags that will be seen by audiences, but that will also make sense for your brand.

To take this idea down to its basic level, consider the hashtag #followme. This particular hashtag is the most popular on Instagram, and it is used in millions of posts. But you wouldn’t use that on a branded account. If you did, you’d appear desperate and ‘spammy’.

The aim is to find hashtags that are popular but still relevant to your brand and what you do. It would be even better if you were able to find hashtags that were hyper-focused, to the extent that they literally refer to what you do. While this may sound a little obvious, it is important to build your campaigns around tags that are genuinely sensible.

The best way to get started with this process is to look at your competitors. They will be using hashtags in their posts. You could look at what they are doing and emulate that. The reason why this is a good idea is because it is obviously working with the audience you are trying to engage with.

Don’t focus on just the types of hashtags either. Look at the number of hashtags they use in a post. That shows how much your audience can tolerate and still engage with the content.

When looking to create campaigns around hashtags that are being used by everyone else, it pays to get involved in some social listening. There are plenty of platforms out there that allow you to check streams and see which hashtags are proving to be most popular. It is very easy to do, and will give you a steady supply of hashtags that are worth using in your own posts for exposure and engagement.

Finally, always look into the related hashtags that platforms offer you when you start to enter your own in posts. These related tags are definitely worth including, simply because the platform (whether it’s Twitter or LinkedIn, or any other platform) uses machine learning to find the best hashtags that fit your content.

So what do we do?

Hashtags should be used sparingly, but you do have to focus on what is working out there right now. The easy way to approach it is to find popular hashtags so that you have a good chance of being engaged with. Then, as campaigns progress, use unique hashtags that help to establish your brand.

As always, test what you do and make sure you change course if you need to.

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