Make the most of hashtags on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest

02 October 2017

Make the most of hashtags on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest

Hashtags started out as a quirk of Twitter and have since gone on to take over the online world. They’ve even featured in a hit song - Lost Generation by Rizzle Kicks. The irony is that even though hashtags have now arguably become integral to the functioning of the internet, it’s clear that there are people out there, including people managing social media for brands, who really need some help on how to use them.

With that in mind, here are three tips on how to make the most of hashtags.

1. Think of hashtags in the same way as you think of keywords for search engine optimisation

When a user wants to find something in a search engine, they enter their keywords and the search engine will try to find them content that looks like a good fit. Hashtags on social media work in almost the same way, with the exception that, at this time, searching on a hashtag only brings up exact matches rather than close matches.

For example, if a user enters #blueshoe then currently social media sites will only look for posts containing #blueshoe whereas if a user put the search term “blue shoe” into a search engine, the search engine would probably include results for “blue shoes” too, as well – probably – as “blue boots” “blue high heels” and so on.

With this in mind, keep your hashtag(s) relevant to the key point(s) of your post keep them short and obvious. With Instagram, however, longer hashtags that are in common use among your demographic or niche (e.g. #blondehairdontcare or #veganfoodporn) are good to use as they are clickable to help people find similar content.

2. Tailor your hashtags to your platform as well as your content

Instagram and Pinterest are arguably the two most visual, hashtag-using, social media platforms out there (as yet YouTube doesn’t use hashtags). Therefore, hashtags tend to be used to identify the content of a picture.

An obvious example of this is when working with brands, which want their specific products identified somewhere in the post. Facebook is more like Twitter in that it is much less visual and hence hashtags tend to be used to identify topics, hence the trending topics section run by both platforms. It should be noted that, while hashtags certainly have their uses on Facebook, possibly the single, biggest difference between Facebook and Twitter is that Facebook is a much more closed network in the sense that it tends to be the place people go to hang out with their established friends, whereas Twitter is much more open in the sense that it’s more likely that people will interact with strangers.

3. Be careful mentioning brands by name

There are clear rules around sponsored content and, by this point in time, anyone who creates content for social media should be aware of them.

If you are working with brands, they may well have their own requirements, otherwise be cautious about using brand names in posts. First of all, the brand belongs to the company that owns it rather than to you. Secondly, having brand names in a post can make it look like a sales pitch and raise suspicions that it’s unmarked sponsored content.

Even if you are working directly with brands, it can be best to use a descriptive hashtag that reflects their identity, rather than hashtagging their name.