From a marketer’s (or, in general, communicator’s) point of view, there are two main ways to looks at hashtags:
- As labeled sections on a bulletin board
- As labeled rooms where people meet
It is very useful to keep in mind this distinction when dealing with hashtags; in this first lesson of the advanced course, we’ll focus on the first point of view and what this can teach us about choosing hashtags.
Bulletin Board Labeled Sections
As we explained in greater detail in the 101 course, the original use of hashtags is to highlight what the subject of a message is. This is very important in public places where everybody can send their messages – eg, on a public bulletin board in a University.
If you want your message to be found by people who would be interested in what you’re talking about and don’t already know you, where would you like to post your message? On the left side of the board, or the right one?
Not using a hashtag is just like pinning your message on the left side – on a board that has millions of new messages posted every day, so your own will get submerged in a matter of seconds.
And what about choosing exactly which hashtags to use? It’s pretty obvious that you should choose labels where your message will be relevant; that is necessary, but not sufficient on its own to maximise your reach. The size of the labeled section is also very important.
Our Hashtags Encyclopedia on hashtagify.me gives a 0-100 popularity rating to each hashtag. In our analogy, the popularity is proportional to the size of the section of the bulletin board dedicated to the label/hashtag.
A very popular hashtag has lots of people looking at it, and a lot of dedicated real estate on the bulletin board – but it also has hundreds of thousands of messages posted to it every day.
In our bulletin board analogy, there is a board administrator – let’s call it Twitter Search – who is continually managing the messages on the board, pinning to the top for a longer time only the messages that are either a very important poster, or that immediately get a lot of acclaim from onlookers.
So, unless you’re some kind of celebrity, incredibly good at catching attention, or very lucky, posting to a very popular section/hashtag will mean that your message will be submerged after a few seconds or minutes. Almost as if you had posted the message under no label at all.
Not Popular Enough
At the other end of the spectrum, there are sections of our board that are so little known, that nobody ever looks at them. If you post there, your message could stay at or near the top for a very long time, but nobody will see it anyway. This is what happens 99% of the time when people create their own hashtags without giving them a valuable reason to search for it, and/or without promoting it enough – you’ll own your hashtag, but nobody is looking at that part of the board – it’s wasted space (and time).
The Sweet Spot
For most people, the sweet spot lies somewhere in the middle. You want hashtags that are:
- Very relevant to your content
- Popular enough that people are actively searching for them
- Not too popular compared to your current clout – so that your messages have a chance to be seen
At a practical level, this means that it usually pays off to search for many specialized hashtags in your field that have a popularity of at least 25/30 on hashtagify.me, and to alternate them in your tweets/instagrams etc. Depending on your personal clout and on how popular your field is in general, it can also make sense to use the more general hashtags for that field, especially if their popularity is below 80.
These rankings provide a guide, but to really optimize for your specific situation you should experiment and measure your results. We’ll see in a later lesson how using our pro Users Lab features can make both finding the specialized hashtags and measuring the results of your experiments much easier, but this is also something that you can do manually just using our free Encyclopedia and keeping count of the retweets and likes you get, if you have enough time to invest in this.
This first advanced hashtag marketing lesson laid down the first part basic concepts that guided us in building our Hashtagify tools. The next lesson will explain the second half – if you want to read it now free on hashtagify.me.
PS: Did you know that you can easily compare the popularity of different hashtags for the last 2 months? Check out our Hashtags Encyclopedia guide