Next Wednesday, at 11 am EST, I’m going to participate in a webinar together with BuzzSumo about using hashtags for content marketing.
If you’re interested, feel free to register here. See you!
Next Wednesday, at 11 am EST, I’m going to participate in a webinar together with BuzzSumo about using hashtags for content marketing.
If you’re interested, feel free to register here. See you!
Last time we spoke about hashtags as labeled sections on a bulletin board. This is a good analogy when you think about disseminating messages that you want to draw attention to. But the bulletin board analogy doesn’t reflect the “social” aspect of social networks.
As a matter of fact, hashtags aren’t just a fundamental tool to broadcast information to the right audience; they’re also a great tool to find and meet people who share your interests – both personal and professional ones. Among these people you can find those that can help you extend your influence through their own larger audiences, therefore further amplifying and endorsing your message.
To visualize this point of view, a much more fitting analogy are the rooms of a club.
It’s no coincidence that the inspiration for adding hashtags to Twitter came from chatrooms. When Twitter was small and users were few, having genuine conversations was much more prevalent than it is today. Chris Messina, the inventor of the hashtag, suggested to adopt this convention exactly to create “rooms” where you could discuss specific subjects even with people you didn’t know yet.
This helped creating many interest-based communities. Hashtags allowed you to discover like-minded people and then connect with them. People who had something interesting to share could easily build a following and meaningful relationships. With the gargantuan size of today’s Twitter – and that of the other major social networks – this is a much rarer event, but not all is lost!
The biggest rooms – the most popular hashtags – don’t look like rooms at all. They rather resemble big and noisy squares with hordes of people incessantly coming and going, and all of them wanting attention!
In these rooms/squares there is usually very little sense of community, if at all, and, if you asked who are the leaders/influencers, you would mostly come out with some out-of-reach celebrities that from time to time come to grace the onlookers with their hyper-amplified messages and maybe get a buzz going for a few hours.
For most marketers and communicators, finding meaningful connections in these places is really a hit-and-miss game – with much more misses than hits. Try your chance if you want, but our suggestion is to focus on much better playing fields.
Most viral hashtags, hashtags about current world events, and very general interest subjects generate Public Square “rooms”.
Some subjects, like for example data visualization techniques or embroidery, have an inherently smaller audience. But also the subjects with the broadest appeal, like music or news, have more specialized sub-subjects of various niche levels; think classical music or Vatican City local news.
It is at this smaller – and especially niche – level that healthy online communities can still form around one or more specific hashtags, forming their own specialty rooms.
These thriving communities have their own unwritten rules, and, most often, some widely recognized reference points – their top influencers. Here you can also build your own significant, or at least useful, relationships.
This will usually require a healthy investment in time, resource and budget too, but if you find the right hashtags and communities, it will give you the highest long-term return. We’ll go into more details in future lessons, but the general process can be summarized in these steps:
Until now, we focused mostly on industry/interest hashtags, which usually come from the bottom up in a completely organic way. A different case is the campaign hashtag, purposefully created and steered by some organization or business. This brings us to the branded room.
The biggest difference between these rooms and the former ones is that here we have somebody who worked hard to invite people to their room and keep them engaged. And somebody who, if successful, is officially recognized by most members as the leader of the community. Somebody who also had a specific goal in mind for this community.
The situation that interests us now is when you’re not the one who built the room. So, is it possible to create meaningful relationships here? The short answer is: Yes, if the room still resembles the specialty room we talked about before, with a thriving community, and if your goals aren’t in direct conflict with the creators’ ones. The same process can still apply.
But what if your goals are conflicting with the creators’? Well, depending on the situation, you could either find other rooms… or you could try to hijack it. But that is another story and shall be told another time.
And before we finish, we’ll quickly mention two special cases of branded hashtags/rooms: the event hashtag, and the Twitter chat. For different reasons, these two cases are very relevant, and we’ll talk about these in the lesson about the hashtags lifecycles.
Congratulations! You have finished the introductory part of our Advanced Marketing course. We’re still writing the next lessons, which will be more practical how-tos about various common tasks for social media marketers.
But you don’t need to wait if you want to apply the concepts we explained. You can start from our Labs, which include guided tours and detailed guides to, among other things:
From a marketer’s (or, in general, communicator’s) point of view, there are two main ways to looks at hashtags:
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.
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.
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).
For most people, the sweet spot lies somewhere in the middle. You want hashtags that are:
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
At least for now, on Twitter and the other major social platforms that support hashtags, anybody can use any hashtag they want, any way they want. You can even invent a hashtag on the spot, just by adding the hash/pound (#) symbol in front of any word, combination of words, or random sequence of characters and numbers – as long as the sequence doesn’t contain spaces or punctuation.
One important thing to know is that, when you search for a hashtag on Twitter, the search engine ignores character capitalization – #WORD is the same as #word. But for your readers, capitalization is very important: when you use hashtags made from more words, be sure to capitalise the first letter of each word. This will make the hashtag much easier to read, and will avoid possible misinterpretation.
When in 2007 Chris Messina first proposed to use hashtags on Twitter to show that a tweet belonged to a specific grouping, this started as a completely grassroots convention. Even if Twitter didn’t give any special status to hashtags until two years later, they still worked well for this goal, because only one thing was required: if you search for posts containing #Word, the search should only show you posts with #Word, and not those with “Word” without the hash.
This still remains the core of the hashtag: a convention to show that your post is specifically about #Something, instead of one where you just mentioned the word “something” in passing. And an easy way for anybody to find all the posts about #Something.
When their use was already wide among early adopters, Twitter started adding some specific features to make it easier to use hashtags. First, it automatically highlighted all hashtags, and made them clickable to easily search all the tweets for that hashtag. Then, it started prominently showing a list of the top trending hashtags.
These two simple additions made hashtags evident for everybody, not only those in the know, and Twitter immediately became a much more useful platform for discovering interesting trends and topics. A few years later, all the other major social platforms added the same, or similar, features.
Let’s sum it up: any combination of characters or numbers, without spaces or punctuation, that begins with the hash symbol, is a hashtag. You are free to use any hashtags you want in your posts, and, when you do so, that hashtag will become highlighted and clickable for the reader to easily find all the other tweets using that hashtag. Last, when people search for that hashtag, they could find your post. So, should you use any possible hashtag in your posts?
As you might have already guessed (or read elsewhere), the answer is no. Why not? Because using random hashtags is considered spam, and has many more downsides than upsides.
First of all, if people search for #This, and find your tweet that talks about #That, but where you also hashtagged the word #This just to increase your findability, at best they will ignore you. At worst, they will mark you as a spammer, and if enough people do this your content will become penalised by Twitter and most other platforms.
Second, even your followers and other people who are actually interested in #That, and who could like your content, aren’t going to appreciate you using irrelevant hashtags – and even using too many relevant hashtags will irritate many people, who could stop following you just for this reason.
According to most research, the optimal number of relevant hashtags for a post with interesting content on Twitter is 2 or 3 (on Instagram you can actually use more). But how do you define “relevant”?
How to actually choose the right hashtags will be the subject of entire future lessons. But the basic principle can be summed up in just three words: meet people’s expectations.
If a user searches for the hashtag #PhotoOfTheDay, what does she expect to find? In this case it’s pretty obvious: an interesting picture. So, if you’re posting a beautiful picture of your backyard taken today, this hashtag is highly relevant. This isn’t enough to say that you should use this hashtag to get the best results, but it’s enough to say that you can use it and not get any backlash.
Many people think that a hashtag like #PhotoOfTheDay would also be great for a post sharing an article about cameras. After all, many people interested in photos are also interested in cameras… but when somebody searches for #PhotoOfTheDay, his expectation is definitely not to find articles about cameras.
That user could find your article interesting if he found it at the right time, but if you do not meet his expectations when he executes his search, you’re much more likely to get no reaction at all, or even a negative reaction. And always remember that your followers will judge your hashtags and your respect for readers. So, don’t fall into temptation, and when in doubt always try to think what would your expectation be if you searched for a given hashtag.
Congratulations! You have finished our Hashtags 101 course. The next lesson will be published next week for the Advanced Hashtags course, where we’re going to start delving deeper into the secrets of hashtag marketing.
Hashtags today are everywhere, from Twitter posts to billboard ads and TV commercials, but you shouldn’t use them just because everybody else does. To get great results, you need to understand hashtags, and how to use hashtags strategically.
The first step in creating any strategy is to know your goals, and that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about in this first installment of our Hashtags 101 course: the main goals that hashtags can help you achieve. We’ll talk about what hashtags are in the next lesson.
The first and most obvious reason to use hashtags is to reach beyond your usual followers and gain penetration into broader digital communities. We’ll go into deeper details about how and why this works in the future, but for now we’ll focus on the kind of results you can expect to get if you start using hashtags well.
There have been many quantitative studies conducted by Twitter and others on this. They have all found that using hashtags in a tweet boosts the chances of it being retweeted, favorited, clicked on, or answered; the increase is consistently measured between +50% and +100%.
These numbers are an average for all tweets with hashtags – including the tweets with bad hashtags. So, with a good strategy, you can expect even better results. And the effect isn’t limited to Twitter: using hashtags brings higher reshares on Instagram and Google Plus too.
The exception is Facebook: studies have shown that hashtags there have a detrimental effect on posts interaction . But if you want your content to reach more eyeballs on Twitter, Instagram or Google Plus, you need to invest some time in hashtags.
High-quality followers – those who engage with you and are therefore genuinely interested in what you share, and will also help you spread it even more – are hard to gain. You need to consistently publish interesting content, engage with other people, and add value to the community; hashtags help you do this by acting as a multiplier of your work.
This is a direct consequence of increasing your reach. Sharing great content isn’t enough, people need to see it before they can even think about sharing it or starting to follow you. Moreover, hashtags can also be used to learn what your followers are interested in.
Hashtags can also be used to find and learn about influencers and your target audiences.
Connecting with already known influencers in your field is one of the fastest ways to increase your own influence. Using hashtags and the right tools, it’s easy enough to find not only who those influencers are, but also what they’re interested in, and specifically what you have in common. This can really help your engagements with them become much more meaningful and impactful.
Depending on your field of market, the same techniques could also be useful to find and connect with potential customers.
At the beginning of this lesson we cited the usage of hashtags on billboards and TV ads. This is the most visible use of hashtags, but it is actually a pretty specialised and limited one for most brands, as it depends on having lots of resources.
Indeed, creating and promoting your own hashtag is something that only makes sense in a few but important cases – when you have a campaign with a big budget, or when you can already rely on a high visibility or big fan base for your campaign.
In those cases, a custom hashtag can greatly multiply the power of your communication, especially if you can reach the nirvana of hashtag marketing – going viral. We’ll talk about these cases in the advanced course.
This was just an introduction to the world of hashtag marketing; there are also other goals that hashtags can help you reach, but those listed here are, in our experience, the most important and most common ones.
If you would like to achieve at least one of these goals, you have a very good reason to learn how to use hashtags at their best.
Last time I interviewed Hashtagify Research Assistant, the man who isn’t intimidated by our 38 million hashtags and that will help you find and analyze new hashtags. Today’s interview is with our other new recruit Hashtagify Tutor, the girl who will help you actually use those hashtags, following a plan towards higher social media reach and success.
Dan: Good morning Tutor. Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Tutor: Good morning Dan! I’m a senior student at the Hashtagify University, I really love social media and I like to help other students when I have the time. So I’m known by everybody as The Tutor, and few believe me when I tell them that Tutor is actually my given name!
Wow, Tutor, have you sued your parents yet? Anyway, I know that you really love to help; that’s the main reason I decided to hire you. So, can you explain to our readers how exactly are you going to help them with their social media work?
As a tutor I noticed that the most difficult thing, for most social media practitioners who want to master the subject, is to stay motivated with their effort, and to be consistent with their messaging.
I also noticed that it really helps to have some kind of reference plan to follow, and somebody who keeps you inspired to follow it. And that’s where I come into play, at least for the part related to hashtags.
So, we’re talking about a plan related to hashtags? How would that work, and how can that help anybody to stay motivated and consistent?
Hashtags are useful to define an area of interest, and to reach the audience that is interested in that area. When you want to become an influencer in some field, it really helps to have a list of the most relevant hashtags in that field, and to use them consistently with your messages – which, obviously, need to be highly relevant and very interesting.
My role is to remind you when you have been neglecting a useful hashtag for some time, alert you when a new interesting hashtag is emerging, and to give you inspiration about what you could write or share.
Receiving inspiration is nice. But couldn’t you just write my tweets for me??
I could… but then you would never become a real influencer! You need to use your own judgement and personality even when just retweeting some good content. You absolutely need to add something personal to the social media conversation, otherwise people could think you’re just a bot. Who wants to engage with a bot?
Fair enough. Regarding inspiration, what’s your plan? How could you inspire me?
One of the best way to get inspired is to see great examples to follow. That’s why, when I will suggest you a hashtag you could use, I’ll also show you great relevant content that you can take inspiration from, or just retweet. Not just from Twitter, but also from Instagram – visuals can give even more inspiration.
I get it. Besides, it’s a good idea to retweet a lot – it shouldn’t be all about you. One last question: Do you think that you could also help expert hashtag users, or just beginners and intermediate?
I think that my tutoring will be most helpful to beginners and intermediates, but even the experts could use some inspiration from time to time. And for them, I can limit myself to sending a daily email with a quick reminder about the hashtags they haven’t used for some time, and, even more importantly, the new trending ones related to their field.
Well Tutor, thank you very much for your time, and see you next week on hashtagify.me!
Thanks Dan, and see you!
When was the last time you had to search for some new hashtags? For example, because you wanted to reach a wider audience, or just to show you’re always in the know about the new trends in your field?
If you’re at all like me, that was not long ago. And again, if you’re at all like me, you feel that having to sift through the millions of hashtags people use these days is a pretty daunting task.
If this is the case, you’ll be glad to meet Hashtagify’s latest hire, the Research Assistant. I introduced him a week ago; you might remember that he boasts of knowing all the 38 million hashtags we classified at hashtagify.me, to be able to find many new targeted hashtags just by taking a look at your Twitter account, and that he’ll start working next week.
I thought you might want to know a bit more about him. He’s a reclusive guy, so, to give a better introduction, I went to his laboratory and interviewed him for you. This is the transcript of our talk.
Dan: Hi Assistant. So, the rumors say that you know everything about more than 38 million hashtags. Is that true?
Assistant: Hi Dan. Well, to be honest with you, I don’t actually know everything about those 38 million hashtags. But I know a lot about them. And I’m always on the lookout for new ones to study. As a matter of fact, just during the last 10 minutes, I found 38 more. Right now, the exact number of hashtags I know about is 38,476,189.
OK, the quantity is impressive. But what about the quality? Are all those hashtags really good?
This is an interesting point. Actually, it turns out that lots of hashtags are too generic for any targeted message; others are too loved by spammers; others still were great a few months ago, but now they’re dead in the water. That’s just why I’m always learning new ways to classify and filter them, using information about the hashtag users, associations, languages, timing, and many other interesting signals. It’s no easy task, but they tell me I’m getting better and better at this.
Let’s talk about personalization. After you filter out the hashtags that may look popular, but aren’t really useful, how do you decide which ones are the most targeted for a specific Twitter user?
First of all, I study up to 3,200 of the last tweets that the user sent, and analyze the hashtags they use, the language, and some other technical stuff. I then try to understand if the user has different areas of interest to talk about, using a technique called clustering. For each cluster of hashtags, I then find the most interesting hashtags that the user has never used.
When you say “interesting hashtags”, what do you actually mean? And usually, how many interesting hashtags do you find for a user?
A hashtag can be interesting for many different reasons. For example, it could be a newly trending hashtag in a related field. It may have a popularity that isn’t very high, but is very targeted. I try to create a good mix and show the user around 200 options to choose from; the user can sort them by popularity, trend, and correlation, and also look at lots of details to better understand the hashtag if it looks interesting. Users can also discard hashtags that they know aren’t good for them; this really helps me to learn and be even more targeted in the future.
Great, I’m sure all our advanced users will like the possibility to start from an already sorted and filtered pool of candidates, and still be able to choose by themselves. But what about beginners? This still looks a bit difficult for them, couldn’t you make things even easier?
Come on Dan! You already know that I’m much better at helping users who already know their way around hashtags. Isn’t that the reason why you also hired Hashtagify Tutor? I just do the analysis; then, for those who don’t want to check lots of hashtags and meddle with all the finer details, he can take over and guide them step by step…
Dan: Don’t worry, I remember perfectly well our deal. I just thought that this could be the perfect question to finish this interview, and link to our next one with Hashtagify Tutor. So, Assistant, thank you for your time, and I’ll leave you to your analyses now. Maybe, before the great launch next week, you’ll even learn some new tricks!
Assistant: Thank you Dan. You know that I’m a lab rat and I’m not much into interviews, but I really hope I could answer some of our readers’ curiosity about my work. And, while thanking them for staying with us until the end, I’d like to remind them that sharing is caring. And remember… I’m going to read all your tweets!
You know what? R&D is difficult!
Almost two months ago we announced to our followers that we were working on a new technology still in its infancy, but with a great potential. We also wrote about a new low-price, super easy to use product called the Hashtagify Tutor, and said you would hear about it soon.
As it turned out, this took a bit longer than we hoped. But now we can officially announce that Hashtagify Tutor is coming. And he won’t come alone; for the enjoyment of our more analysis oriented users, he will be accompanied by the Hashtagify Research Assistant.
They will both be powered by the new technology we wrote about, which is coming of age and whose name we can now announce. Our researchers call it the Hashtags-Influencers Network Smart Analyzer. But we decided for a shorter name: Hashtagify HashSmart™
What is it about? Well, it’s not launch day yet. But one thing I can already tell you is that Hashtagify HashSmart™ is able to analyze a Twitter account’s use of hashtags, sift through the 38 million hashtags and several billion interrelationships we have in our Hashtagify.me database, and come out with personalized, targeted suggestions.
Moreover, HashSmart is based on machine learning technologies that allow it to become smarter as it gets to know you better. And its capabilities don’t stop just with hashtags suggestions.
So, when will this be published? Well, if you’re a Hashtag Intelligence Business or Enterprise user, you’ll get an invitation to the early beta in the next days. Everybody else will have to wait two more weeks for the official launch. Just a little more patience.
On our website hashtagify.me we like creating beautiful, interactive visualizations. Being interactive, though, means that the visualization isn’t a ready-to-share image.
Some of our users obviated this obstacle by taking a screenshot, and then sharing that one. But we understand not everybody has the patience to do it.
So we created a new feature: the Share button for our visualizations. Using it, we will automatically create an image from what you’re seeing, and you’ll only need to use your favorite social network to do the share itself!
Just click on the “Share” button at the left of the visualization, and proceed. Enjoy!
We’re thrilled to announce that we have completed the White Label Reports feature for our Hashtag Intelligence advanced product. Our Enterprise customers can already customize the layout of their reports, using their own – or their customers’ – logo, their preferred title and subtitle, header, footer, colors. You can find an example of a custom layout at the end of this email.
Talking about reports, it is possible to get them automatically delivered to your email through our new Pdf Report Scheduler. This is active for both Business and Enterprise subscribers. If you want to learn more about this feature, read here!
Example white label report layout: