2019 Hashtag Starter Kit – Go from Beginner to Expert in 5 Steps

Here’s a surefire way to remind yourself how fast time flies: hashtags are celebrating their 12th anniversary this year. It’s clear that with every passing year, our ability to cultivate hashtags into an effective and powerful online communication tool has increased, but with that, there’s more and more noise to have to break through.

Whether you are new to hashtags or have been using them for a while, read on to find the latest in hashtag usage in 2019 and become an expert 'social climber' in no time.  

Step 1 – Set the Anchor​

The #hashtag originated on Twitter in 2007 and since then, hashtags have tumbled like an avalanche through the internet. These days, you’ll find that the hashtag has transcended beyond the digital world and has a growing place in the real world. They seem to be everywhere you look but do you really know what they are and how best to use them?

Merriam-Webster’s definition of a hashtag is, “a word or phrase preceded by the symbol # that classifies or categorizes the accompanying text.”

Think of hashtags as basically “keywords” or “indexes” that create search opportunities for your target audience and allow them to connect with you, your products, content, and causes.

In turn, if done well, hashtags can provide a great way for your audience to do some of the marketing legwork for you.

Lululemon’s #TheSweatLife is a great example of how a brand can inspire consumers to build its network. According to Medium, the hashtag has been used over one million times on Instagram, providing consumers with a platform to share their triumphs on the mat and in the gym. When you have that kind of buy-in, it makes your marketing team’s job much easier!

Lululemon #thesweatlife

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers football organization has struck gold (#sorrynotsorry for the pun) with its branded hashtag: #FortheW. They have taken this simple, yet effective, hashtag to the next level and surpassed their CFL opponents. It’s used on all their social media platforms in tweets and posts, it’s plastered on billboards in every Winnipeg community, and now people (and their property) can be walking advertisements with all kinds of #FortheW merchandise.

 Winnipeg Blue Bombers #FortheW

Step 2 – Know the Mountain


People use different social media platforms for different reasons; therefore, you need to know what platforms your intended audience engages in and how they engage with each of them. This will help you determine everything from how long a hashtag should be to how many hashtags is too many.

Take a 30 minutes out of your day to check-in on what are Dick and Jane typing in a Google search or on Instagram that will lead them to you. Figure out what specific words and phrases people are using in reference to your industry, products, and brand. Then, get specific in your geographic and product description, and what your business is all about.

For instance, #Coffee will produce millions of results while #craftcoffee narrows the field to thousands. Getting specific will weed people out and put you one step closer to reaching your niche market. Take a look at Winnipeg’s own Verde Juice Bar and how they leverage hashtags on their Insta!

Verde Juice Bar Instagram

Keep in mind that not only is it important to understand your audience, but it’s equally important to understand how the different social media platforms support hashtags. Can users click on the hashtag itself? Can they perform a search with them? Is there a limit to the hashtags that can be used on one of the platforms you’re using?

Step 3 – Check the Elevation

For those who are currently using hashtags, this is an extremely important step. Consult your data and analytics! You may find that you are using the wrong platform(s) for your audience or that some hashtags were only effective during certain times of the year. Learn how well your hashtags have performed in the past so that you can maximize what they can do for you now and in the future.

For example, crop science company, BayerCanada, uses specific hashtags throughout the growing season on Twitter. You’ll find #Spray19, #Plant19 and even #Harvest19 posted as the seasons change.

Using hashtags for agriculture seasons

Step 4 – Consider Upgrading Gear

Do you know what this year’s hashtag trends are? What was one of last year’s hottest and most tweeted #hashtags may no longer crack the “Top 100” list.

So, stay relevant and adapt your hashtags to keep up with (or get ahead of) the changes in social media, your industry, and your audience’s tastes. Hashtags do not have to be guesswork.

And it’s a pretty simple process:

Go through your favourite influencer’s social media posts and take note of the hashtags they’re using frequently.

To streamline the process even further, you can use a tool like Hashtagify.me. This tool allows you to search for different keywords throughout Twitter and Instagram and see the top influencers for that keyword.

Step 5 – Plan Your Route Wisely

 

Whether you are considering using existing hashtags or perhaps creating your own, there are a few additional things to keep in mind:

  1. Be creative and have fun with your hashtags to encourage customer-customer engagement
  2. Create unique hashtags that align with your brand and image, like Lake of the Woods Brewing Company does with #makeitlaketimeAnd not to be a downer but be fastidious. Hashtags can be considered intellectual property and are subject to trademark laws.
  3. Be intentional with your hashtags. You should not be applying hashtags as a “one-size-fits-all” for the entire internet—the equivalent of keyword stuffing for SEO—as it’s unproductive. Repeatedly using the same hashtags for every platform you are on results in limited reach. o increase your reach, consider the adage, "variety is the spice of life" in your hashtag usage (unless they're branded).
  4. Before releasing your hashtags out into the world, check what is currently on-trend. Trends change on a daily, even hourly basis; meaning the research you did in the previous steps may already be outdated. This was Entenmann’s blunder when they tweeted, “Who’s #notguilty about eating all the tasty treats they want?!” —while this hashtag was already trending for a murder and manslaughter verdict.​
  5. Ending on a humorous note, watch out for all the pitfalls like the one that befell Susan Boyle of Britain's Got Talent fame. How does the hashtag look and read? Consider if you need to change words, if capitals should be used, and whether the words should be grouped into one hashtag or separated into multiple.
Susan Boyle Hashtag

CONCLUSION

Hashtags are not the “latest trend” that will fizzle out anytime soon. Their role in marketing tactics has only grown over the last dozen years and they remain a useful tool for any marketer or business owner. So set forth on your next #hashtag adventure knowing you’re prepared to reach the summit!

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