Hashtags are an essential part of social media marketing and growth, particularly on Instagram and Twitter. With that said, using hashtags correctly can be a little confusing.

In this post I’ll review the top hashtag mistakes I see people and businesses make over and over, and how to avoid them.

1. Using Only “Popular” or Generic Hashtags

The easiest hashtag mistake to make is to only use popular hashtags.

In theory, it makes sense to use the most popular hashtags for exposure, but in practice you won’t get the long term results you need.

Sure hashtags like #love and #beautiful have hundreds of thousands of posts, but these generic hashtags are going to be useless for your business. You’ll get likes, but not from people who are actually interested in your business or brand.

Instead, you should seek to use hashtags that are specific to your target consumer, the context of your posts, or industry keywords.

2. Not Researching Hashtags

Another big hashtag mistake is not doing proper research on the hashtags you do use.

Before you decide to use a hashtag, plug it into Instagram or Twitter search and see what kind of images and messages pop up. A little research can save you a lot of hassle in the end.

Some of my favorite hashtag research tools are:

  • RitetagRitetag lists all the trending and popular Twitter hashtags. You can plug in your own keywords to review performance and related hashtags along with a slew of other statistics like hashtag retweets and views. A handy trick: Just tweet to @ritetagAPI like this: “@ritetagAPI #YourHashtagHere stats” to receive a tweet with a link to your hashtag analytics in seconds.
  • Tagboard – Sometimes I like plugging a keyword into Tagboard and being able to look at one grid of content being shared with the specific hashtag. Additionally the layout makes it visually easier to pick up new, related hashtags from user captions.
  • Hashtags.org – This one’s a classic, and another simple, visual way to do a little research on new hashtags you may be missing out on.
  • Tagsforlikes.com – This tool is specific to Instagram, but will also break down the most popular hashtags by different subjects.

3. Ignoring Local Hashtags

This is a big one if you have a brick and mortar location or you need to target customers in a specific area – getting involved in the community is a great way to build relationships and gain exposure within the community you’re trying to reach.

Test using hashtags related to a location like #NewYorkCity, or #IloveNewYork. If you’re supporting a local event, use the event hashtag to get in front of others who are also taking part.

4. Not Testing For New Hashtags

You’ll always have your tried, tested, and trusted hashtags that pull engagement from the right audience. The hashtag mistake you can make here is getting too comfortable with those hashtags and not bothering to explore new ones.

Take the time to refresh your list of hashtags every once in a while and test a few new ones. Everything is in constant shift when it comes to social media, and some hashtags will eventually just be too saturated with content. There’s room to discover new hashtags that may work more efficiently for your brand or business.

5. Not Using Related Hashtags

Tying into my previous point, not using hashtags related to your main hashtag can be a big mistake.

Sometimes you want to be a little bit more laid back or conversational – which could be a great way to build a deeper connection with your audience. Keep more relaxed hashtags within context of the post and your brand.

As an example, Herschel Supply posted a video of a man loading a hotel cart full of Herschel luggage with the caption “Packed for every possibility #WellPacked #HerschelSupply”. The related hashtag used here not only tied into the media used for the post, but also ties into the product, and will most likely appeal to users that travel often.

6. Using A Million Hashtags In Your Captions

I love simplicity, and I’ll sometimes use a hashtag as my caption. A mistake I see often is people using a bunch of hashtags in one caption – or just a bunch of hashtags as a caption.

Hashtag over use will kill your message as readers tend to ignore captions with too many hashtags.

The basic rule of thumb is to use 1-3 hashtags within the messaging of your post. More than that is just a cluttered mess that is hard to read.

7. Not Keeping Track Or Analyzing Hashtag Use

Many brands and businesses use hashtags to help them keep track of posts during a specific campaign (like a contest), and analyzing and measuring your campaign’s success (or lack thereof) is essential in your social media marketing development.

One way to analyze the success of a campaign, or to measure the growth of your reach is to get into the habit of hashtag tracking. This can be simple like keeping track of the number of posts a specific hashtag has, or you can use tools to help you measure impressions and more.

8. Not Using Hashtags at All

The biggest mistake you can make, by far, is to not use hashtags at all.

Unless you have a big brand with tons of organic engagement don’t pass up using hashtags in tweets and on Instagram posts. When you’re building your brand on social media, any bit of extra, targeted exposure helps – and hashtags are a quick way to gain that exposure.

Hashtags are also a search tool, so using them for social media will help more people find your profiles, posts, and content.

But here’s the catch – in order to use hashtags for growth, they must be used strategically. Let’s look at a few facts:

  • Tweets containing hashtags get 2x more engagement than tweets without hashtags
  • Tweets with 1-2 hashtags garner 21% more engagement, but using more than 2 hashtags drops engagement down by 17%
  • 25% of tweets get retweeted, but 40% of tweets that include hashtags get retweeted
  • Users are 55% more likely to retweet something with at least 1 hashtag.

The bottom line is: when you learn to use hashtags in your social media marketing correctly you’ll be able to reach people who are interested in your topic or content who are not part of your network – therefore fostering growth and brand awareness online.

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