Adding hashtags to your social posts can be a very effective strategy for growing your online presence and monitoring what your target audience is talking about. They are also an effective tool for brainstorming new ideas for content creation and to help you optimize your content for the marketing channels you use for your school. Using the best hashtags will never be more important than having good content; you need good content to start with and then using the right hashtags will support the quality content you are offering.
Basically, a hashtag is adding a pound sign (#) before a word or phrase, making your content easier to be found by your target audience. Many people use the hashtag as a way to sort through all of the online “noise” and find what they are looking for. The first hashtag was used on Twitter, but today they are effectively used on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, Tumblr, and Pinterest as well.
To make it easier to think about using hashtags as a marketing strategy, we can categorize hashtags into several categories. The ones I most often use are:
- content related (relevant)
- unique to your school (also called branding hashtags).
Content related hashtags are very common. We use these to signal to our audience or prospective audience what our content is about. Content hashtags are sometimes used to punctuate or communicate a strong emotional connection to the content. Local hashtags are used to signal our geographical location, so local populations can find you. Event hashtags often signal a special offer, class, conference or other important event. Holiday hashtags fall into the event category. Finally, hashtags that are unique to your school brand allow you to build awareness and support in your online community for your school.
Using the right hashtags on your social networks can have enormous benefits if they are used correctly. But how do you know what hashtags to use? Here are some tools and tips for researching hashtags.
Exclusive Bonus: Download the pdf of How to Research Hashtags for Your School's Social Media Posts to reference in the future and/or share with colleagues in your school.
Display Purposes is a handy little tool that you can use to find the most searched hashtags. Your goal is to come up in the top posts in your category so keep in mind that the super-popular hashtags will be very competitive. Try using the GRAPH feature of this tool to view different categories and sub-categories of the hashtag universe as it relates to your chosen topic.
Instagram has a powerful built-in hashtag research tool when using the platform on mobile devices. Using the SEARCH tool, type in a topic or category (such as “quotes”.) From there go to TAGS. A list of popular tags that relate to your topic will generate. You don’t always want to use the most popular tags, though, because you will have so much competition for those tags. Look for a less popular hashtag that other Instagrammers have gotten a high number of Likes for. The goal is to find the balance between niche hashtags and less common hashtags. Since Instagram allows you to add up to 30 hashtags, take the time to test and try different hashtags.
Hashtagify.me is a classic research tool that shows you the connection between your chosen hashtag and other hashtags that people are using in the same type of conversations. This tool gives you a graphic interpretation of the correlation between your hashtag and other relevant hashtags. With Hashtagify.me you can quickly and easily see exactly which hashtags are most used (it even gives you a popularity rating) and can follow those tags to find other relevant hashtags in each sphere. Other features include top influencers for your chosen hashtag, usage patterns, a wall for viewing how your hashtag is being used in the most popular real-time posts and Instagram tracking (paid version.)
Hashtracking is an analytics and reporting tool that specifically measures the effectiveness of your hashtags. With Hashtracking, you can follow a hashtag, collecting every tweet or post as it happens. Once you’re following a hashtag and collecting the data, you’re completely free to “slice and dice” the data at will. You can zoom in or out to look at any time period. Data continues to stream into your analytics as long as you’re tracking that hashtag. This a great tool for exploring,
Ritetag is a great site for testing your hashtags to see how effective they will be for engagement and positive outcomes. RiteTag can be added to Chrome as an extension; it is also usable in Twitter, Facebook, Buffer, Hootsuite, Sendible and Tweetdeck so that you can test your hashtags as you schedule your social posts. Basically, RiteTag uses a similar system for gauging the validity of a new password – using a red (#overused), blue (#good), green (#great) or gray (#unused) legend.
One of my favorite hashtag research tools, Tagboard is an excellent tool for exploring different (and new) hashtags. I just use the test feature (click on “Try it out. Search a #hashtag.) It’s a nice tool for viewing tweets and posts that others have published using your chosen hashtag. As an aside, it’s a good content curation and research tool as well.
Twubs is a Twitter tool that allows you to not only research hashtags but also registers your hashtag (great for events like a webinar or conference!) Twubs allows you to find everyone who is using a specific hashtag as well as promote your event using your unique hashtag. Other features of Twubs are creating a Live Report as your event is happening as well as offering a branded landing page that you can use to communicate with your community. You can also embed a hashtag feed on your website or landing page using the Twubs hashtag feed widget. In addition to getting your school found, hashtags help to develop the tone and voice of your online presence. Hashtags can provide a colorful commentary to give the context of your post and even to convey humor. By keeping your hashtags specific, relevant and simple, you will strengthen your social media presence, increase engagement and grow your targeted audience.
What is your favorite tool for researching hashtags? Please share your best hashtag research tip or tool in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you!