How to Use Hashtags

If you’ve used social media for any period of time, then you’re aware of the existence of hashtags.

But have you taken the time to learn what they are and how they’re used? If not, consider this article a crash course in how to use hashtags for your insurance agency’s social media.

What is a hashtag?

Stripped down, a hashtag is the number/pound symbol (#) placed in front of a word or phrase to create a searchable link. It’s used by social networks to categorize or “tag” posts.

If you click on a hashtag, it will show you other public posts by users on that website using the same hashtag. It’s a good way to make your post visible to people interested in a particular topic. For example, if you create a post containing #insurance, other users browsing that tag will be able to find your post, as well as any other post using that hashtag. All the major social networks use hashtags to some extent, but they’re most prevalent on Twitter and Instagram.

Hashtags originated in the 1990s on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) as a method of grouping conversations. They were adopted by Twitter in 2007 and quickly rocketed into mainstream use. Today, they’re utilized to great effect by businesses and marketing professionals.

Basic hashtag use

The easiest and most common way to implement hashtags in your social media is by using content hashtags. “Content hashtags” are simple ways of getting more visibility for your everyday posts. They aren’t necessarily popular, but they will help anyone interested in that topic find your content. Many common words and phrases can be hashtagged.

Examples include items like #Monday, #lunchbreak, or #tacos. If you’re not sure whether you should hashtag something, do a search beforehand to see if other people are already using the hashtag. If no one is using it, then chances are that it’s not worth hashtagging.

Trending hashtags

On Twitter, there is always a sidebar that shows the current trending topics and hashtags. Using these can be a great way to get visibility for your agency by getting involved in a hot topic. Obviously some trending hashtags will be too controversial for your business to touch, or else not relevant to your business at all. However, keeping up on what’s trending and incorporating them into your content where possible is a great way to gain followers and maximize engagement.

It’s also good to be aware of recurring trending hashtags (such as #tbt [Throwback Thursday], #MusicMonday, or #WednesdayWisdom), and hashtags associated with holidays or events. You wouldn’t want to miss out on #Christmas or #SuperBowl, would you?

Brand hashtags

It can be good to have a hashtag that is unique to your business. This is a tag that followers and/or clients can use to interact with and spread the word about your agency. It can be your agency name (#SmithInsurance), or a brief tagline that people associate with your company (#TheInsurancePeople).

Brand hashtags should be short and easy to spell. Encourage your followers to use them when posting reviews or testimonials about your agency.

Campaign hashtags

Campaign hashtags are similar to brand hashtags, in that you create them to be exclusively tied to your company. However, where brand hashtags are meant to be evergreen, a campaign hashtag may only last a few days or weeks. But creating a campaign hashtag can be one of the easiest and most effective ways to launch a successful marketing campaign.

When creating a campaign hashtag, be sure to do your research. Does this hashtag already exist? Whatever hashtag you choose, you want it to be associated with your company. If it already exists, come up with something else.

A campaign hashtag can be hugely successful when used for things like contests, challenges or events. Many companies have gotten really creative with this. For instance, you could ask your auto insurance customers to share pictures of their vehicles with the hashtag #ShowUsYourCar. The responses you get can be really entertaining, and they’ll increase your agency’s exposure.

Hashtag Don’ts

It’s good to be creative with your hashtag use, but there is some etiquette involved. Below are a few things you should avoid.

  • Don’t use too many hashtags

#Never #flood your #post with #hashtags. It’s distracting, confusing and comes across as unnatural. If you have a bunch of hashtags that you think would work well with your post, try to select just one or two that you think are most relevant.

  • Don’t use lengthy hastags

#LongHashtagsAreAHugePainAndYouShouldntUseThem. There are no hard and fast rules for how long a hashtag should be, but it’s usually best to restrict them to two or three words.

  • Don’t use irrelevant hashtags

You may think it could be a good idea to put a popular hashtag in your post just to get more exposure, but it’s best to avoid this. It looks like what it is: A grab for attention–and people with good content don’t need to grab for attention! So remember that #pizza doesn’t belong in your post about farm liability insurance, even if it does have 300k tweets.

  • Don’t create hashtags without proofreading

Social media has seen some pretty spectacular hashtag fails due to lack of proper proofreading. When creating a hashtag, be sure to use proper capitalization, and double-check that it won’t be misinterpreted. It can also help to verify your idea with another person before posting–just to make sure others are reading what you want them to read into your hashtag!

  • Don’t be afraid of using hashtags

With all these rules, using hashtags can seem a little intimidating. But don’t fear the hashtag! As a marketing tool for your agency, they are endlessly useful. Take a look at your current social media posts. What could you be hashtagging?

–By Mallory DuPuy

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