Hashtag, smashtag, what's all the fuss about over what used to just be called a pound sign! I am here today with Casey LeBrun, Marketing Strategist and one of their social media trendsetters to visit today about insights and trends affecting how outdoor industry marketing content creators should be using the hashtag.
Trends in the Use of Hashtags
Ron- Casey, thanks for joining me today on The Digital Outdoorsman. Refresh me for a minute, what is a hashtag and is it a fad or here to stay?
Casey- People are more likely to forget that # stood for "pound sign" than the fact it's use is now ubiquitous with its use in some movie or sitcom with the character saying, "oh yeah, #inyourface." It's here to stay. Using relevant hashtags with your social media posts you are cataloging your post by "topic." This makes it easier for the people in your potential audience you are trying to reach to find you. This increases your brand awareness and engagement. There is more information available in the Fundamentals of Digital Marketing for the Outdoor Industry.
Best Practices for Different Platforms
R- Ok, let's talk a bit about best practices for different platforms. What are you seeing?
C- Let's start with Twitter. Hashtags really got their start with this platform. Based on research from Budda Media, Tweets with hashtags get two times more engagement. Buddy Media’s research also showed that the volume of hashtags bears monitoring: one or two hashtags appear to be the max. When you use more than two hashtags, your engagement actually drops by an average of 17 percent. Remember with Twitter, you only have so much space to use.
R- With Google being the dominant search engine, what about their Google + platform?
C- Google+ automatically gives your posts hashtags based on their content, but you can also edit them or add your own. Also unique about Google+: You can add hashtags in your comments as well as your post – double the opportunities to be found.
R- What about Instagram?
C- Instagram is a beacon for hashtagging relevant topics. Its popularity is growing and should be a priority focus for the outdoor industry. When you consider it's an ideal platform for video and the trend in video is booming, it is perfectly logical to create great content and maximize its share.
I read recently read in a HubSpot post summarizing some research by Livestream that:
- 80% of Lifestream’s survey respondents would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog (Livestream, 2016).
- 34) 82% of Lifestream’s survey respondents prefer live video from a brand to social posts (Livestream, 2016)
R- So what do the experts recommend for the number of hashtags to use with an Instagram posting?
C- According to TrackMaven, engagement is highest on those with a minimum of at least 11 hashtags.
Even though you can use up to 30 hashtags for each Instagram post, what you really want to do is put yourself in your audience's shoe's when determining what hashtags to use.
R- Is there an issue with spam on Instagram?
C- People tend to only think of spam as something related to email, but there is a universe of spam on other mediums and spam on Instagram has to do with certain banned hashtags. Marketers using Instagram should be aware of these and again, make sure they are using appropriate hashtags to tag their visual topics for appropriate users.
R- Is there a list of banned hashtags outdoor industry marketers can check out?
C- Yes, like the U.S. State Department's list of countries U.S. businesses are prohibited from doing commerce, Instagram has what’s called the Instagram Shadowban. Essentially, a shadowban is when Instagram withholds the distribution of your photo or video on Instagram due to “inappropriate content.” Inappropriate content can vary widely, but usually it has to do with the content of the photos or videos themselves or spam-like behavior such as using bots to engage with users or banned hashtags. You can find specific information on this by going to the Instagram website and search for "shadowbanning." Instagram also provides information on tips and tricks to avoid being shadowbanned.
R- What about Facebook, the 800-pound gorilla?
C- That one is pretty straightforward,
Facebook posts without a hashtag fare better than those with a hashtag.
Hashtags have only been around on Facebook since June 2013, and three months later, research from EdgeRank Checkerfound that using hashtags on Facebook has zero positive effect on reach. Posts without hashtags outperform those with hashtags. However, there has been some recent research that marketers should consider along with the more historic research mentioned. Social Bakers studied posts in February of this year and found that using hashtags might not be the main worry, but rather using too many hashtags is a killer on Facebook. We recommend testing and collecting data from which to make a decision.
Selecting Your Platforms to Share Your Story
R - If it's good for increasing brand awareness and engagement, shouldn't you connect all your social media together to maximize the use of hashtags in your digital marketing for outdoor recreation industry?
C- As a marketer, you might expect a "yes" answer to that, but it's really a "no." Consumers are smart. They want to buy and not be sold. Sometimes you don’t want everything connected to everything. Social media is the perfect example. Many of us have a presence across multiple platforms, but we don't necessarily want to share the same things across all of them. Not all consumers are created equal.
Your professional LinkedIn network probably doesn’t need to see your Instagram from last Saturday night (trend-setting at the newest bar or that food photo). And, no offense to you, but your far-flung Twitter or Sina Weibo followers might not care about a Facebook post that is proudly sharing a hundred photos of your son's wedding.
R- Okay then if you only want to selectively connect your social media, how do marketers in the outdoor industry do that?
C- Thankfully, there is a way to connect everything — without connecting every post. You can use a hashtag for more than topic identification. You can create custom hashtag applets or use existing hashtag applets found at IFTTT to share specific content with specific audiences. For example, there are hashtag applets that will:
- Only push status updates to your wider follower base that you know they’ll find interesting.
- Grow and manage your communities in a tailored way that keeps things relevant for everyone.
- Let the right people know where you are, at the right time.
R- We are about out of time, are there resources you would recommend to assist in selecting the right hashtags to use in posts?
C- Yes. First, if you have influencers in your segment, take a look at what they are using. Second, there are a number of services that can provide you data from which to make your decisions. These include:
Listeners should also check out a blog on this topic by Hongkiat. It has a list of 10 services to consider in their hashtag research.
R- So summarize for us on how many hashtags to use.
C- Generally, try to keep it to two hashtags for Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and Twitter posts. You want to include a minimum of 11 for Instagram, but don't exceed 30 and more importantly, put yourself in your audience's shoe's when determining what hashtags to use for outdoor sports marketing.
R- Thanks, Casey. We will check back in again before the end of the year.