The Jury is In: Hashtags Usefulness Confirmed
To some publishers, social media is turning into a bit of a ho-hum, something they can do in their sleep and really don't need any more guidance on, thank you very much. Others still find the ins and outs, the ebbs and flows, the twists and turns of the social media scene fascinating and worth keeping up with. I count myself among that category.
Case in point: hashtags. A half dozen years ago or so, when I wrote my book about search engine optimization, hashtags weren't good for much. The work I did with them revealed that from a search standpoint, a keyword phrase, used without hashtags, would deliver more, and better, traffic than a hashtag rallying point for many topics and trends.
Today studies show that hashtags are useful. And they're not. Actually, it depends. It depends on where, when, and how you use them; and, with appreciation to buffersocial for their post on the topic, I'm going to give you a handy rule of thumb you can keep for reference when contemplating use of hashtags.
On Twitter, hashtags are a big yes. Research from The Salesforce Marketing Cloud's Buddy Media shows that tweets that use hashtags are twice as likely to garner interactions as tweets without. Even a single hashtag shows a 55% increase in retweets. Be careful, though: tweets using more than two hashtags see an interaction drop of 21%. Try for popular and directed hashtags (for example, "single sign-on" or "infosec" if you're in the field of internet security, "amwriting" if you're a writer). RiteTag is one handy little app that can help choose the best hashtags for your posts.
2. Google Plus
Hashtags on Google Plus are optional to add, but oh-so-handy for search. Since the network is part of Google, Google will add hashtags automatically and log your post in its database. Here, you're also able to add hashtags to comments, which can help both you and the original poster. Focus more on content and keywords and you should be good to go.
This is where hashtags have been found to have no benefit. In fact, findings showed that posts with hashtags were significantly less successful than posts without. Here, as elsewhere, it's worth continuing to test to establish your own benchmarks; in this case it is unclear whether hashtags themselves or the overuse of them was the problem. The overuse of hashtags can make a post look like spam, especially if the hashtags are uncommon or too long.
Instagram seems to be the diametric opposite to its corporate parent. Research has concluded that on Instagram the more hashtags the better. That's right, posts with 11 or more hashtags won the popularity contest on this picture- sharing site. The study was done on accounts with less than a thousand followers, so niche publishers in particular might consider this approach.
Love 'em or hate 'em, hashtags are a part of the social media scene. Use them properly, and they will help you grow your audience.
Linda Ruth, as president of PSCS Consulting (www.PSCSConsulting.com), offers communication companies worldwide the keys to magazine launches, search engine optimization and audience development online and at retail. She is a pioneer in the fields of Online Audience Optimization (OAO) and gamification for content publishers. Her books, "Internet Marketing for Magazine Publishers" ; "How to Market your Newsstand Magazine"; and "Secrets of SEO for Publishers" can be found on Amazon. Find her online at Google Plus, Magazine Dojo, LinkedIn, and Twitter @Linda_Ruth.