June 30, 2021
Hashtags are a powerful social media tool that help you gain more followers and exposure and increase your social interaction if used properly. But they are also confusing, and as a result, they are ignored or not used properly.
Even if you have never used a hashtag yourself, you see them all the time. They are represented by a pound sign and one or more words. Example: #decoratedapparel
Mark Coudray, Coudray Growth Technologies, San Luis Obispo, Calif., an industry pioneer and screen print veteran who now specializes in helping companies optimize their growth and profits, offers this definition: “A hashtag is a keyword or phrase used on social media to group posts by subject matter. Hashtags allow your content to be found more easily and shared with others who might be interested.”
Every time you add a hashtag to a social media post, you automatically increase the number of people who will see it. Your content is visible to anyone searching on the topic giving you exposure to many who are outside your present community.
A great example is an Instagram post from Industry Print Shop, Austin. It did a shirt for Austin Beer Works, which made an Imperial Stout craft beer that sold out immediately. The following hashtags were included with this Instagram post: #CustomBrandedMerchandise, #screenprinting, #ATX, #austinbeerworks, #imperialstout, and #SaveTexasBreweries.
If you click on the #CustomBrandedMerchandise, it takes you to its own page showing hundreds of examples of decorated logoed apparel. Some are from Industry Print Shop as well as other companies. It’s easy to understand if someone was looking for ideas or providers, why they might research that hashtag.
The #screenprinting hashtag has 4.7 million posts. While few people are seeing the first several million, it shows what type of printing and designs are trending, which is valuable knowledge when creating and marketing designs. I’m sure some browsers are using it to look for a screen printer.
From a competitive research standpoint, it’s a tool to use to see what others are doing and how you compare.
#ATX stands for Austin, Texas, where the shop is located. Industry Print Shop gives a shoutout to its client with #austinbeerworks as well as the specific beer #imperialstout. And finally, #saveourbreweries brings attention to other craft beer distilleries and screen printers who print shirts for them.
Hashtags are most commonly used at the end of a post, but they also can be incorporated into blog post titles and articles headings to make it easier for people searching for information related to those topics.
If you are on multiple platforms, use the same hashtags at the end of each post title or tweet text. This allows you to further leverage your content and brand value.
Not using hashtags is like skipping a networking event or activity where you get to meet new prospects and learn about new opportunities.
Says Coudray, “When you use hashtags, they allow you to be identified with a topic that’s trending on a particular platform. Your voice can be added alongside other observations and perspectives. It’s a great way to establish and reinforce your authority and expertise on subjects you know a lot about.”
What hashtag you choose matters. As noted above, on Instagram #screenprinting has 4.7 million posts. #T-shirts, which is up to 12 million posts, is subdivided into custom and if you click on custom, you will see further subcategories of “design,” “shirt,” “apparel,” “dye,” “cotton,” “birthday,” “embroidery,” “silkscreen,” and “polyester.”
For beginners, experts recommend starting out using what is known as “content hashtags.” These are words related to your product, service, market or area of expertise. Examples would be those mentioned above as well as #embroidery, #tshirtprinting, #DTG, #fashion, #transfers, etc.
But as you gain experience, you can increase your viewability by using more specific words. Compare the numbers of #screenprinting to the #CustomBrandedApparel hashtag used by Industry Print Shop, which has less than 500 posts. The more specific, descriptive words you use, the better. Notice that Industry Print Shop still included #screenprinting, but then it narrowed down the field with more specific words.
Making hashtags even more valuable is that Instagram now lets visitors follow a hashtag in the same way you might follow a person or company, so fans get notifications when new posts are made.
Coudray offers this advice when choosing your words, “Be intentional with your hashtags. Think ahead about the result you are hoping to achieve. It does not need to be a call to action or a direct pitch to “buy my stuff.” Rather, you want to be seen as a trusted expert and knowledgeable guide who can solve their problem.”
Stay tuned for more insights and tips on how to optimize hashtags to promote your business in next month’s column.
Deborah Sexton is the former editor of Impressions Magazine, where she worked from 1981 to 2001. She now owns her own company, Saracen Communications, doing digital media marketing, copywriting, and public relations for companies in the decorated apparel industry. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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