(Part of my “Better Online Content” series of posts: quick tips on creating more effective content that takes advantage of the social web’s unique publishing environment.)
If you’re a marketing communications person who wants to connect with new customers, guests, or your “perfect visitor,” plus increase the chances of your online content being noticed at all, then you need to use hashtags when it’s appropriate to do so.
A hashtag – #wordgoeshere – is a way of grouping together all related content items in one place and, most importantly, making them searchable and more easily trackable.
You might also think of them as a flexible way to set up a focused micro-search engine, because people use hashtags to search social networks for specific information and influential people around a topic, rather than Googling around and dealing with huge piles of possibly irrelevant results.
Quick Hashtag Examples & How-to
When you add a hashtag to the body of a tweet on Twitter, it will be included when someone uses Twitter’s search engine to look for tweets with that hashtag.
On Instagram, you add it to the photo description, or in the photo’s comment box, and people searching that hashtag within the Instagram app or using a desktop tool like Iconosquare will see it.
Let’s say you are in the marketing department at a museum or historic site, and you want to learn more about digital marketing best practices and trends. Here are all the latest tweets with the hashtag #musesocial – people who added that hashtag to their tweet because it related in some way to the use of social media in museums.
To give you a more comprehensive picture, there’s a service called Tagboard that lets you collect all hashtagged content across multiple social channels.
Here is a Tagboard of all the current #musesocial tweets, Instagram posts, and Facebook updates.
Where Do Hashtags Work Best?
Twitter, and even more so on Instagram.
Do hashtags work on Facebook? Yes, but few people use them and they’re mostly seen as clutter.
Do hashtags work on Pinterest? Yes, but in Pin descriptions only. Although I think the power of Pinterest search is under-appreciated, I’m not sure that hashtags are particularly valuable there. Regular words work just fine in the search box.
Do hashtags work on LinkedIn? No. They don’t even hyperlink. A bunch of hashtags and @ symbols on LinkedIn tells me you’re auto-posting from somewhere else and ticking a delusional box that says, “Yeah, I’m active on LinkedIn!”
Do hashtags work on Google+? Yes. Does anyone care? Probably not.
Hashtags in Tourism
Many tourism organizations use and monitor a specific hashtag, like #LouisvilleLove in Louisville KY, #MTLmoments in Montréal, #SeeOKC for Oklahoma City OK, #VisitMS in Mississippi, #ILoveSharjah in the United Arab Emirates, and #LoveFL for the state of Florida. Many times you’ll find the hashtag that they’re using in their Twitter or Instagram bio.
Beyond using conference hashtags as free distance learning, here’s how I’d recommend getting started….
** Make it simple. Participate in the “hashtag of the day:”
- #MusicMonday or #MountainMonday
- #WineWednesday or #WaterfallWednesday
- #TBT (the very popular Throwback Thursday, which you actually WILL find people using on Facebook)
- #SS or #SelfieSunday
** My personal favorites for tourism-related niches:
- #BuiltHeritage – historic preservation & architecture
- #EconDev – economic & downtown development & revitalization issues
- #MuseSocial – museums & social media
- #MuseTech – museums & technology
- #FindYourPark – parks in the U.S., because 2016 is the National Park Service’s centennial. Can be state & local parks, too.
- #cycling – bike tourism is huge
- #birding – NOT “birdwatching”
- #craftbeer & #craftspirits
That’s my quick-and-dirty introduction to using hashtags in social media, especially in tourism and destination marketing.
If you have hashtag advice or want to share some of your own favorites, the comment box below is open!
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Thanks for that list of hashtags – it is really helpful, specially the museum tags that I did not know of.
Thanks, Anuradha, I tried to include a few things that might be new even to experienced hashtag users.
By the way, we just confirmed that the next #tourismchat on Twitter will be about museum marketing. It’s February 25, 2016 but it’s at 1 pm Eastern which unfortunately will be midnight your time, I think. 🙁 We’ll tweet a transcript, though.
A question that I struggle with is how to find the best hashtags. Also: Is it best to load up your Instagram posts with them (I notice many people put about twenty in their first comment after their picture). Thanks Sheila!
There are lots of research tools – https://www.marketingtechblog.com/hashtag-research-tools/ – but I do most of my research manually, & I start with the search tool in the Instagram app.
When looking for hashtags for a knitted scarf photo, for example, I started with #knitting (don’t over-complicate things!) & looked to see which other hashtags people used when they used that one. I picked the popular variants of each one – #fiberart was more popular than #fiberarts & don’t forget the alternate #fibreart spelling – and built out from there. I actually took a photo of my results & posted it on the Tourism Currents Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/TourismCurrents/photos/pb.131649119002.-2207520000.1454082205./10153434162969003/?type=3&theater
And yes, I use only one or two hashtags in the photo description, with the rest going in a clump as a comment so they’re still search-able, but don’t make the photo display look so messy.
The key is to research first, THEN upload the photo or prep the tweet when you are “armed & ready” with the relevant hashtags.
What a helpful post, Sheila! Great strategies for using hashtags & I learned some new ones, like #musesocial & #builtheritagethat will really come in handy! Thanks. 🙂
Thanks so much, Tui, I use that #builtheritage one all the time in smaller towns, too. Also use #archilovers for cool buildings, & if I can figure out what is is, the period or style, like #ArtDeco.
thing is if you search ‘#something’ or just ‘something’ on twitter you get exactly the same results. so it is not true that adding the hashtag improves searchability of your tweet. I think you have completely missed the point in your blog. Hashtags are in fact a way of creating and using brands. I can say #2016 in my tweet and people know that 2016 is the subject of the tweet. That’s all. So # is nothing much really.
It’s true that you can search plain, un-hashtagged words on Twitter without any problem (I have a TweetDeck column set up for the word “tourism” – although it’s gotten pretty junky lately – plus ones for my name and my business name) but for tools like Tagboard to work, you still need the hashtag. And yes, brands like having a specific brand-related hashtag because they can track it & use it as an awareness or attention metric.
Wow, that’s a much nicer reply to Tony than I could have written, which may be why you are the blogger and I am not. Props to you, Sheila.
I was pleasantly surprised by the usefulness of your post since I didn’t know I had anything else to learn about hashtags. I am going to share this, I’m so impressed. ?
Oh, I start out glass-half-full on commenters until they really go off the rails. 🙂
Glad you liked the post!
thanks Sheila. I’d be interested to read a blog post ‘Will Twitter Survive?’