Ah hashtags, love them or hate them they’ve spread like the plague from their once confined home on Twitter to almost every other social platform. LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, if you scroll through your feed on any of these sites you’re almost certain to come across a torrent of hashtags. Personally, I’m what you may call a ‘Hashtag Agnostic‘, I’m sat on the fence so to speak. I see the power they offer to help our brands reach new, engaged audiences, but I hate the way they’re often used, thrown onto the end of a post or tweet, the more the merrier. I know I should be using hashtags in every social media post I write but I’m terrified of becoming an #obnoxious #hashtag #overuser.
With that in mind I’m going to take a look at hashtag best practice on LinkedIn. When should we be using them? Which hashtags should I use? How many? Where do I put them? Don’t worry, all will be answered and by the end both you and I will be using hashtags like pros!
Hashtags: what are they and why should I use them?
Quite simply a hashtag is a way of associating your post, tweet or even photo with a particular topic. Users on social platforms can either subscribe to certain hashtag to receive frequent updates on a topic they’re interested in, or search for a hashtag if they want information on a specific topic. Think of them like keywords people can use to find you posts. On LinkedIn for example I’m subscribed to the #digitalmarketing hashtag, this means that in addition to posts from my connections I also see posts from anyone putting #digitalmarketing in one of their posts. This is a great way to spread your post not only to your connections but a vast audience that’s already shown an interest in the topic you’re talking about. Powerful Stuff!
Hashtag misuse: how to avoid being ‘that person’
I’m sure you’re thinking “David, this is great! I’ll head straight out and post a photo of my company’s latest innovation and I’ll use #product #innovation #mycompany #awesome #buyme #brandnew #new #everything #everyone #everyonewillseethis #NO!
Stop. This is why some people hate hashtags.
I know it can be tempting to use every possible hashtag you can think, after all more hashtags means a bigger audience right? Well . . . yes, but even if you can send your message out to every person in the world it will be of no use if either:
- They’re not interested in your post’s topic.
- The post is annoyingly unreadable because of the amount of hashtags in it.
You see when you post to a social network, your content is very rarely sent to everyone you want it to be sent to, be that your connections, friends, followers or people following a certain hashtag. Instead it will only show your post to a small sample of these people and only if they engage with it will the post be shown to more and more people. After all why would LinkedIn, Facebook or any other site want users’ feeds to be filled with worthless content they have no interest in? If it’s boring to the users, it’s bad for the site. If you want a longer explanation of this process and all the factors involved in deciding if your post gets shown then check out Meet Edgar’s great article on Facebook’s methods here.
In short, the more broad topic hashtags you use, the bigger your audience and the lower the chance they’ll be interested in your post.
The second reason to limit your hashtag use has nothing to do with the platform its self but the user. If we don’t like the way a post looks or reads, we won’t engage with it. Let’s take a look at the example to the left…
What do you think? For me this tweet is not only hard to read but downright annoying. Even after reading it multiple times I’m still not completely sure what the point of it is and I’ve wasted valuable time out of my day trying to discern it. You don’t want to be ‘that person’.
So I know what not to do . . . now what’s the right approach?
Together we’ve learned what not to do but that begs the question, how do we use hashtags while avoiding these pitfalls? The answer is simple, only use between 1-3 relevant hashtags in each post you make. It’s worth taking an extra minute before posting to consider the optimal audience for this post and choose your hashtags accordingly. We want the right people to find your content, not anyone and everybody.
In addition to choosing the right hashtags and the correct amount to use it’s important we think about where we put them in our posts. On twitter, where characters per post are limited to 280 and space is at a premium a preferred placement is in the body of your tweet, simply putting the ‘#’ sign before words you were planning on writing anyway. For an example, see the tweet below. This works well as long as you keep the tweet easy on the eye and avoid using too many hashtags as discussed above.
On LinkedIn however, we are privileged. We can write posts with up to 1,300 characters, and in articles such as this one we can write even more! With this in mind we don’t need to use hashtags instead of normal words as we would on twitter, we’ve got all the space in the world baby!
Hashtags on LinkedIn are therefore best saved for the end of your post, they are for the computers to read after all, not us people. I even choose to leave a line or two of space between my post’s text and the hashtags separating them even more. I’ve included an example from my own LinkedIn feed below.
Wow what a journey! We’ve covered what to do, what not to do and well . . . that’s about it, but if you follow these tips you’ll be well on your way to increasing your audience, engaging with them more and so long as you stick to my advice, not becoming ‘that hashtag person’.
Of course these are only my opinions and are based on my experience of what works in both my own and my company’s posts, you may have had a different experience or another insight I’ve overlooked. Let me know what you think in the comments and together we can help improve everyone’s hashtag etiquette.