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Hashtags: The Keywords of Social Media

With the rising use of hashtags among various social media, combined with the decreasing importance of keywords as a ranking factor and recent changes Google has made to hide keyword data, it is more important than ever for online marketers as well as small businesses to understand this new trend and how to use it to their advantage.

Though some have gone as far to say that hashtags may one day replace keywords altogether, I don’t think this is the case. However, there are some undeniable parallels between search engine keywords and social media hashtags.

How Hashtags Are Like Keywords

1.) Organize Topics

In the same way that keywords have historically been used to organize various topics on a search engine, hashtags are now being used as a way to organize topics on social media.

2.) Summarize

Keywords help summarize the content of a page to search engine spiders. In the same way, hashtags summarize to readers the content of a post.

3.) Increase Visibility

Back when keywords were a significant ranking factor, they were used to boost a webpage’s position on the search engine results page in order to increase its visibility and exposure online. Today, hashtags are used in the same way, by allowing others outside of your friends, circles or followers to view your post by searching the hashtag.

4.) Research

In online marketing, we often conduct a keyword analysis (KWA) which teaches us about what search terms would be most beneficial to use in our content. In social media marketing, there are similar tools for hashtags, which show information on hashtags, such as how many times a hashtag has been used over a period of time or which topics are trending. Using hashtag analysis can provide valuable insight to marketers on their target market.

Advantages of Combining Hashtag Marketing with SEO

1.) Time Efficiency

While SEO is a more time consuming process, hashtags will make your posts visible the moment you post them. When done properly, they can help increase exposure and links to your content, which in turn will also help boost your ranking.

Though hashtags work quickly enough to give you the initial boost, they are also more fleeting than SEO, which is why the combination of both can help your marketing efforts in both the short term and long term.

2.) Connections

Keywords in SEO can help your site be indexed properly for the correct search terms, however the content on your website itself will still be a one-way conversation. Hashtags, however, can become a conversation between the brand and the consumer. A successful hashtag campaign can not only form a connection between a company and its target audience, but it can also encourage the consumer to spread the word about that company, giving it the potential to go viral.

3.) Sharable

As stated before, the share-ability of hashtags can help your campaign go viral. This is, of course, never a guarantee and “viral” is not always a positive thing. Though hashtags have the advantage of being sharable, they are also not easily controlled and can be “hijacked” and backfire.

An example of this is McDonalds’ #McDstories campaign. Originally intended to encourage users to share fond memories of the timeless fast food chain, it took a turn for the worse when tweeters instead began using the hashtag to rant about their negative experiences, like weight gain and food poisoning.

Despite this hashtag mishap, many other companies have had great success with similar campaigns, such as Oreo’s #DailyTwist campaign, which generated 433 million Facebook views, a 280% increase in shares, and 231 million media impressions.

Moral of the story: Although it comes with a risk, a hashtag campaign can be a great and inexpensive way to raise awareness by encouraging shares among users and creating a media buzz.

Tips for Hashtag Marketing

  1. Use trending topics
  2. Do not overuse hashtags or use spammy or irrelevant hashtags
  3. Do your research
  4. Consider your target audience
  5. Make it sharable
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