How To Leverage Hashtags
Hashtags I feel like are a really hot ticket topic. Everybody who comes into my classes really wants to know more about hashtags. I think just kind of coming into social media, hashtags have not been around for all that long. If you're new to social media, they're a complete mystery. I think those of us in here might feel fairly confident about our knowledge of hashtags. I think there are some nuances to hashtagging that I want to talk about. In general, the purpose of hashtags is to add photos to a stream of related images. It could be overall images in the Instagram world that have been hashtagged a certain thing. It could be hashtagging for a specific brand, like my nonprofit that I work for, the hashtags that we use to get image submissions for our week in feature. That's another way of organizing them. Hashtags could also be just organizational for my own purposes. I use a hashtag that is specific for the mirror selfies that I take with my niece. It's a very specific thing that I ...
do so that I hashtag is Pei plus Ruby, my name my plus niece's name. Hashtag Pei plus Ruby. I've been taking these photos since the start of Instagram 'cause my sister was pregnant with her when Instagram started. If you click into that hashtag now, you see all of the photos that I've taken in the seven and a half years that Instagram has been around. It's all just photos of me and my niece. If it wasn't for the hashtag, I would have no easy way of finding and consolidating all of those images. The hashtags that you give to images should be relevant and purposeful. You don't want to be hashtagging images, things purely for the sake of discovery if it's not actually relevant to the images. I think that's kind of hashtag abuse. There are community hashtags and branded hashtags. The difference between those is really that there are hashtags that have been started and are open for anybody, and obviously anybody can use any hashtag they want. That's one of the tricky things to balance in life, in the Instagram world is which hashtags to use and why. Community hashtags are generally hashtags that have been started with no specific audience in mind per say. Anybody can use them, contribute to them. These are things like from where I stand, photos taken of people's feet down over some interesting art piece or whatever. Outfit of the day, OOTD, I think is used a lot. That's a really popular community hashtag. Follow Friday is another. That's just like, a lot of people use that, hey I'm following these cool accounts, maybe you want to too. Examples of branded hashtags might be something like, shot on iPhone. That is an Apple branded hashtag. They started it and now it's used for so many of their campaigns. They want you to use it obviously, that's like free advertisement for them, if you're talking about their stuff. I'm lovin' it, I think is one of McDonald's hashtags, very branded. The branded hashtags don't need to include your name. They can, but they don't need to. They should be unique to your brand though. In making your posts, I think that a lot of us kind of have this secret hope that hashtags are the answer to Instagram success and by using a lot of them that that's gonna get us followers, it's gonna get our image seen by everybody. But really there's kind of a balance to strike with hashtags. It's fine to use a number of them. Like I said, make sure they're relevant. You can use up to 30 hashtags per post on Instagram but you really wanna limit yourself to more like 10. One good rule of thumb is that you shouldn't have more hashtags than text in your caption. I'm not saying that to encourage you guys to write more, I'm saying that to encourage you guys to hashtag a little bit more carefully and thoughtfully. You guys might of seen that some people will burry their hashtags in the comments. I think that's a really valid, wonderful way of doing it. The risk of putting hashtags in your original caption, especially when there's a large chunk of them, is that kind of has a negative impact on the viewer's experience I think. Too many maybe screams desperation, like I'm just trying to get this photo seen by as many people as possible and I don't care what the hashtags are, just look at my photo. It feels a little spammy, it's just kind of a turn off when you look at that original photo. If you wanna use a bunch of captions what I would suggest is either burying them in the comments. The original person who posts the photo is the only person who can hashtag it or whose hashtags are active rather. If I post a photo and one of you comes in and says, oh what a cool hashtag from where I stand photo, it won't actually go into that stream of photos until I say, oh great idea I'm gonna hashtag it, hashtag from where I stand, and then my photo will get pushed into it. It's only the original poster's use of that hashtag that pushes it into that stream of photos. I can't go into one of your photos and say, hey add this to my hashtag whatever for my nonprofit that I work for. It has to come from you. That counts whether it's in the caption or the comment. The effect of the hashtag in making it more discoverable or making your image discoverable by more people, is gonna be felt whether its in the caption or in the comment. You might as well put it in the comment unless it's really valuable to the caption itself that you're doing. Other people will do something like write their caption and put like dot dot dot dot dot dot dot dot and then put their hashtags way at the bottom so you have to really scroll to see them, that's another way to do it. It's fine if you feel comfortable and adept at doing that then totally do it that way. I find it's just easier to do it in the captions. With hashtags also follow trends and be respectful. I say this for things like, my Pei plus Ruby hashtag. Obviously that is my hashtag for me and my niece, right. That's not your hashtag, don't be using my hashtag. So, stuff like that. People thinking that they wanna get their photo seen by more people will hashcrash and take these hashtags that aren't theirs and start using them on their images. For the nonprofit that I work for, it's all about Bay Area imagery. We have somebody posting really wonderful photos but hashtagging them, they're all photos from the Middle East, they're really great photos, but it's not useful for me in any way because I wanna then reshare those images that have been hashtagged, but they have to be Bay Area images. In effect, it's making my job harder because I have to scroll by more images that are not relevant. So, be respectful of the hashtags that you're using. There always trends that come along, so follow those trends. It really does help with a little bit of momentum in your post. The other thing that I would say is to be sensitive, just overall in general be sensitive about world events, what's going on in the world around you. I feel like that's incredibly important to really know that your little social media world is not the only world that you should be living in. You should pay attention to the things that are happening around you as well. One of the examples that I have for this is, do you remember there was the bombing in Paris a few years ago, or shooting in Paris a few years ago? And everybody was starting to post these, I can't remember what the, there was a hashtag for, does anyone remember what that hashtag was?
Pray for Paris.
Pray for Paris, yeah. So there was the pray for Paris hashtag and people were sharing photos of Paris and saying my thoughts go out to you, my heart is broken, all of these really wonderful respectful ways to pay tribute to what was going on and to show support for that community. This was not intentionally done at all but it was a business on Twitter that had I think a scheduled post that went out, and it was some travel company that I follow, and it was like, Paris is so great to travel to in the spring. It just felt so wrong. I read that and I was so angry that that would have just popped up in my feed at that time. It's one of those, I know that it wasn't done intentionally because it was clearly scheduled and nobody was there pushing the button saying, I think it'd be great to talk about how wonderful Paris is. It's just one of those examples where there, so this applies for you guys too, if you start automating things, just do like a check-in every now and then to make sure things are still cool. Like everything's good for this to still go out. Hashtag best practices. Don't string too many words together. Don't spam. Don't use too many hashtags in one post. Spell carefully. I have this really wonderful example that I'm gonna show you. I took it from Saturday Night Live. Do you guys every watch the celebrity Jeopardy that they do on Saturday Night Live. There've been some really great ones over the years. There was one that had Sean Connery, it had somebody acting as Sean Connery on it. His whole deal was that he just kept combining all the category names, he just mushed them all together, didn't give them the spaces where they needed to be. This was one of their categories. I'm gonna show you and you can think of two ways that it could be read. (audience laughs) So, the category was an album cover, right? But, of course the joke was that the Sean Connery character kept saying the other way that it could be read. When you're creating your hashtags just think carefully. I mean, capitalizing letters helps, but in reality most hashtags do not maintain those capitalized letters so that's not gonna be your best solution either. And then the last thing about hashtags for this section, is really that I recommend selecting middle of the road hashtags. What that means is that you want your hashtag that you're selecting to be used by people, so you want it to be decently popular, but you don't want it to be too popular. I see this happen a lot and I would caution you against doing the same thing because I don't think it's a really effective way of using hashtags. I see stuff like, I had a great hashtag weekend with my hashtag love, we went to the hashtag beach and had a great hashtag time or whatever. Literally just filling in all the blanks with hashtags for single words and really popular words, like, took my hashtag dog to the hashtag beach. These are not actually helpful in any way shape or form. The way that hashtagging works is that when you hashtag the photo, it gets added to the stream of photos that are also being hashtagged that same thing. If I hashtag a photo it gets plopped into the most recent section and then slowly as more photos get added to that hashtag it gets just pushed further and further down. If I've hashtagged it something like, hashtag bike, that hashtag if you look on Instagram probably has millions of photos that have been hashtagged bike. Every minute there are, who knows how many photos being hashtagged bike. I'm gonna hashtag it bike and then in the next minute a hundred other people are gonna hashtag bike so suddenly my photo's already 100 photos deep a minute into my usage of it. A minute after I post it it's already way down deep. If am really interested in bikes and I wanna find a photo of a bike, and I go into hashtag bike, if I scroll I'm probably not gonna make it 100 photos or five minutes later I'm not gonna make it 500 photos deep to find your photo. That is a hashtag that is being used way too frequently, that is of zero use to you and your discoverability. If you want your photo to be seen, that doesn't help you at all. What I would suggest is using hashtags that are more specific. Maybe instead of hashtag bike, you do hashtag bike SF, biking marin or whatever. I feel like there's a lot of ways to sort of specialize your hashtags so that they're a little bit more, well they're more tailored to location or events or something like that. I'll talk about this right, I'm getting to what's on my next slide so I just wanna hold back for just a second. The take away for this is really you wanna use the hashtags that people are using. It could be location specific or event specific, like hashtag CreativeLive is a really good one for example. That kind of gives you, that's a branded hashtag, but that puts your photo. If any of you take a photo today and post it, hashtag it CreativeLive, it goes into this feed of other photos that have been hashtagged CreativeLive. It's relevant because you were here. This is where you were, what you were doing. And makes it so that selection of images that's in that hashtag much richer. That's kind of what you want. It's like community building a wonderful set of images. In terms of how to find hashtags, some people who are just getting started with it kinda don't really know where to begin. The easiest thing honestly is that the wonderful tool that Instagram has added fairly recently, the Instagram auto-fill. When you start hashtagging your image and your caption, you do the hashtag symbol, start typing it, and you'll see that'll suggest things for you. The most popular things or the things that you've used most recently. Maybe the things that your friends have used, I'm not really sure, but it's certainly the stuff that you used most recently and other related things. I have an account for my dog, very very important, for my two dogs, very important account. The really interesting thing for me is that I started this account about two years ago when we adopted our first dog and it's been really kind of interesting for me to see how to grow a new account these days. I grew my account in 2010 and 11, it was so different now. In growing this new account, I thought, hey, hashtags are supposed to really help with discoverability, I wanna get in on that. It'd be cool if I could get a few more people looking at this account of my dogs because my dogs are wonderful. Who doesn't wanna follow my dogs? I had never really posted photos of dogs before so I didn't really know what the hashtags were. I discovered that hashtag dogs of blank was a thing. I was like okay well probably hashtag dogs of San Francisco is a thing, how about dogs of SF. That's probably a thing. I would just kind of do searches for these and kind of see what popped up and then see how many photos had been hashtagged that amount. The way that it's supposed to work is that once you start typing the hashtag it auto-fills and gives you suggestions and also tells you how many other photos have been hashtagged with that tag. It's a little glitchy so sometimes it doesn't work perfectly but in general that's how it works. You can kind of see, I have one of my dogs is a pit bull and sometimes I'm like well okay what pit bull tags can I use so I start typing hashtag pit. And then maybe pittie, they call them pitties, p i t t i e s. So I type in p i t t i e and then I see what I'm given. There are always a bunch of suggestions. I might choose the one that has maybe 30,000 photos hashtagged with that versus 2 million photos. It's just a more middle of the road, less used, but still used enough that it might drive traffic kind of hashtag. My other dog is a lab pit mix, so I've used the hashtag labpit on her posts. Other people who have lab pit mixes have started following me as a result of that. It actually does really help and it's kinda cool to see it when it does work. Another way to discover hashtags is to search the posts of your peers and your competitors. What hashtags are they using that I might want to start using? It's kind of like how you discover other people to follow also. Just see what other people around you are doing, what are you using. Oh, that's a great idea, I didn't know there was a dogs of San Francisco hashtag, I'll start using that too. That's really useful. If you really wanna sort of take it to like an outside tool that can help you, I found one called hashtagify me. That is kind of cool. What it does is helps you explore and find related hashtags, so it works kind of like a word cloud. You can type in something like dogs of San Francisco and it'll give you this word cloud where different words or different sizes based on how many other words or how many other photos have been hashtagged with those words. It's just kind of a, I'm hashtagging dogs of San Francisco, and also dogs of SF, so dogs of SF might also pop-in as a suggested hashtag for people to follow in my little word cloud if they were to search for that.