How to Use Hashtags to Expand Your Social Media Influence

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Whether you are an experienced business owner or an aspiring entrepreneur, the ability to leverage social media to your advantage is an essential part of the job. As a freelance writer, a good deal of my business is going to be handled online, so I can use any help I can get to make things easier.

Thankfully, I recently had the opportunity to attend a workshop with Barbara Caine dealing with Instagram and how using hashtags can help gain followers. She explained that hashtags were the way that social media users find like-minded people online, so just adding relevant hashtags to our posts would lead to more followers in no time.

After making sure that everyone in the group had an Instagram account set up, Barbara tasked each of us to come with a word bank of at least fifty hashtags, broken down into five areas:

1) Ten hashtags off the top of your head (ex: #entrepreneur, #writers)
2) Ten hashtags related to your business or industry (ex: #blogging, #ResearchDay)
3) Ten hashtags related to locations your business serves (ex: #NWI, #Chicago)
4) Ten hashtags related to target audiences (ex: #startups, #editors, #producers)
5) Ten hashtags that are trending on social media (ex: #love, #SEO, #NowPlaying)
Note: Hashtagify is an excellent resource to find out what hashtags are trending.

Once you have your list, you should put them all in one spot (a Word document or Excel spreadsheet). Then organize the hashtags into categories of no more than thirty each (it’s fine to have some overlap between categories). Instagram allows for up to thirty hashtags per post, so it makes sense to include as many relevant hashtags per post as possible, and if you have pre-set categories of hashtags you can just copy and paste them into a post rather than type out every single hashtag for every post.

While these tactics were devised to get the most out of Instagram, they are also helpful for most other social media platforms. Of course most social media sites do not allow for the same density of hashtags as Instagram: Twitter‘s character limit means you should choose just a few relevant hashtags per post, and while hashtags are not used as often on Facebook, there are benefits to using them properly.

Maintaining a strong presence on social media can be time-consuming, so Barbara also recommended looking into automated posting services that can streamline the process for you. Barbara recommends Meet Edgar, though she admits it is one of the more expensive options. If you’d like a less expensive alternative, she also suggested Recur Post or Hoot Suite.

A few other tips Barbara had to offer:

 However many people you follow online, you want at least as many following you. If you
came across a profile who follows 300 people and has seven followers, what would you
think of them?
 Avoid following accounts that don’t post anything. If they aren’t making posts, what are you following?
 Different social media sites require different time investments: you probably only need to
post on Instagram once a day, but Twitter is in real time, so posting around four times a day
is crucial to get noticed.
 Avoid posting the same content across multiple platforms. It’s fine on occasion, but people
who follow you on multiple sites might get annoyed if they keep seeing the same content.

All in all, I learned a great deal from Barbara, and am looking forward to putting this knowledge to
use online.

Mark Buckner

Mark Buckner is a freelance writer and editor from Hammond, Indiana. A recent graduate of Purdue University Northwest, he has edited two books and written on topics ranging from social media to science fiction film. At this time, he is open to other freelance writing and editing opportunities.