I know, I know, it’s one more thing that you have to add to your marketing checklist, and does it really matter anyway?
The answer is a resounding YES. And that’s not just this opinionated marketer’s opinion — you just need to look at the stats.
There are, on average, 6000 tweets sent per second. That’s over 350,000 tweets per minute, 500 million tweets per day, and around 200 BILLION tweets per year. You can actually watch live usage statistics for Twitter here.
Instagram now has an audience of 800 million monthly active users, and 500 million daily users, and clocks up 3.5 billion likes every single day.
This is a MASSIVE customer pool that you and your business just can’t afford to miss out on. Now, you may be asking how you can get your message seen by these millions of people — should you be using paid ads? Promoted tweets and posts? In short, yes, you should. But creating an ad to reach millions of people will have an ENORMOUS price tag.
Before you spend your kids’ college fund on advertising, you need to narrow down your potential audience. This may seem a little counter-intuitive, because surely you want your message/product/brand promotion to reach as many people as possible, right? Of course you do, but you want warm leads — actual people who might actually convert into customers.
Targeting every user with one message is going to be spammy, annoying, hella expensive, and potentially damaging to your brand. We have such short social media attention spans these days, but when we see something annoying or irrelevant, oh we will let people know.
For example, in December my Instagram profile was bombarded with ads for premium makeup, diet plans, and lingerie. This is most likely because I am a thirty-one year old female, and it was Christmas time — #treatyoself.
The fact that I refuse to spend £40+ on mascara, and that I require scaffolding rather than cheese wire for lingerie, and that I literally (I’m not even joking) break out in hives if I look at diet plans (ugh!) has not been factored into these ad campaigns. My age and gender is enough for these brands. Companies such as Chanel have a BIG ad budget — they can afford to cast their net as wide as an age range and gender, with few or no other qualifiers.
Enter the humble hashtag. A really good hashtag will help to reach your desired audience; an excellent hashtag will help your audience to find you.
Remember, you’re trying to break through a combination of noise, post volume, and teeny tiny attention spans. You don’t want to spend both time and money (time is a monetary resource, donchaknow) on reaching customers who won’t convert, because they have zero interest in your company or offering.
Instagram actively encourages hashtag use: it’s not really a question of how you can trick the algorithm, it’s a question of how you can work with it to get to the audience you want. Think of hashtags as an Instagram funnel (we marketers seem to be obsessed with the concept of funnels).
If you use a broad, all encompasing hashtag, you could be reaching just about anyone. For example, #marketing has been used 24,072,004 times on Instagram. That’s a LOT of people to compete against, and from the snapshot above, you can see that #marketing could cover pretty much anything.
I’m intrigued as to what a pink-clad baby has to do with marketing, but hey, I’m not in the baby buying/making/clothing funnel. So, let’s get a tad more specific and fall further into the funnel.
This time, I’ve looked at #digitalmarketing. Only 5,087,635 featuring this hashtag.
BOOM! We’ve instanly lost nearly 20 million competing posts that could be completely unrelated to our desired audience. Interestingly, there’s not a huge amount of difference between the two results snapshots. Both focus on inspo-style posts — darker background images with white text overlay.
Now we’re getting down to the nitty gritty, less pretty! Only 161,432 other posts to compete against here. And it’s a safe assumption that anyone searching for digital marketing tips actually wants to SEE some digital marketing tips.
As a side bar, of the six posts in this snapshot, the notebook image (do the hard things etc) has the most engagement at 6752 likes. The other images have less than 500 likes each.
That’s another thing that we need to factor into our Instagram strategy: if your image isn’t pretty and easy to read on a mobile phone, your engagement rates will suffer significantly.
It means that you need to put some time into researching which hashtags could perform best for your brand, and this will involve a lot of testing.
You’re going to need to test for engagement rates and potential reach. There’s no hard rule that says you can’t use a combination of all the above funnel levels — try it and see. Do you get the best results by including #marketing #digitalmarketing and #digitalmarketingtips in one post, or better results using the specfic or niche hashtags?
It is going to depend predominantly on your target audience, and on your offering. But some hashtag research is a great starting point, before you fork over lots of your Pay Per Click spend.