Ask anyone on social media what they think of hashtags and you are likely to get a passionate reply. Many people love to hate hashtags, regardless of whether or not they use them. Like it or not, they are an integral part of social media and when used responsibly, hashtags have widely been considered a best practice among social media marketers. However, a new study from Locowise may be challenging that assumption.
Hashtags are mostly used on Twitter and Instagram, where they also work the best, and these are the two social platforms included in the study. Up to this point it was generally accepted that using one relevant hashtag per tweet and up to a dozen hashtags per Instagram photo were the best way to maximize the reach of your post. But according to this study, that may be overkill.
The hashtag may have been born on Twitter but of the 600,000 tweets studied over a 3-month period those without a hashtag had the highest engagement rate at 1.9 percent. Tweets with a single hashtag followed close behind at 1.84 percent but the addition of any further hashtags saw considerable drops in engagement rates.
Instagram has become known for hashtag overload with at least four hashtags included in nearly half the images posted. But after studying more than 135,000 posts over three months it appears that limiting hashtags to three or fewer will get the highest engagement rate at right around 3 percent.
Everything about social media is changing at breakneck speeds. It is entirely possible that a new study will come out next quarter saying marketers should be using all the hashtags. So what is the moral of this story?
It all boils down to quality and relevance. Adding hashtags to your posts for the sole purpose of increasing the reach is a marketing tactic that may be on its way out. But that does not mean you should completely write hashtags off. Hashtags are still a great way to organize social campaigns and events, and using a truly relevant hashtag still has the potential to get your content in front of new eyes. Continue using hashtags responsibly and you have nothing to worry about.