Hashtag Analytics 101: Find New Followers
Hashtags can help you find new followers on Twitter and Instagram by connecting your posts to new audiences. Which hashtags should you use to boost your following and find your next brand advocates?
#Tagging #every #single #possibility is easy, but it won’t help you find engaged followers. Understanding hashtag types and their audiences can help you develop a more effective strategy.
Introducing: The Hashtag Pyramid (Of Greatness)
Choosing the right hashtags, and stacking them strategically, can help you find new followers. How can you maximize exposure while still connecting with niche crowds who might become your next customers?
Different types of hashtags link your content to different audiences. Below, we break down hashtags by their audience size on Twitter and Instagram, from broad to niche.
With each level down in the pyramid, the hashtag’s audience becomes smaller and more engaged.
Which hashtag types should you use?
The Largest Audience: Trending #Hashtags
- Risk level: High
- Reward: Exposure and impressions for your content
- Audience: General, skewing younger and more engaged
- Examples: #wastehistime2016 #kony2012 #iloveBAEbut #bettercallsaul
Trending hashtags — including jokes (#wastehistime2016) and breaking news events – have the biggest audience on Twitter and Instagram. If you find one that matches your brand’s voice on social media, this type promises the most exposure. Trending hashtags will expose your brand to users at the top of the sales funnel: a general audience that might not buy into your brand, but could give you a boost by following you.
Let’s imagine that your brand is a bike shop hoping to attract new followers on Instagram. You’ve snapped a picture of someone untangling their bike outside your store. A lighthearted trending hashtag could yield a high number of impressions for the post.
Using a hashtag like #wastehistime2016 when it’s trending is like getting your brand into a bustling party. People inside are more likely to be actively perusing content with the hashtag and chatting with each other.
You might get buried in the pandemonium. But there’s the slim, tempting possibility that your content becomes the favourite and goes viral.
Brand usage of trending hashtags can go very wrong. DiGiorno’s appropriation of #whyIstayed nearly cost the brand its Twitter following. It’s almost always a bad idea for brands to jump on breaking news or sensitive trending topics, unless they’re directly related to the event (unlike Crocs and #DavidBowie).
Jokes and lighthearted entertainment topics, around album releases or music and movie events, tend to be much safer and more rewarding for brands. Trending hashtags should match a brand’s voice. But when they’re used with others, even lighthearted hashtags that aren’t an exact match could boost engagement.
Drilling Down: General Topic Hashtags
- Risk level: Medium
- Reward: Reaching potential customers
- Audience: Narrowed to region or interest
- Examples: #cycling #nyc #thesix #justmomthings #fitness
Using hashtags specific to interests or locations will help target your content’s audience, but the users of general topic hashtags are less excited to engage than those of trending topics. There is an upside: the audience for general topic hashtags is further down the sales funnel, already focused on your industry. They’re more likely to buy into your brand, even though they might be less likely to be actively perusing the hashtag looking for content to like or retweet.
Mentions per minute for general topic hashtags are are lower than they are trending topics, so your content is less likely to get buried. Below, a snapshot of the live data visualization for #fitness from Hashbabble.
Hashtags like #biking or #nyc can help you test the waters before drilling down into more specific communities, like #bikingVancouver or #nycmoms. You can find out what works before attempting entry into more niche, and more critical, user groups.
General topic hashtags can also help your brand access new audiences. Eager to access customers in a new location? Branching out with a new service line? Including those new initiatives in your hashtags can help you build an audience before you launch.
Target an Age Range: Expression Hashtags
- Risk level: Low
- Reward: Connecting with a specific age range
- Audience: General, but least engaged
- Examples: #love #blessed #gratitude #icant #yaaaassss
To express themselves, Instagram and Twitter users hashtag emotions or slang in expression hashtags. This type of hashtag is ubiquitous across demographics and engagement levels, but you can use them to reach out to general age ranges.You won’t find retirees using #lit, or high school students using #cool. With the exception of the extremely bored, users are less likely to browse and engage with content that has such generic hashtags.
The risk level for these hashtags is low, because they aren’t tied to controversial topics or breaking events. Brands only risk using an evergreen hashtag unappealing to their audience. Social media managers should be conscious of the age range they’re targeting when selecting a popular tags, and whether or not it matches their follower base.
As with all hashtags, users on Twitter and Instagram are sensitive to anything inauthentic. Adding expression hashtags that don’t fit your brand could come across as contrived, pushing users away. #notonfleek
The Smallest Audience: Community Hashtags
- Risk: High
- Reward: Reaching potential customers and brand advocates
- Audience: Niche, highly engaged
- Examples: #brewerdoers (brewery workers), #bikeTO (Toronto cyclists), #springrunoff (Toronto runners)
After testing the waters with general topic hashtags, brands can reach out to niche, highly engaged communities. Hashtags like #bikeTO are not just expressions on Twitter and Instagram: they’re communities with active, long-time participants. These hashtags will help you access users closer to the bottom of the sales funnel, the ones most likely to engage with your brand and become advocates.
The first step is checking whether or not a niche community is still active — they often have fewer than 10,000 engaged users, and are more likely to go dormant in certain seasons (like #springrunoff).
Using Hashbabble, a new hashtag tracking tool, you can search any hashtag and find the dates and engagement rates for the last 50 mentions instantly. Once you’re sure a community hashtag is still active, you can begin to craft your post. If content is location and interest-specific, brands should feel safe using that community’s hashtag. A Toronto bike shop tweeting about an upcoming cycling class, for example, could gain access to new customers with #bikeTO. A general fitness brand selling bike helmets should avoid the hashtag, unless they have content specific to Toronto (photos of Toronto cyclists, a Toronto biking event, etc).
Corporate intrusions into authentic communities always have to be carefully planned. Providing real value to those communities through content is key. As with all hashtag types, active community hashtags will only help you find new followers if your content fits. Tagging posts with ill-fitting active community hashtags could come across as spammy and you could get called out by its participants.
Your brand’s next advocates are most likely to be found using active community hashtags. The audience might be smaller and easier to offend, but the potential payoff will have a bigger impact on your business than the new followers you find at the top of the pyramid.
Stacking Hashtag Types to Maximize Reach
How can you make the most of your hashtags?
A combination of hashtags – selecting just one from each level of the pyramid – will reach multiple audiences without alienating the people most likely to follow you. Plus, you’ll #avoid #seeming #spammy.
Choosing a theme and then finding one hashtag from each audience size is a good way to maximize potential impressions. At the same time, you can still connect with customers most likely to buy into your brand.
By combining trending, general topic, expression, and active community hashtags, you will have reached out to a general audience, a specific interest and age range, and a niche community. Layered together, you’ll connect with all four audiences while potentially reaching out to your next dedicated customer: the young cyclist from Toronto, for example, who uses every hashtag you’ve included. You’ve hyper-targeted your content to the smallest, most niche audience: but it will also be given maximum exposure. Win-win.
When you stack hashtags from different levels of the hashtag funnel, you optimize your chances of finding your next brand advocate. All while finding new followers.
Social media managers don’t have to choose between maximum exposure and hyper-targeted content. Maximizing different hashtag types and their audiences can help brands do both at the same time.
Each post in our Hashtag Analytics 101 guide breaks down a different hashtag metric to help you engage with more followers.