While most people are familiar with hashtags, many B2B marketers don’t know the best way to use them or may even consider them irrelevant to their social media strategy. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Hashtags originated on Twitter but have now become widely adopted by all social platforms as a way to tag your content with specific topics or conversations (by using a word or phrase preceded by the “#” symbol). When you use hashtags, anyone who follows or searches for that hashtag can see and interact with the posts you’ve tagged. This means hashtags are instrumental in increasing your reach, for B2C and B2B companies alike.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you develop and implement a hashtag strategy for your B2B firm.

Find your niche

Content creation is important, as is sharing the content on social media, but none of that matters if no one sees it. That’s where hashtags play an important role. They increase your visibility by grouping your content with similar content, so when an interested user searches that hashtag, they may come across your post. However, this doesn’t mean that adding as many hashtags as possible to each post is helpful. Just as your firm has a specific target audience, your hashtags should, too. They need to be purposeful and strategic because the more generic ones are oversaturated with posts. For example, if you are a construction company adding #construction to your Instagram posts, your firm is competing with over 10 million other posts containing that same hashtag. The chances of your post reaching more viewers is small. But if your firm specializes in or is seeking to acquire more work in the Boston area, you might add #BostonConstruction, which has less than four thousand posts on Instagram, to images of your Boston projects. Utilizing more specific, targeted hashtags will not only help your posts reach more people, but the right people.

Just as your firm has a specific target audience, your hashtags should, too.

Understand your audience

It’s helpful to be able to picture how your prospects or target audience are using social media—similar to buyer personas—to know how to best tag content. What are their interests? Questions? Pain points? They may search hashtags related to these topics. What hashtags are your clients and prospects interacting with most? Social platforms like Instagram and LinkedIn give users the option to follow a hashtag, which means that posts containing that hashtag will regularly populate in their personal news feed, instead of having to manually search for it to view tagged posts. For example, a financial advisor may follow the hashtag #retirementplanning to keep up with the latest articles, videos, and other posts related to that topic. For a financial services firm, this could be a relevant hashtag to add to your library of frequently used tags.

Conduct thorough research

In addition to understanding how your prospects and clients interact with social media, it’s beneficial to research your competitors. What are they posting about? What hashtags do they frequently use? Which posts of theirs receive high engagement—and which hashtags are included in those posts? While you shouldn’t directly copy their strategy, it’s a good starting point for your own hashtag implementation. Consider the topics that are important to your firm, and then find existing hashtags that encapsulate those ideas.

Another method of research is social listening. Social listening is the process of investigating what others are saying on social media about the topics and keywords that are relevant to your business. Observe your audience’s voice, opinions, and responses, and use this to inform your hashtag strategy. Monitor relevant conversations to identify more hashtags to add to your library and note where your firm can meaningfully contribute to conversations. It will also help keep you up to date with industry trends.

Consider the topics that are important to your firm, and then find existing hashtags that encapsulate those ideas.

Differentiate between platforms

Each social media platform has their own individual function, uses, and audiences, so hashtag practices also differ. Here are some things to consider when using hashtags on specific platforms:

  • Twitter: Twitter is where the popular use of hashtags began, so it is a no-brainer to use them here! Many Twitter users will utilize hashtags as a way to join trending conversations. Twitter features a changing list of trending topics, which are hashtags that are being frequently used in real time. Participating in trending topics is one possible way to expand your content reach, but B2B companies should tread lightly and only join in the conversation when it pertains to their specialty. Trending topics have the potential to increase your impressions, but similarly to the generic hashtags like #construction, they can be oversaturated.
  • Instagram: This relatively new social platform has integrated hashtags from its inception, and they are just as, if not more, common as they are on Twitter. However, they’re generally used in different ways. Tweets are more likely to incorporate hashtags into a sentence, while it’s more common to place relevant hashtags at the very end of an Instagram caption or even in the post’s comments. Make sure to keep your hashtags relevant to the images or videos you post, as spamming popular hashtags will not result in good performance. Instagram is one platform where users can follow hashtags, so it is worthwhile to thoroughly research the hashtags your firm will use on Instagram to understand their popularity and the types of users that follow and interact with those posts.
  • Facebook: While hashtags were not initially associated with Facebook, they have become a common part of the platform, although they do not appear to be as integral to user experience as on other platforms. Experts are split on the recommended hashtag strategy for Facebook. There isn’t a definitive answer on whether they are a significant factor in improving post engagement, but the utilization of minimal hashtags does not hurt exposure. Including hashtags in your firm’s Facebook posts can increase impressions, but it’s recommended to use only one or two on this platform.
  • LinkedIn: Hashtags are a recent development on LinkedIn, having only been introduced in 2018. Because this is the more professional network of all the platforms, your firm’s hashtag strategy on LinkedIn will likely be different than on Twitter or Instagram, so remember to research and strategize for each platform separately. LinkedIn is another platform where users can follow specific hashtags, so find those that are relevant to your industry and work. Identify topics that your followers are passionate about or that your firm promotes, and use those niche hashtags to attract the right professionals. This is also an ideal platform to incorporate hashtags into your talent acquisition strategy, as many people use LinkedIn as a search engine for job openings.

Investigate the results

The use of hashtags does not guarantee increased impressions for your posts. And if used incorrectly or excessively, it could decrease engagement. This is why it’s important to track your social analytics to see which hashtags are generating the largest reach and engagement. Each platform has its own analytics section that tracks content performance. Identify hashtags that have generated more impressions or engagement, as well as those that haven’t affected or have negatively affected performance. Look at the hashtags used, how many were used, and the formatting. Remember when using hashtags to mix them up, keep them relevant and limit the number of hashtags used on each post.