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The age-old fallacy of the “hash tag strategy”

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“What should our hash tag strategy be?”

It’s a question I get from clients at least a few times a year. And, it’s one that’s usually met with a swift response.

“We don’t need one.”

Not really. Not in the sense most people are thinking about. Not in 2020. Your time and energy is better spent elsewhere.

I typically cite three big reasons for rejecting the notion that we need a “hash tag strategy”:

1 – It’s not how people use social media

Not really. Think about your typical user behavior. Heck, think about YOUR user behavior. How do you use Instagram, for example? If you’re like most, you scroll your feed, looking and engaging with friends’ posts all day. Or, increasingly now, you scour your Stories. Do you search by hash tags for content? Maybe from time to time (notably, during a conference or sporting event, like I do during #kubball). But for most, I would argue that’s pretty rare outside of those situations (side note: I looked for stats to support this claim but found NOTHING on the internetz). Does that warrant you building out a full-blown hash tag strategy for your Insta account? Definitely not. Does it warrant using up to 30 hash tags on your posts? Um, no. It’s just not the way people use social media channels.

2 – On other platforms, it matters even less

You could make an argument (a week argument, but an argument), that people do search by hash tag on platforms like Instagram and Twitter (again, during conferences and sporting events). But, LinkedIn? No way. Facebook? Nice try. No, the “hash tag strategy” is really only relevant to Insta, Twitter and, if you’re on the progressive side of things, TikTok. So, when you say we need “hash tag strategy” what I really hear is “we need a content strategy on Instagram.”

3- It wreaks of desperation

You’ve seen the posts. The ones with the text and maybe a URL then about 25 hash tags. Or, in some cases, it’s a comment by the brand with those same 25 hash tags. Either way, I tend to think this looks desperate. It looks like exactly what brands are trying to do: A desperate attempt to try to curry more followers and likes. Plain and simple. Half the time the bulk of the hash tags the brand is using have nothing to do with the brand or its product/service!

Bottom line: Forget hash tags. At least in the sense of using hash tags to gain more followers and engagement. If you really want to use hash tags in your posts, confine it to 1-2 branded hash tags that you use regularly. At Sleep Number, we use #TeamSleepNumber in all our Employer Brand posts. It helps us curate and search for all that content under ONE hash tag. And, it gives the brand a hash tag to use that they can OWN. And, it builds COMMUNITY.

Or, by all means, when you’re exhibiting at an event like #CES2020, use the hash tag to be a part of the larger CES conversation. No doubt.

But beyond that, use that time you spend adding or brainstorming 20-some hash tags for each Instagram post and put it toward creating better content! We could all stand to re-double our efforts on the content front anyway!

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The age-old fallacy of the “hash tag strategy”

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