How to Use Hashtags & Keywords to Power Your Social Media Posts

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  3. How to Use Hashtags & Keywords to Power Your Social Media Posts

How to Use Hashtags & Keywords to Power Your Social Media Posts

Think of hashtags like SEO for your social content. Your social posts should include specific hashtags and keywords to ensure your content is discoverable. Hashtags help your content to be discovered, signal to others what the content is about, and are indeed within google. In addition, using the right hashtags, can be the catalyst to growing your social following.

All it takes for a social post to gain traction is a retweet, like, favorite or share from another account. People on social are always looking for good, relevant content to share with their audience – in addition to publishing their own content. A good bit of social listening is done to find this content. Guess how social media managers “listen” for relevant content to share with their audience; hashtags and keywords.

When your content is more easily discoverable you will surprised at how quickly your followers will increase. Twitter, unlike facebook, is primarily organized around topics. You may follow certain accounts to get news updates, even traffic updates in your city. You probably follow more than a few accounts to stay up to speed on the sports teams you follow. Because of this organizational structure around social media hashtags and keywords become even more valuable to your content. When others can find your content, via hashtags and/or keywords, they are more likely to follow you to get more information on the same topic.

Hashtags can be broad, niche, location based etc… You can even make up a hashtag that is unique to your brand. There are different use cases for each approach and pros and cons to each. When using hashtags approach them with a specific plan on how they will be used and what you intend to get out of them.

How to write a hashtag
Hashtags cannot contain symbols or spaces. #Sports&Medicine the “&” will break the hashtag ; only the content before the special character will be hashtagged.

The proper way to write a hashtag, that has multiple words in it, is to capitalize the first word of each word you are using – called initial caps, or camel casing. #SportsAndMedicine. This formatting is not required but makes the hashtag more legible. Be aware when creating a custom hashtag, that contains multiple words, that you don’t inadvertently create another word. Using initial caps can aid in solving this problem #Reportit (Do you see the faux pas) #ReportIT – that’s much better.

Hashtags and Keywords – What’s the difference
First of all a hashtag is really just a keyword with the # sign in front of it. When people search around a particular topic they may search by hashtag, or they may enter a phrase. This is why it is important to use both hashtags and keywords in your social posts. Tweets are indexed by google so using the right hashtags and keywords can get your message featured in Google search results.

If a hashtag is just a keyword with a # sign in front of it then why should keywords not be used as hashtags? One reason is the keyword has too much noise around it (unlikely for your content to be seen), the word is too broad to be used as a method to get your content discoverable by people truly interested (#jobs in an example of this).

Take this post for example:
3 ways the #FBI is is destroying the benefits of #encryption.

Here I am using 2 hashtags to increase the reach of the message. I am targeting people interested in the topic of encryption and people researching the conversation around the FBI (they have been in the news lately around the topic of encryption). I am also using the phrase “benefits of encryption”. This is my keyword phrase. When people search for things they generally use phrases, not single words. How to ___, What is __. In this example I am banking on, “benefits of encryption”.

Structuring your social post with a mix of hashtags and keyword phrases greatly increases its chance of being discovered and retweeted.

Picking the right hashtag
Earlier I talked about not using a hashtag because there is too much “noise around it. You want to use hashtags that have a good bit of conversation around them, but too much conversation and your message will be lost. For example #jobs is a hashtag that is very over used in addition to being too broad. Using that hashtag your message will not only be lost in all the “noise” but you are unlikely to get your message into the right hands.

Luckily for us there is a great tool that grades hashtags on the amount of activity. This is one of my favorite hashtag research tools to use. RiteTag.

RiteTag uses a color coding system to tell you how much “noise” is currently around a specific hashtag, so you can determine the chance of it helping your social post be discovered.

Grey = Underused/No activity
Blue = Long life
Green = Hot now
Red = Overused

This information is extremely valuable when trying to determine which hashtags will help your content be discoverable by the widest audience.

Another great feature of RiteTag is it will tell you what other hashtags are commonly used along with the hashtag you are researching. This can help you pick other hashtags to use with similar content or to use in place of the hashtag you are researching. I’ll continue to use #jobs for this example.

Sample message:
Follow us for great #jobs.

Here you can see #jobs in the center of the graph and it has been color coded Red by RiteTag for being overused. With  this graph you can see what other hashtags are commonly used along with the #job and what their activity level is by looking at which hashtags are radiating from it.

We now now, from RiteTag that our hashtag #jobs is overused, but it also gives us insight in to what we should use instead.  You can deduct from this graph that it is better to use a hashtag that describes the kind of job. From here you could then decide to research a different hashtag that better describes the type of job your post is promoting.

For this example let’s assume your account promotes retail jobs. Without leaving this screen you can see what hashtags are also being used with #retail. #dallas, #winnipeg and #austin.

From one quick search with RiteTag we have learned that our hashtag needs to be more specific to the job role, and that people commonly also used a hashtag for the location of the job. With this information you could greatly improve the reach of your message by rewriting it as follows.

Sample message:
Follow us for great #retail jobs in #austin.

We can even one up that post with some keyword phrasing.

Sample message:
Follow us for high paying #retail jobs in #austin.

People don’t search for “great” jobs as much as they will search for “high paying” jobs.

Determining the reach for a specific hashtag.
RiteTag gives us great information around the use of a hashtag and what hashtags are related to each other. How many account could you possibly reach though? RiteTag doesn’t tell you that information. Grading a hashtag as,
Green = Hot now, only scratches the surface. That’s where another great hashtag research tool comes in handy. TweetReach.

TweetReach will tell you what the estimated reach of that hashtag is, and how many impressions your social message has the potential of reaching with a certain hashtag.

For this example I will use #retail, since we determined earlier that hashtag was going to be the best one to help our message be discovered.

Here you can see the estimated reach and exposure for #retail

If you have multiple hashtags that have the same ranking in RiteTag and you need to determine which one will give your content the best boost you can use Tweetreach to compare the estimated reach and exposure to determine which to use in your social post.

Tweetreach and RiteTag provides a lot more information than this though. These tools will tell you the activity over a specific time period, the top contributors and most retweeted messages. Both tools present the information, visually, very different. I suggest playing around with each tool to see which one you like better, but only RiteTag will grade your hashtags, which is the most valuable thing.

I use Tweetreach for measurement around custom hashtags. If you’re using a custom hashtag (brand name, tagline, contest, curated topic) it is very beneficial to see how far it is traveling.

#ShareACoke is a great example. On all the labels of coke products is #ShareACoke, which encourages people to share their experiences with the product via that hashtag.

The reason this is a custom hashtag is it is not used in conjunction with a specific topic, like #sports or #football. It is most likely that, before Coke created it, the hashtag had never been used. It is safe to say that Coke is controlling the conversation around this hastag. Let’s now use TweetReach to determine how well that hashtag is currently (not historically) performing.

Using TweetReach we can see that since on Sep. 21 there have been around 1500 (see notation above) tweets, from 88 contributors in the last 2 hours. We can also see the top contributors to that hashtag as well as the most retweeted tweets.

If this was your brand’s custom hashtag these metrics would be very valuable to determine how your campaign is performing and who is participating the most.


Hashtags are the SEO of social posts. With proper research and the right hashtag your social post has everything it needs to be discoverable which will increases your chances of a retweet and gaining followers.

All of the research techniques outlined in this article are FREE with RiteTag and TweetReach. These tools do have paid versions though. I would suggest if you are going to be doing a lot of research to get the paid version, but you can get by with the free versions.