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Are hashtags dying: The curious case of right digital strategy

Hashtags seem to have moved away from the omnipotent role

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MUMBAI: “Don’t hashtag, they’re thirsty,” Ellie (played by Jenna Ortega) tells the lead character of popular Netflix series You in one of the episodes of the recently released season 2. The 13-year-old girl was teaching the art of using social media to the subject, something that comes like second nature to her generation. While she was talking about building a personal brand on the photo-sharing website of Instagram, we have been observing a sneaky exit of numerous hashtags from other brand posts as well. For example, observe the number of hashtags in the Teddy Day posts made by Manforce India, one of the most active brands on social media, in the past few years.

From 23 hashtags in 2017, the brand has used just two hashtags for this year’s post. So, the question that arises is; are hashtags dying?

The marketing and advertising industry doesn’t think so.

According to The Marcom Avenue director Divanshi Gupta the conversation about hashtags dying is quite irrelevant to today’s time, when every campaign that a brand marketer conceptualises begins by producing a catchy ‘#’!

She says, “The current status of hashtags is quite important but its application in trying to reach to the target audience is now only limited to using the relevant hashtags, as users search and follow hashtags to keep them updated on the platform. Also, hashtags have a different level of reach and meaning to different social media platforms. Thus, the chances of hashtags dying in the near future are quite bleak.”

Logicserve Digital founder and CEO Prasad Shejale also insists that they remain a great medium of brand engagement.

“According to Sprout Social report, an Instagram post with a single hashtag can gain 12.6 per cent more engagement compared to a post with no hashtag. They are very useful to attract the right audience and amplify the reach of posts, campaigns with an ability to make things go viral. This, in turn, helps brands target the niche markets and create brand awareness among masses. Even for me, when I post anything on my LinkedIn or other social platforms, with the right hashtag I see a significant boost in the reach.”

However, there is a need to filter and streamline the number and the quality of hashtags a brand is using with its posts.

Shejale adds, “Brands shouldn’t overuse hashtags as it can hamper readability and can affect the engagement. It’s also equally crucial to keep the hashtag simple and narrow to retain attention and achieve effective marketing outcomes.”

Mirum India ECD Naila Patel highlights, “Hashtags were designed to categorise conversations better and most content creators felt the need to add multiple hashtags to explain or engage people in the discussion. But slowly, hashtags seem to have moved away from the omnipotent role to a more 'good to have' existence. In-fact a lot of famous campaigns have seen single hashtags.”

Elaborating on how to pick the right hashtags, Isobar national head for social media Aakriti Sinha notes, “With the advent of ephemeral content, formats like memes, daily trends, Instagram TV, Insta Live and stickers and now music, hashtags anyway had begun to take a backseat with the dip in number of Instagram posts. There is no necessity to add hashtags except for the campaign hashtags for recall for promoted content. What matters is the CTA vs. the hashtag discoverability. For such content, the campaign hashtags should play a role of brand/campaign activity and/or encourage UGC using the same.”

Gupta adds, “In a social media campaign, the manager should use a limited number of hashtags wisely to enhance reach. Also, the hashtags used should represent: you, your idea, your brand ideology, trend, and industry. Using hashtags on the basis of these parameters will help you in reaching and appearing in user’s feed who have an interest in similar searches.”

While hashtags are expected to stay, the next point to ponder on is the right number of hashtags to put on a brand post. Even industry experts are not sure about the right number.

While Sinha believes that the idle number should be between 5 and 10 Gupta notes that the usage of hashtags should be limited within the range of 3 to 5. Patel argues that only Instagram as a platform has a role for multiple hashtags. She pegs the ideal numbers to be three-four.

Shejale says, “It’s difficult to decide on an exact number of ideal hashtags to be used for posts. But yes, I would say, around 7-10 hashtags are enough.”

Gupta shares that using hashtags will help the brand be found in more places but it has to be ensured that the post doesn’t have irrelevant keywords, as it’ll lead to diminished reach.

Hence, it is safe to conclude that hashtags are not making an exit from the digital world anytime soon, but it is more important for brands today to strategise around this tool for maximum social engagement without any irrelevant reach that can hamper the conversion rates for them.

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