Hashtags have become so commonplace in social media that they’ve even begun annoying spilling over into some verbal communications. Yet not everyone knows what the role and impact of this nifty little device is. Let’s take a look at what the purpose of the hashtag is and how you might use it in your library’s social media posts!
The #, or pound symbol, when placed before text, creates a metadata tag that creates an access point to your site so that can reach users beyond just your current followers. Hashtags are searchable, so if you post content that is popular or potentially of interest to Internet users, like a picture of your campus’ awesome mounted dinosaur remains you might use the tag #dinosaur in or at the end of the post. By doing so, anyone interested in dinosaurs (and who isn’t), might search for that term and find your site within the results. This extends the reach of your social media site by including viewers who might not have searched for your library by name, but who are now stumbling across it by finding an interest in the content you’re promoting. How exciting!
That sounds easy enough, right? Let’s look at some other ways to use hashtags. For those who might be looking to jump on a trending bandwagon to gain some extra views, Twitter compiles a list of trending terms on their homepage. Now, you don’t want to grab just any tag and plug it in your tweet to trick people into reading your post. But should you see one that you find might be relevant to your library’s news, holdings, or service information, think of a way to compose a tweet to work around that tag. For instance, #FridayReads is trending most Fridays. This is a great opportunity to promote a new (or old) book from your collection in an attempt to boost circulation! By doing so, your followers will read your post, but so will all the people who are just clicking on the tag FridayReads to see what’s new in the literary world on that Friday. #LibraryLove is also a reoccurring tag that seems to cycle through popularity. If you have an inspirational quote or beautiful picture of a library (possible YOUR library!) throw that tag on there and watch strangers suddenly engage!
This is one way in which hashtags can broaden your range of viewership, but they can limit it if you wish to focus in on who your target audience is. #(YourCity), for instance will limit extra viewership to people who are looking for happenings and events in your city. This might be a good option for public libraries hosting an event for their communities.
Twitter is by far the site that uses hashtags most. Tweets with hashtags receive 21% more engagement than those that do not, as long as you don’t go nuts. More than two hashtags leads to a decline in engagement. This is not the case with Instagram, where it is common for images to have ten or more hashtags to increase the likelihood that the picture will be found online. All leading social media sites make use of hashtags, so don’t be afraid to use them to your advantage. Though they are not as popular on Facebook, they’re definitely catching on as they become more of a social norm, even in speech (but seriously, that’s annoying, so please stop).