By Christopher Smith, account manager, Sha-Izwe Communications

Simply put, no, hashtags are not a waste of time, but it depends on how you use them. Many people use irritating hashtags such as: #photooftheday, #followforfollow, #food, #love, #girl, #blue.

These hashtags are pointless. Thousands of photos use these hashtags each day, meaning that your photo is absorbed by thousands of irrelevant pics. The only ‘Likes’ your picture receives will be from trollers. And again who would search on the hashtag ‘blue’

In SEO, you learn about long-tail keywords. The same applies to hashtags. Specific and detailed hashtags are a winner. If you attend a concert and hashtag #MusicFestJHB this is a specific hashtag that people attending the concert, who will want to see pics of it, will come across your photo.

But to simply hashtag #Music, you’re competing on a global scale against thousands of pics. The same can apply to a barber shop wanting to attract local customers. Instead of hashtagging #BarberShop rather use #Barbershopsandton or #BarbershopRosebank.

Some tips for using hashtags:
Use tools like ritetag to do research and discover new hashtags. This is a handy tool to have as part of your strategy. It is important to minimise distractions and not overload your posts with hashtags. Often less is more. See #TweetSmarter. Using the appropriate Instagram hashtags can extend the reach of your images and help reach outside your current sphere of followers. Use Twitonomy to find out the hashtags that influencers in your niche are using.

These are hashtags that your target market will likely be searching for. Using them can enable you to gain targeted new followers who are potentially looking for exactly what you offer. You can also use Hashtagifyme to find the top hashtags related to your niche or industry. For instance, being in social media marketing, I search for hashtags relating to #Facebook, #Twitter or #sociamedia.

You can also find even more specific hashtags to use. A tool like Tweet Binder can help you find relevant hashtags. This question is: How are you using hashtags at the moment, are your hashtags working for you and have you received any enquiries for your business from them?

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