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By David Lantrip, Industry Expert

You’ve seen it all over social media: the hashtag – what we used to call “the pound sign,” that strange little symbol on the phone that always seemed to serve no purpose. But with social media, now it does.



So, what is it? Why is it there? And, most importantly, how can you utilize it to benefit your custom framing business?



Hashtags are used in social media to help people find topics that interest them. It’s really that simple. For example, if someone is interested in old-school photography without fancy filters, he or she can search for #nofilter on Instagram. Looking to see what’s going on with the Houston Astros? Just search for #Astros on Twitter.



When used well and thoughtfully, hashtags can help make sure your content gets to people who will find it interesting and useful. As a custom framer, you may want to market custom framing as a gift this holiday season. As a result, you could utilize the hashtag #ChristmasGift with your social posts. During the spring and summer, you may want to promote the idea of framing wedding photos on social media, and could use #weddingportrait with your posts.



Just like every other tool, there are ways to use hashtags well, and ways that will harm your efforts. Best practices vary from one social media platform to another. Facebook supports the use of hashtags, but they play only a small role. Various studies, including one looking at over a billion Facebook posts, found that those using hashtags actually had less engagement, and therefore lower reach, than those without them. Additionally, the more hashtags a post uses, the lower the engagement. So while Facebook supports the use of hashtags, it may not be the best place for them.



Instagram, on the other hand, thrives on hashtags, allowing their discovery not just through searching but also by following. When a user follows a certain hashtag, posts containing it will show up in the feed, whether they follow those accounts or not. As an example, you might show a framed photograph from a couple’s honeymoon in Italy with the hashtag #travelphoto. People who are interested in travel photography may follow that hashtag, and your content will show in their feeds. It’s a great way to reach people with specific interests. In the case of Instagram, more is better, up to a point. Another survey found that Instagram posts with nine hashtags performed the best. This is not to say that you should pad every post just for the sake of having hashtags, but more on that shortly.



Hashtags are the foundation of Twitter. Just like the other platforms, they organize information and make it easy to discover. I’d suggest one or two hashtags per tweet as the sweet spot, so choose carefully.



Now, which hashtags to use? Keep in mind that the purpose of hashtags is to make it easy to find relevant information, so be sure to choose ones that describe the content of the post and are useful to people interested in that content. For example, if you frame a marathon medal and photo, you would definitely use the hashtag #marathon in the caption. Just don’t get too specific. If you wanted to capitalize on the publicity surrounding the New York City marathon, by all means use that hashtag. There are over 1,274,000 Instagram posts with the #NYCMarathon hashtag, which means people are using and searching for that topic. However, there are only 25 using #NYCMarathonMedal, which means it is too specific.



Consider your audience. Remember you are trying to reach customers, not other framers, and so avoid industry jargon and buzzwords. Very few customers are likely to ever search #fabricmat, #stackedframe, or #fillet. Those who do search for #fillet are far more likely to find pictures of meat and fish.



Be careful with your choice of hashtags. It’s very tempting to jump on trending topics. If you do so, just make sure that your post is relevant; otherwise, it comes off as forced and artificial. Also, there are cases when using a popular hashtag can backfire spectacularly. In 2014, when a high-profile case brought domestic violence into popular discussion, the hashtag #whyIstayed was trending. A frozen pizza company used that hashtag with the caption, “You had pizza.” The backlash was harsh and immediate. Don’t make that mistake.



How can you make sure your hashtag will be relevant? It’s simple: search for it before you use it. If you find plenty of relevant content to your business upon searching it, then use it. Just clarify to yourself the purpose of your post and who you are trying to engage. Targeting a specific audience for a specific purpose rather than in an attempt to appeal to everyone will always yield better results.



Finally, you may have noticed the use of capitalization in some of the hashtags. They work whether the text is uppercase or lower, but capitalizing words when appropriate makes it easier to read when the hashtag is in line with text. An example of this would be: “We were so happy to frame Patrick’s #NYCMarathon medal and photo. Congratulations on your awesome time!”



It is easier to read than #nycmarathon or #newyorkcitymarathon. With the huge amount of content coming through social media feeds every day, people do not have the patience to decode what they are reading.



You put a lot of work and thought into your social media content, so it only makes sense to get it to the people who count. With a bit of thought and careful use of hashtags in your content, that work will result in more #success.

This article is intended for educational purposes only and does not replace independent professional judgment. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) individually and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinion or position of Tru Vue or its employees. Tru Vue does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented.

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