With social network updates happening faster than you blink, using hashtags to raise brand awareness is not as easy as adding # to your target keywords.

Brands must not only rely on the popular hashtags now, but also must be aware of emerging trends among consumers and influencers. This helps optimize your hashtag usage so social media users don’t miss your posts.

To increase their reach among an increasingly global market, more brands use social media analytics tools to change their hashtag marketing strategy and keep up with shifts in trends the second they happen. It pays to know how to market hashtags, but first you have to know how to get the most out of them.

Don’t worry—we’re here to help. Here are nine hashtag marketing tactics that actually work.

1. Research Keywords vs. Hashtags

Like your target keywords for search engine optimization, you should research hashtags via keyword analysis before using them in any campaign. Find out the volume and frequency of posts related to your chosen hashtags. Research variations of your hashtag to see what is used the most.

Simply Measured Listening
Advanced Listening, powered by Simply Measured

You can easily search for the top or trending hashtags using tools built in to your chosen social network, or through more powerful hashtag analytics like Advanced Listening, powered by Simply Measured.

On Instagram, users can type a hashtag in the search bar and instantly see the number of posts tagged with that particular word or phrase with results organized by “Top Posts” and “Recent Posts.” Here are the results found when searching Instagram for #Soda with some big brands featured in the top posts.

Hashtag Search

Find out which hashtags your fans and influencers in your target markets use and join in on their conversations by using the same keywords and tagging their usernames.

2. Use Branded Hashtags

It’s a no-brainer to use your brand name as a hashtag. However, there are a variety of other ways to grow buzz around your company. One way is to use slogans or keywords designed around a specific marketing campaign as hashtags.

Posts with the hashtag #ShareaCoke surged after the beverage maker launched a campaign featuring Coke bottles imprinted with common names, encouraging others to share a drink with a “Brian” they knew, or their “Sis.”

The Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” hashtag connected with the brand’s audience and naturally spread to people within their networks. Social media users Tweeted pictures of names of loved ones or friends found on Coke bottles with the hashtag #ShareaCoke, with many tagging others so even more people knew about the promotion.

3. Celebrate Special Days and Seasons

Social media is usually flooded with themed hashtags during the holiday season, and you can tailor these hashtags to suit your brand. If you were a food or beverage company, you could use hashtags like #HolidayEats or #HolidayFood to boost interest.

There are also particular hashtag holidays dedicated to countless foods, causes, and occasions you could build a hashtag campaign around. For example, Sonic Drive-In shed light on the need for teaching children about handwriting skills with the hashtag #NationalHandwritingDay.

4. Promote Branded Hashtags via Giveaways

Hashtags work not only with annual holidays, but also with famous events, pop culture happenings, and other festivals like SXSW and Coachella.

These event names lend themselves as their own branded hashtags during promotions, such as product or prize giveaways. Since events like film and music festivals are talked about year after year, these hashtagged posts get plenty of views.

In fact, Forbes wrote about the most-used hashtags at SXSW, including #EsuranceAccess by Esurance, which is the official home and auto insurance sponsor of SXSW. During Esurance’s marketing campaign at the festival, the company held giveaways and encouraged festival-goers to use its hashtags. In total, the brand’s hashtag collected 32 million impressions and had a reach of more than 6 million.

5. Listen to What Users Are Actually Saying

Use a listening solution to understand what people are saying, build content and campaigns around this conversation on a quick turnaround, and directly respond to users talking about your target topic, especially those with big reach.

When a winter storm hit the East Coast earlier in the year, Dunkin’ Donuts capitalized on trending posts using hashtags related to the blizzard. In one post, the donut maker Retweeted a fan’s post and took it a step further with another post asking others to share pictures of their own Dunkin’ Donuts coffee or other beverages.

This was a good opportunity for Dunkin’ Donuts to interact with fans and encourage a positive experience with its followers.

6. Partner with Influencers in Your Industry

If you know your audience well, you know which influencers they follow and care about. Partner with these influencers on campaigns and create a branded hashtag to go along with it.

For instance, Instagram user Oliveandrye featured the hashtag “chewyinfluencerprogram” to promote the online pet store Chewy and collect all the sponsored posts in the campaign in one place.

It’s Sunday spa day! Our furriends @chewy invited us to try some #BurtsBees Waterless Shampoo for Cats for free as part of the #chewyinfluencerprogram. Since we are not generally cats who get baths, we thought it might be an easy way to freshen up when we aren’t smelling our finest (which for Olive especially is pretty often 🙀). Depending on the temperament of the cat, applying it could go either way as you can see😅 Olive and Fig didn’t mind at all (Fig looooves being wet any way) but it startled Rye a bit at first – we might recommend starting by the tail rather than the neck for best results. The directions say to spray and then brush through the fur. Everyone liked having a good brushing afterwards 😹 especially Fig. There is no fragrance/perfume in the product and afterwards we smelled pleasantly fresh and not perfumed. Nobody in our house really cares for perfumes, so that suits us fine. Fig tried to even lick it off Rye at one point 😹 If you are looking for a way to freshen up your cats with self-grooming issues – such as seniors or other cats who have stopped grooming themselves this might be a great option for them. No dubious ingredients! We probably will only use it on Olive as the torties don’t really need it (but Fig may demand it😹) but it is nice to have the option that doesn’t involve an actual bath! Thank you Chewy for letting us give this a test drive! . . . We received this product free of charge in exchange for our honest review. #chewyinfluencer #sponsored #sponsoredad #oliveandryevids #catvideo #cute #cats #snapcat #funnycat #funnycatvideo #buzzfeedanimals #cute #oliveryefig #thedodo #weeklyfluff #catsofinstagram #tricorncats

A post shared by Olive & Rye (+Fig) • Cat Art (@oliveandrye) on

Using branded hashtags for influencer campaigns makes it easier to track performance and increase brand awareness.

7. Perform Better with Competitive Analysis

Even if you’re confident you’re up-to-date on trends in your industry or market, it’s worth checking out what your competition is doing to avoid falling behind.

When researching your competitors, take note of the exact hashtags they use, the campaigns associated with them, the follower engagement around these posts, and reported outcomes.

Competitive Analysis
Advanced Analytics, powered by Simply Measured

Once you’ve finished your competitor analysis, you’ll likely uncover some content ideas you hadn’t considered before. Use all the data you collected to come up with new hashtag campaigns for your own brand.

In addition to the built-in hashtag search features on social media platforms, you can also use more advanced analytics tools to create improved social media posts, blogs, and more.

8. Start Using Twitter Chats

Post about Twitter chats with your hashtags to spark conversations between users that can eventually lead them to want to learn more about your brand. For example, if you’re in the financial services industry, you could start a chat to celebrate National Financial Literacy Month.

There are generic hashtags for Twitter chats like #MoneyChat, or you could even insert your brand in the chat’s hashtag. Things like this help start the conversation with your followers.

To get responses to your discussion, come up with questions about your chosen topic and let your followers know when you will hold the chat in advance.

Experian tagged participants from its #CreditChat, so followers of accounts in the same industry like the NFCC know Experian through this hashtag. The credit reporting firm also used the hashtag #FLM18 to bring attention to Financial Literacy Month and join the conversation with other users celebrating the month.

9. Measure Reach of Hashtag Campaigns

As you come up with strategies for hashtag campaigns, how you measure your results will impact your success now and in future marketing efforts. To measure the impact of your hashtag campaigns on your followers and current business pages on social media, be sure to monitor the following:

  • Mentions: Effective hashtags should inspire followers to interact with your brand, including mentioning your hashtag in posts. Monitor the number of mentions to determine whether followers think your brand message is memorable and shareworthy.
  • Views: These are views related to hashtagged posts, your business page, or related content like videos. Compare your views before launching a hashtag campaign and after to see if you achieved your goal of getting more eyes on your brand. Also try to compare organic vs. paid views for posts with hashtags. More organic views indicate there is bigger buzz around your brand as users are sharing posts with your hashtag with their networks.
  • Followers: Ideally, you should see your follower numbers grow after a successful hashtag campaign. If numbers stay the same, redo the keyword analysis step of your marketing strategy.

With analytics tools, you have more insight into what is working for your hashtag marketing strategies and how to improve future campaigns. For example, it’s easier to identify influencers based on their number of followers or other metrics after analyzing your hashtags and social media posts.

Through optimizing your hashtag strategy, you can grow the stage for your brand message and have more meaningful interactions with consumers that ultimately go beyond social media platforms.