How to Use Hashtags on Social Media Effectively #hashtag ;) #bethechange

More and more you are probably starting to see hashtags on your social media newsfeeds or whenever you log in, and thus we are receiving more and more the questions, “How do hashtags work? And what are they really for?”

The better we understand something from our own experience the more effectively we can use it, so let’s talk about hashtags so we can have more power behind our work in communications.

There is an “art and science” even to hashtags. The art is how we craft what we say in our posts and how we use our own source of inspiration to create a flow of whatever it is that we are sharing. The science is how we come to decide upon a point within a particular field or area we want to strategically choose — for its potential to connect with others.

There are three social media sites that stick out for their use of hashtagging:

  1. Instagram (#1), which is mostly just hashtags sometimes.
  2. Twitter uses hashtags (along with a quote or message usually).
  3. And Pinterest!

You’ve also probably started to see hashtags used on Facebook.

And each of these social media sites is a little bit different in how it works. That’s really important to know because a lot of us try to post on multiple accounts at once because it can save time and that’s great. But if you do know some of the tricks for various hashtagging strategies on social media sites, then it will help you to either make choices a little more effectively or decide how you want to craft your message so that you address all the different social media sites’ needs as best you can.

For example, you can have a hashtag phrase or it can be just a word. With sites like Instagram, and also Google Plus, you’ll notice that a phrase is more likely to go in a good direction, and in fact, with both of those social media sites, as you type in what word you would like to use for a hashtag, it will generate a whole phrase where you can choose and see which one you think would be the most magnetic.

Now, it’s important to remember that the main purpose behind hashtagging is

  1. Search engine optimization (SEO)
  2. Connecting with others – or increasing a following i.e. networking.

You will be empowered by knowing the purpose behind hashtags because then when you do start to do them, it’s not just whatever phrase necessarily strikes you that moment, you can really put some energy behind it and do it with as much — as we have heard from Jyotish and of course Swami — by doing things with a high level energy and aiming for excellence in all that we do. Empowering ourselves with knowledge is a really good way to make this kind of marketing practice more effective.

For those of you who may have noticed, there are hashtags being used in the media widely now because what they are trying to do is create a movement behind their hashtag phrase. So one of the ones that is appearing the most today is #givingtuesday. It’s a likely newsworthy trend, kind of like what news articles are going around the most, it’s mostly with social media but you also will see corresponding TV and media ads using the hashtag phrase. They see the importance of social media in their overall marketing strategy. The posts that have to do with all the nonprofit organizations sharing about their Giving Tuesday campaigns are using #givingtuesday.

As a movement, they have come together to coin this hashtag phrase, and individually they will share how to support their organization that day, and people in their networks will do as well, such that they can come up in the search that day for strong Giving Tuesday campaigns. There is power from this synergy such now that this is an annual event on multiple channels and from multiple organizations.

I still remember standing in Nayaswami Devarshi’s office as we tried out various hashtag strategies for Pinterest using various methods for phrases around #kriyayoga. We tried phrases either as a whole, or as separate words, and we found that the people who came up first in the searches of say “kriya yoga” did best if they had #kriya #yoga as separate words (not trying to combine them into a phrase). So the people who had used #yoga or #asana did best for those words in the search engine rather than #yogasana. Or #yogananda did better than #paramhansayogananda.

That’s a clear example of how various social media sites may even differ in their approach to hashtagging and their search engine results within their site. And these results are separate from what even occurs on Google or Google Image search results. For the other sites it is better to use a phrase so you can connect to more specific audiences.

We don’t want to just come up with just any term that could become a phrase, it’s something that we believe will have some kind of newsworthy power behind it that comes most likely directly from our audience! Those who we are seeking to reach with this beautiful ray. One of the hashtags that we are doing #bethechange, now that’s great! because we’re not the only ones using that phrase in a campaign.

In fact, Miley Cyrus (oddly enough), has her own Be the Change campaign that’s taking over Instagram, but it has its own unique vibration and feel that’s more about “youth” “rocker” “hippie” kind of message to it where they definitely have a political standpoint, whereas ours is more spiritual — we reference a quote by Gandhi, we have that connotation, but because we are doing #bethechange and so are people who are interested in other #bethechange campaigns we start to see each others’ posts and info when we look up that phrase in the search or have recommended friends to follow (like in Instagram).

So what’s the most important thing that you could leave with today? And that’s to practice typing phrases into the searches within social media sites to see how people go about networking and what is coming up the most in searches. I didn’t really grasp what hashtagging was about until I did this and used it for growing networks (the main goal of most social media users). If you type into your social media site’s search engine, “yoga” or “name of person” like “paramhansa yogananda”– you will see top accounts (persons or profiles), top places, top posts that have that phrase in the message’s content, and other people that are using that hashtag. But you will see there is a heirarchy, or what comes up first.

That’s always the most important thing, what comes up first in our search because that’s what we click through and read or pay the most attention to… If you can become the post that comes up first, or person, or place, that’s when that hashtag phrase you’ve targeted is most likely to be seen. So if we wanted to come up first for anyone who searched, “be the change,” if you practice doing that in Facebook, for example, you will find that people come up first (not posts), so if you are targeting an audience that more uses Facebook, bear this kind of information in mind when deciding a strategy. Perhaps creating a “be the change” profile or person is a good idea. So number 1 goal (#1) to make your phrase the strongest in the search results is a goal, and the second (#2) is you want to create enough energy around the phrase so that people also search for it.

You not only want to create a movement with a magnetic hashtag phrase that people are using but you also want to bring more people to rally around that movement by including it in the picture, the corner of a YouTube video (or the title). You’ll notice that what the big companies do — they don’t just use hashtags in a post they use it at the end of their commercials, they use it on the print ads in magazines. It’s not just isolated. The power behind a movement is not just in one mention here or there in a post, not one litle channel, it’s all the pieces put together. United the energy is so much stronger. So if we really want to make something like #bethechange it’s own energized movement than we want to plaster that also all over things we put out: our posts, videos, articles, letters, print ads, stickers, posters etc. Ideally, we would even put two hashtag phrases together to show our unique campaign:#bethechange and #meditationpledge. Because our unique contribution to Be the Change as a movement is the idea that meditation is the way that we are going to effect change in the world around us by staring with ourselves.

If we were to go back to the idea of “the art and science” of hashtagging (before my direction changed) — what you will notice when you start experimenting to focus on the science of hashtagging — on Facebook the people who come up first when you search for “yogananda” are people whose accounts or profiles are with the name Yogananda. It’s not our pages, it’s not a place, it’s not any post, it’s the people who have created a profile with that in the name. Search results as you experiment, are always affected by our search history. Because of your history, you will have certain search results come up, or with social media sites, it’s based on what connections you have already made, or posts you have engaged with… For example, because I’m always going to Ananda.org or JyotishandDevi.org, anything that I plug into the Google search — it’s going to remember my history and give me results connected with my most frequently visited pages. It’s a “web” of connections first and foremost, taking us to results related to our history not just at random.

This is why it’s important to experiment a search phrase (like “be the change” and make a website called “meditationpledge.com”) — you will notice we chose this phrase based on search engine keyword research for what could be unique but commonly searched. You have to do the research beforehand and knowing who else is out there using the phrase, the URL you want,  all of those activities. If you don’t start by starting an “incognito” search, your results are going to be affected. You won’t have a non-biased (if you remember from science class, a bias is from the experimenter’s effect on the results so that they change according to the experimenter’s influence) — so you will want to make sure you do the incognito search [google that phrase to learn how to do it].

Remember, if you want to use hashtags for Ananda it’s not just “what do I want to say today?” If you are trying to rally around a movement and give your energy to something on a wide scale, for millions of people remember, or for the Be the Change theme, tune into the movement phrase that will best reach people.

On the other hand, on a site like Instagram, it can be confusing because you may see a bunch of hashtags like #yogaisthebest or lots of words squished together, and that’s fine because everytime you do a post with a long yoga phrase, it has the ability to still connect you with other people that are looking up that same long yoga phrase. It connects you, ultimately, with the like-minded people. Some of the hashtags we always use in our posts, for example for Instagram, Twitter, YouTube videos, are these sorts of things: #yogananda #ananda #bethechange #meditatonpledge.

Just a reminder, no matter what, if you’re doing hashtags you should also include in your message a good URL link to send people for their next steps (to go deeper or learn more). That’s the most effective way.

Social media is part of a whole. It’s not just a stand alone. Every time we do a social media post we have the ability to connect it back to a website, a landing page, a place for people to take a next step that you’ve set up especially for something that meets your goals.

It’s really important that we think about what we can GIVE people besides this post. If you are one of those people who are sharing about Be the Change, don’t forget to include its link: http://www.meditationpledge.com. [On YouTube you must include also the http:// for it to be activated for clicking.] It’s always good to think bigger picture when you are getting ready to choose your hashtags.

Another quick tip about them is to remember that you should think about your location as its own hashtag phrase to use. Especially, if you are a meditation group or yoga center. Small businesses are always looking to network on social media within their area. Often they learn about other accounts by searching by location. Facebook is OK for hashtags but it’s not really the ideal one. The most ideal ones are Twitter and Instagram. (Pinterest it’s the content that helps the most, hashtag or no.)

If you notice, when you do a Facebook post and use hashtags, ideally what would happen is they become BLUE because that means that it is hyperlinked. So if it doesn’t become hyperlinked, then it’s not going to connect you to the greater network and people using that hashtag or searching for it…I just did a post on #givingtuesday, for example, and it hyperlinked BLUE and when I clicked it took me to a search results page with all my friends also using the hashtag phrase #givingtuesday. If it doesn’t become hyperlinked in your Facebook post, it is not going to have the same power and it’s worth trying other phrases until you find one that does so you can utilize that space to reach others.

If you do this on Instagram, it will tell you how many others are posting with that same phrase, and you can easily click through to see the top posts with that same phrase. This represents how likely you will be able to connect with others via the chosen hashtag phrase. So if you are doing something like #kalamaliloveschocolate, say that becomes a phrase, ok that’s funny, a great laugh, but it’s not going to connect me with others or have any strategy behind it, because no one is going to necessarily look up “kalamali loves chocolate.” What instead I could do is #inspirationalmarketing or #socialmediatips — I’m more likely to have any connections with people posting on those topics. The other thing I’ve been having fun using (on Instagram) is #india #truth #saintsofindia — thinking of the people that we are trying to reach — to speak to — who is out there that wants to connect with us!

Cause that’s what we are sharing for, right? Our purpose is to find and connect with the people that are of Master that want to come back to him and then be able to connect in that way with Ananda. They want to find the inspiration of Yogananda online. So we want to do whatever we can to find them.

Let’s end with a quote that came to me this morning:

Knowledge lives on when we share that which we have come to understand, but the truth is written upon all our hearts for all time as long as we open ourselves to Listen. Nothing is lost. All is Eternal.

We have but to become channels to share what we learn in the lessons of life, but we are part of a greater reality that lives on and teaches all of us in the whispers of our heart.