Hashtags are essentially a free advertising tool. When they’re used properly, you can reach hundreds of potential customers on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
But you don’t actually have to be an active social media user to take advantage of them. You can also use them to learn exactly what travellers want and expect when they visit your area.
The #hashtag explained
Hashtags were invented by social media users to make it easier to find information on Twitter, where 232 million people post new content every day. Everything that follows the pound sign (#) turns into a searchable link, so people can organise their posts according to anything, from #travel to #AwfulMovies.
The hashtag started in 2007, when a developer called Chris Messina suggested that Twitter users needed a better system for filtering their posts. In October that year, the idea took off when journalists started using the hashtag #SanDiegoFire to tweet updates about forest fires in San Diego.
Since then, hashtags have turned into a universal language across all major social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
How to use hashtags for customer research
While hashtags are traditionally used to amplify your message to people who aren’t following your business, they’re also an incredibly valuable market research tool.
Because if there’s one guarantee on social media, it’s that travellers love to brag about the fact that they’re away. On average, travellers spend 2.8 hours per day on social media researching, planning, boasting about and reporting on their trips.
If you search Twitter for the hashtag #GoldCoast, for example, you’ll quickly find out where tourists are staying, what sites they’re visiting, what activities they’re enjoying and where they’ve had a poor customer service experience. Use this information when making recommendations or crafting itineraries. It’s free, honest customer feedback, and you don’t have to do any legwork to find it.
How to use hashtags to target visitors
If you do plan on using hashtags in your social media strategy, you can really zero in on particular consumers depending on the ones you choose.
Here are just some of the hashtags consumers use when searching for information about travel:
- #TravelTuesday – Ideal for posting travel news and deals
- #BeachThursday – Popular for spreading news about beach-related events and festivals
- #destination – use destination specific hashtags like #Melbourne or #GoldCoast when you’re talking about a particular country or city
If you need help deciding on a hashtag, try Hashtagify.me, which will generate a list of the most popular hashtags related to your subject.
How to use hashtags to track industry news
Hashtags can also be used to see what other hoteliers, travel experts and marketing professionals are talking about within the industry.
Here are the most popular hashtags for tracking tourism news:
- #TourismChat – a chat hosted by @TourismChat every Thursday at 3pm EST
- #ttot – another chat called Travel Talk On Twitter, every Tuesday at both 9:30am and 9:30pm GMT
- #TNI – a casual chat called Travellers’ Night In every Thursday at 3:30pm EST
There are some unspoken rules to follow when using hashtags. Here are the big ones:
- Don’t use more than 1 or 2 hashtags on Facebook or Twitter. Research shows when you use more than 2 hashtags, your engagement actually drops by 17 percent.
- Keep them short and sweet. The longer they are, the harder to understand.
- Putting hashtags at the end of a post makes the information more readable. For instance:
— Intrepid Travel (@Intrepid_Travel) February 11, 2015
- Don’t use spaces. If you want to differentiate words, use capital letters, like this: #NewYorkCity