• Alysa Salzberg

Hashtags and healthcare marketing

Hashtags are a common sight on most social media platforms, tacked onto posts about everything from news headlines to personal accomplishments. Even healthcare marketing and awareness campaigns use them.


But it’s not as easy as it might seem. Several recent articles have revealed some interesting things you may not know about hashtags, as well as how to make them work for healthcare

and pharma issues.


Here are four important takeaways:


1. There is such a thing as too many hashtags.


Hashtags are used on most social media platforms, including Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. While some of these sites limit the number of hashtags a post can include, others have no explicit or even implicit rules for hashtag use. This could give the impression that users should go all-out, adding any hashtag that might get their issue or brand some attention.


But Terry Ibele of marketing firm Wild Apricot cites a study that shows Instagram posts with more than eleven hashtags get less engagement. The same study also found that even one hashtag can reduce engagement on Twitter.


This means that brands need to hold themselves back, and also think more carefully about which hashtags they’re using.


2. The most effective hashtags may not be what you think.


It makes sense that an ad or awareness campaign should include hashtags like #donate, but Ibele explains that many of these very common hashtags don’t always attract the kind of attention you’d think.


One issue is that these hashtags are so typical that most other campaigns are using them, too, which makes them far from attention-getting and creates a lot more competition when it comes to search results.


Ibele advises thinking outside the box – for instance, creating a new hashtag or even a social media campaign. Another strategy is to piggyback onto an established online trend, say, using #MCM (Man Crush Monday) or #WCW (Woman Crush Wednesday) to highlight a man or woman who’s doing something important in your organization or field.


3. Hashtag research is important.


If you’re less than social media-savvy, don’t worry. Lots of resources can help you find the best platforms and hashtags for your organization.


You might start with this article, which gives an excellent overview, from the first hashtag ever used, to what they’re used for. Here’s another quick and informative read.


Once you’ve got that down, the latter source suggests following similar companies or causes on social media, to see which hashtags they use and how they’re using them.


This isn’t a call to copy or plagiarize, just to familiarize yourself with what’s being done in your field. For instance, if a hashtag is used consistently by many of your colleagues and competitors, it’s probably a good idea to include that in your social media, as well. #BCSM, for example, is a hashtag commonly associated with breast cancer awareness and research.


Another way to get to know hashtags is searching for them on social media platforms and observing the results. You can also use sites that let you perform searches to see if one has already been used, and how. These include Hashtagify.me and RiteTag.


4. Hashtags alone don’t = social media success


Hashtags add visibility and possibly engagement to what you publish. But content goes a long way, too. Giving people a reason to view and share a post – and hopefully to follow or subscribe to an account - means having something interesting to say.


One source of inspiration that several marketing sites suggest is…other hashtags. Trend-related hashtags like #TBT can open up a new way to present or see your brand or cause. For instance journalist Karin Olafson shares how NASA used the #worldemojiday hashtag to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, featuring an emoji story as their post.


Internet trends in general can also provide inspiration. The organization Truth used the eternal popularity of funny pet videos to promote a post about the dangers of smoking.


Sharing these videos alongside facts about the effects of second-hand smoke on pets gave viewers content they enjoyed and also exposed them to a powerful message .Ibele reports that the campaign resulted in millions of shares and a notable change in how many young people perceive smoking. The group has continued to use this idea, which also inspired its compelling hashtag #CATmageddon.



Whether you’re already a hashtag user or just getting to know more about what’s after and behind the # symbol, remember that hashtags matter. Paired with the right content, they can dramatically increase a company or cause’s visibility, and maybe help cause a positive change in people’s lives.



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