This is one of those topics that no one wants to delve into because they can be so frustrating and also incomprehensible. A lot of the use of hashtags is, as discussed in the introductory note, just a way for people to see that you care, and we will definitely discuss that later. The struggle of hashtags is that they are only really of immediate obvious use to people who use social media heavily and those are the sorts of people who wouldn’t have trouble with hashtags in the first place. This of course leads to the same sort of problematic circlejerk that I think will end up defining a lot of the struggles bands face with social media. When it comes down to it, to understand social media you have to use it but if you don’t want to use social media personally, for one of countless excellent reasons, then you are going to find yourself at a disadvantage. A disadvantage that I think might take a while to overcome and may even be insurmountable.
What even is a hashtag? A hashtag is a word or phrase used to specify that a piece of content is tied into a particular topic. These can be anywhere from very broad hashtags like #photooftheday to extremely limited ones like #denverisheavier. The flow between them is a huge part of the appeal and an essential key in making your hashtag use effective. With Twitter you are obviously limited to 280 characters for your hashtags to fit in or after your tweets. Meanwhile with Instagram you are limited to 30 but character length doesn’t matter. Facebook of course also uses hashtags but those aren’t really prioritized in the algorithm like they are in Twitter and Instagram and aren’t going to end up having as much of an effect. Hashtags have become absolutely essential for any band trying to promote themselves on Twitter and Instagram. They represent a strange new way to communicate that can be very alienating and take quite a bit of getting used to. That’s a big part of why part two of this chapter is a list of 100 useful hashtags for rock and metal bands.
The prime use of hashtags is thus to get people to pay attention to the content that you are creating. For both Twitter and Instagram if you don’t use hashtags not only does this make your posts not easily searchable it also deprioritizes them in peoples general feeds. This means that if you don’t play by their rules then nobody is going to give a shit. And if no one is going to give a shit then why even bother with this nonsense in the first place? It can be a very tricky and unforgiving world with all of this but you need to be able to look beyond and create something truly meaningful and helpful for your band. Otherwise you are just treading water and are going to be seeing your brand slowly decline no matter how much you try to tour, flyer or follow other old school methods of marketing your band. You need your content to be highly visible and so you need to be willing to make sure you are using hashtags.
So how do you even come up with hashtags? What hashtags should you be using? I try to emphasize a blend of everything from more general hashtags to ones hyper targeted for you. Odds are your band has a wider potential audience than you are currently accessing. You need to try to access some people who might not think to look for genre specific hashtags but would be stoked to find your band if you were using something much more generic like #follow. Of course this won’t lead to a ton of conversions, but if it can even simply lead to brand awareness within your circle then I would count that as a win,. Finding this blend is key, it’s just like any advertising campaign. It needs to hit both the average Joe, but also be catering to the sort of super underground music dudes who really get off on this stuff. That’s why you get 30 of them with Instagram, it’s a struggle.
A final key in the world of hashtags is the use of trending topics or trending hashtags. This isn’t referring to generally huge ones, like #pictureoftheday. I’m talking about hashtags that pop up for a few days or even hours before going away. This is where it becomes key to have a social media presence constantly because you can stay on top of these things. If you are able to create time sensitive posts that use these trending hashtags people will feel like your brand is with it and on point. It will also get more people reacting to you because it shows you aren’t just some staid loser. It shows you are someone trying to interact and create cool stuff with their friends in a meaningful and productive way – something that happens far too rarely in this industry. Connecting to average folks who just happen to enjoy using social media can be viewed as an added bonus. Keeping us with trending hashtags will increase fan lifetime value and it will convert more fans.
Beyond that is the simple fact of the matter that you need a brand hashtag for fans to use to get a stronger sense of brand awareness/tie ins. Examples of this include Obama’s #yeswecan, Coke’s #shareacoke, Charmin’s #tweetfromtheseat, Mothership’s #tripontheship Cloud Catchers #denverisheavier. Notice that these hashtags are more focused on being their own statement, it’s more than just #ledzeppelinrocks. Better for Zep might be, #stairway and then incorporating that into posts. Being able to create a brand hashtag that will speak to your fans and give them something to connect to is truly challenging and it can be hard to make it take off. You need to persist with it for it to develop. After all – a good brand hashtags is the kind of thing that can really blow up your brand. Even if the hashtag isn’t directly associated with you but it’s one that you started, that will help, because people like to see the origins of these things. Simultaneously, if it’s a hashtag only you use, it can still be useful to create rich brand continuity.
When it comes down to it, hashtags are the sort of thing that came out of nowhere and had a massively disruptive impact on the marketing world .They have come in to be the new slogans, the new way that bands have to promote themselves if they want to be seen and that can be very scary. Hashtags aren’t really something we were taught about in school, but very soon they might become the key to all of marketing, and when that happens we are going to need to be hyper aware of the ramifications of every single one. Hopping on trends and creating your own can be hard to do and isn’t why most of us got into music, but it is certainly a reality we must face.