Hashtag research: How to search relevant hashtags for social media marketing

Social media marketers can use hashtag search tools to find topical influencers and hashtags they use, and research hashtags that are relevant to the contents being promoted.

Let’s say I want to promote an article which talks about industry trends in data visualization; I first need to find the people who are “influencers” in this area. A tool I recommend for influencer research is BuzzSumo.

As seen in the screenshot below, I clicked the Influencers tab at the top, typed “data visualization” in the search box and hit Search button. By default, the list of influencers is sorted by “relevancy.” To pick up influencers for further research, I usually read the bio for relevancy and look at the number of followers and retweet ratio.

hashtag research - buzzsumo

For my hashtag research, I found Info Aesthetics (@infosthetics) looks relevant and promising: its bio has an explicit focus on data visualization; it has more than 16,000 followers and a 26% retweet ratio.

The next step is to find what hashtags Info Aesthetics usually uses in its tweets. A good hashtag research tool for this purpose is Twitonomy.

After logging in using my Twitter account (@mututemple), I entered @infosthetics in the “Analyze a Twitter profile” section and hit enter. In the subsequent report dashboard, there is a section called “#Hashtags most used,” as seen in the screenshot below.

hashtag research - twitonomy
Obviously, the one that is used most often, #visweek, caught my eyes. Not knowing what this hashtag means, I tried looking up its meaning at TagDef, which is a website where people from around the world volunteer to add definitions or descriptions for various hashtags. However, #visweek does not have a definition there, which usually means it is not a popular hashtag.

To find out more about #visweek, I used RiteTag to check out its usage history. Usually, a good hashtag is one that has active and consistent usage, with decent numbers of volume and reach. As seen in the screenshot below, #visweek is not in active use, at least not for the past 30 days. (a trick when using RiteTag: remove the # sign when entering Twitter handle in the search box)

hashtag research - ritetag

So, the research result for #visweek is to pass it and start over to look at other hashtags or maybe another influencer. The research shows that although this hashtag is used a lot by a top influencer, it nonetheless is not a popular one; moreover, I don’t know the meaning of the hashtag or the context of its use.

It should be noted that for a given influencer, he or she may have multiple interests and use hashtags that are not relevant to what we are researching for. At other times, a top hashtag used by an influencer may be associated with an event and, as a result, you won’t see active or consistent use of the hashtag at time of your research.

On the other hand, when you do find a hashtag that is relevant to what you are researching for, you may want to (quickly) find some related hashtags. A hashtag research tool for this purpose is Hashtagify.me. As an example, when I research hashtag #webwriting, the site shows top 10 related hashtags – bigger bubbles mean higher popularity, thicker lines mean higher relevancy to #webwriting. Some of the suggested hashtags may call for further research using tools discussed above.

hashtag research - hashtagifyme

Dear readers of this post: if you know of better tools or better ways for hashtag research, please kindly leave a comment in the “Leave a Reply” box below.

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About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism professional and educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin manages an online marketing company. He also manages MulinBlog Online J-School (www.mulinblog.com/mooc), a free online journalism training program, which offers courses such as Audio Slideshow Storytelling; Introduction to Social Media Marketing; Writing for the Web; Google Mapping for Communicators; Introduction to Data Visualization; Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics.
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