Hashtags have entered the social media world in an explosive way.  Made popular by Twitter, you now see them on your feeds of Facebook, Google+, Instagram and Pinterest.  But for those new to the hashtag scene,  the biggest questions circling hashtags are: what are they?  How do I use them?  When do I use them?  Why should I bother with them?

What are Hashtags?

Hashtags are a vehicle to share related content.   It helps others who are interested in a topic to easily find content related to that topic.  Anyone sharing content related to that topic can add a hashtag to their post.  And anyone searching for more information about a topic can search a particular hashtag.  Have you ever seen the #Discover link at the top of Twitter?  This is where you can search relevant hashtags.

For example, if you are writing an article on Hunger Games and wanted to be included in the Hunger Games discussion, you would put #HungerGames at the end of your post to be included in the discussion.

More than businesses have jumped on the hashtag bandwagon.  You may notice that your social network friends and family use hashtags in a different way to show their sentiment on a topic or find the humor in the post they are writing about.   I recently saw a this post on my Facebook feed: My boys! ‪#‎thefamilythatwearsveststogetherstaystogether.

How can I best use them for my business?

As a business, you want to show you human side and your personality.  No one wants to engage with a robot.  However, you want to utilize hashtags to get your brand out there.  There are a couple of ways to do this.

  • Ride the trending hashtag. What is trending in your related field is important to your business.  The first thing you can do is be in the know of what is trending.  A good site for this is hashtags.org.    For example, if you are in the sports business, you may want to stay in the conversation during Super Bowl time.  Using hashtag #SuperBowl after each post would keep you in the conversation.
  • Use hashtags for your industry. What is your business industry?  Each post can be labeled with your industry hashtag.  For example, a cupcake business can use the #cupcakes at the end of each post to stay in the conversation on cupcakes.
  • Create original hashtags. Creating original hashtags can be tricky.  Before you start posting with a hashtag, search on it to make sure it is unique in order to not join a conversation that does not relate to your business.  org is a great tool that aggregates hashtags for your convenience.

Using hashtags in your marketing

Hashtags can be a great way to hold contests, network with people and businesses in your industry, tag awards that you are following or even attend conferences.  Think of the social media world as a BBQ that you’d like to attend, and hashtags are your vehicle to find who is related to you.

  • Run a Contest: Original hashtags are great ways to label content when you are running contests on social media or have a continuous topic you’d like to label over the course of time. If you are running a contest, you could have participants upload photos to their own social media accounts using your product and label that photo with your unique hashtag.  You can them see all photos that use this hashtag on any of the social media platforms that utilize hashtags.
  • Network: You have most likely seen #FollowFriday (#FF) or #ThrowbackThursday (#tbt) hashtags on your feed. Start participating!  #FollowFriday is opportunity to give a shout out to those companies or people that you follow that you find provide valuable content.  It is a way for you to network and share their brand.  In many cases, if you do this, they will follow you back.
  • Follow a conversation: Twitter is a noisy place, but a great platform to network and talk. Use an original hashtag to keep a conversation going.  For example, if you attended a conference and would like to talk to people that attended that same conference, use the conference hashtag in all your posts revolving around that hashtag.

You’re Turn.

Creating a hashtag is very simply.  Use the # symbol and don’t use spaces or punctuation.  Make them very simple (This is not a good example: #‎thefamilythatwearsveststogetherstaystogether), and don’t go hashtag crazy.  One of two hashtags per post is perfect!

Get in the conversation!

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Hashtags? What do they mean and how can I use them for my business?
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