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A Newbie’s Guide to Hashtags on Social Media

Guest Post by Susan Friesen

Tips, explanations and examples on how to use hashtags for your business. If you are new to social media you may be wondering what hashtags are about. We see them everywhere – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest and even Tumblr (originally published in 2015).

But what are they supposed to do? Why do they seem so random? Who is supposed to use them? It’s no wonder this all can seem very confusing! That’s why I’ve put together some tips to help you understand what the heck hashtags are and how to use them strategically in your business.

What are #Hashtags?

Basically, hashtags help people find stuff and share stuff. They are like an organisational tool for social media. They are a way to make it easier for people to find posts on a given topic as long as those posts use the same hashtag that is being searched for. Hashtags are where given words are prefaced with the keyboard pound hashtag sign #. One or more words can be used if the hashtag and keyword(s) have no spaces in between them. Once added to a social media post, the hashtag phrase becomes searchable and clickable. For an example, M&Ms just unleashed a new Pumpkin Spice flavoured candy for Fall. Starbucks is also promoting their Pumpkin Spice Latte. If you go into Twitter and type #PumkinSpice in the search feature, it will pull up a list of these and other Pumpkin Spice related posts.

Why use #Hashtags?

When done properly and strategically, hashtags are a great way to gain more exposure for your business. Here are a few examples how: Knowing popular hashtags for your industry and adding them to your posts can help you get traffic to your blog or website. Searching hashtags help you do research on topics, spy on your competition and discover great content. Adding hashtags can help brand yourself, your business, your products, and gain you recognition. Promoting specific hashtags for a live event can gain community among your attendees and followers. And some people use hashtags just for fun or to make a point. My favourite is #ChocolateIsSacred and has used it more than once!

Read more below about strategic ways to use hashtags in your business.

When hashtags were first created, Twitter created the #hashtag feature on June 1, 2009. All Twitter hashtags (words with the # sign in front of them) became hyperlinks to discover more tweets pertaining to that subject. Other social networks soon followed such as Facebook in 2013, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, and Instagram. Some networks like Google+ and Instagram have embraced hashtags with a fury where Facebook still lags at bringing this feature into mainstream usage. In fact, not long ago I conducted a very informal survey about the use of hashtags on Facebook and many said they had no idea what they were, others thought they were spammy and cluttered up their newsfeed and most all never clicked on them. Indeed, the only people who were using hashtags were either marketers or social media managers! But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be used… as you’ll see there are plenty of reasons to incorporate them into your social media strategy.

Rules for Hashtag use –  Different platforms have different official and “unwritten” rules about using hashtags. Here’s a few to be aware of:

Sentence case doesn’t matter, but you can use it to improve readability like #SecretStarbucksMenu. You can’t use special characters such as dashes, asterisks etc. Do not get spammy. Three or less hashtags is perfect. Use too many and it can be considered hashtag spam. Avoid having your Twitter or Instagram posts automatically send to Facebook when you tend to use a lot of hashtags. This is a real turn off for those on Facebook. Research a hashtag before using it. An existing hashtag may be used for something else that you don’t want to be associated with or draw attention to. 15 Strategic Examples On Using Hashtags in Your Business - Just like knowing the best keywords of your industry and optimising your website content to include them in order to be found in search engines, hashtags can also be used to help you get found in social media.

It’s important to create Hashtags for:

Events you are holding

For example, the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver just ended for another year and throughout their Twitter campaign. Hashtags tagging famous people or big companies who are mentioned in a post. For instance, #ElvisPresely results in hundreds of posts about the King of Rock and Roll. Posts related to trending topics. Author and Spiritual Teacher Wayne Dyer recently passed away. The hashtag #RIPWayneDyer was created to tap into the social searches for news relating to his passing.

Doing research

For example, if you were doing research on the latest news for our upcoming Canadian Federal election, do a Hashtag search using #CanadianElection2015 to find several posts on the subject.

Product promotion

Creating a special hashtag for your brand or product can help you gain a fan base. Creating a hashtag for your book or movie can help get traction and turn it into a trending topic. For example, we use our own #SocialBlast hashtag to help brand our online Social Media and Online Marketing membership program, Social Blast.

Humour

People also use hashtags as a way to share funny stuff with others and have a good laugh. Here’s a hashtag used by late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon describing his friend’s car and going on a road trip with him  #WorstRoadTripEver.

Popular Industry Topics

If you see a post on a popular industry topic, by adding that same hashtag to a post you create will help you be discovered by others looking for content on that hashtag. Here’s a post we have pinned for a blog article of ours to remind people of the importance of having a Smartphone friendly website using the hashtags #webdesign, #mobileready, #business and #entrepreneur.

Campaigns

Lots of people “monitor” certain hashtags. So using a hashtag consistently can help you gain a following. For example, Nike held a series of promotions using the #nikezoom hashtag.

Live Chats

Chats offer businesses the ability to connect to their customers, extend their reach and awareness. If you have a live chat on a certain topic, creating a hashtag can help you attract people to attend. For example #BeTheOne is a monthly chat about inspiring people to make a difference through personal leadership that infuses integrity, dignity and character.

Tap into Trending topics

Including a trending hashtag in your post can increase the overall reach. Ritetag is a great tool to help identify trending hashtags to use. It allows you to search 11 million hashtags to see what’s hot or not, has a long life, is overused, and underused. That way you can select the best hashtags to reach your audience.

Company or Personal Name

Gain recognition by creating a company tag like #Apple and #stephenking.

Quotes

If you share quotes, hashtags will help you be found. Some top ones to use are #motivationalquotes #inspirationalquotes and #quotes. Look at the use of hashtags in one of our recent Twitter posts. Every topic relating to the quote has its own hashtag.

Recurring post themes

For example, you may post a #photooftheday, #followfriday or #throwbackthursday for daily or weekly recurring posts. We use #eTip as a daily theme where we share tips on various subjects entrepreneurs utilize in their business.

Gaining blog readers

Using a hashtag on Pinterest pins can drive readers back to your website or blog. When someone clicks on a hashtag of yours most of the results that are shown on a Pinterest link back to related blog content. Note that these results are somewhat different than what you would find on Twitter. Where Twitter displays results in chronological order, Pinterest displays in popularity.

Research your competitors

Follow hashtags your competitors use to do market research and keep up with their latest news.

 

Hashtags are a lot of fun once you get the hang of it you’ll be hashtagging with the best of them. Make a point to create and use hashtags for your social media and don’t be afraid to create your own unique ones like what we did with #SocialBlast and #eTip (even though others now use it too and that’s ok!) It’s a great way to tap into a base of hot prospects interested in what you have to share. Jump in, Try Hashtags Today!

What’s your take on using hashtags? Do you use them in your business social media marketing? As a user, do you find them useful or spammy?

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