Hashtag 101

understanding hashtagsHaving a social media presence for your business is a great way to communicate with your target audience. Having direct interaction through social media helps humanize your business with the world. Using hashtags in your posts to create conversations with your followers is a beneficial tool and can be helpful to your brand. We’ll break down why hashtags are important and how they’re used among different social networks.

How Hashtags Work

When you put number sign/hash (#) in front of the word or phrase that hashtag becomes a link. That link becomes a searchable topic that links conversations with that hashtag together. When creating a marketing campaign, hashtags can be useful to get people talking about a specific topic, and if associated properly, encourages them to participate and engage with your brand. Using one to three hashtags in one particular post is sufficient. Hashtags can be comprised of words and/or numbers, but not special characters or spaces. The capitalization of letters in hashtags doesn’t matter but may make it easier to read to define multiple words.

Best Practices

Give hashtags a contextual meaning to add to the conversation and allow others to contribute to that conversation as well. Posting a hashtag that doesn’t relate to your brand, is too vague or using too many hashtags in a post, can cause you to lose credibility with your followers. Keeping hashtags simple make them more likely to be searchable and used. It’s preferable to place hashtags at the end of your post. Use hashtags that highlight and engage the audience without disrupting from your main message.

For example, if you created a post on generating sales for your small business, hashtags you may consider would be #SmallBusiness #Entrepreneur or #SalesGeneration but you wouldn’t want to use #GeneratingSalesforyourSmallBusiness. The latter hashtag is too long and specific that very few people, if any, will use it.

Hashtags across Social Networks

If you use a social media management site, you can integrate and monitor your marketing content on all of your social media platforms, allowing you to stay organized and follow current trends and topics associated with your hashtags. Keep in mind, Facebook recently began using hashtags a few years ago, while Twitter and Instagram have used them for about five to 10 years. Each platform has its own set of “unspoken rules” of what’s an acceptable or unacceptable use of a hashtag. It will take practice seeing how your followers will incorporate hashtags across various social media platforms, but remember to keep your hashtags simple and consistent to your brand.

When to leave the Hashtag alone

Hashtags are a great way to get your target audience engaged in your brand and the conversations relevant to your company and industry. But not all posts need to have a hashtag associated with them. The hashtag is a powerful tool to add substance and context to an ongoing trend or conversation, but if you have nothing to add, it’s okay to let the post stand alone. If you spam your posts with too many hashtags or add hashtags that are irrelevant, you become an annoyance to anyone who sees your posts, which may negatively hurt your brand or credibility.

When planning your social media posts, think ahead of what message you want to share with your audience and how you wish to engage them. If you are conducting a campaign or event you can engage interest and discussion through the implementation of a hashtag. There are many hashtags that are already in use, such as #TGIF or #ThrowbackThursday. You can research which outstanding hashtags are in use or create your own. Remember keep hashtags simple, concise and engaging.

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