What are hashtags and how can they help your business?

We were recently asked by one of our social media followers, what are hashtags and how do they work with business marketing? This is a great question. Let’s start with the first part.

A hashtag is simply a word or phrase that has the # in front of it. You might be more familiar with it as the pound sign from your phone. Hashtags are used to “tag” a social media post (whether it’s a photo, video or text).

Why does it help you to tag your posts? Many social media users like to search for posts (or people) who share similar interests – or research a particular topic. On social media platforms, such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, you can search for hashtags and discover a treasure trove of posts.

Here is an example local sports fans will understand. Go to Twitter, click in the search bar and type in #Seahawks. You’ll find a ton of posts from sports writers, fans and the team itself – all using the hashtag that makes it easy to centralize the info into a single stream. You can see a few tweets that include the hashtag here:

Hashtags are even more popular on Instagram. Given the visual nature of the platform, users tend to use hashtags even more so that their photos/images can be easily found. Take a look at what one finds when searching for #Seahawks on Instagram:

As you can see – the type of content is very different, even though the subject matter is the same.

Now, how can you use hashtags in your social media? Simply think about your audience and what topics/subjects they might be searching for and that will help guide you. For example, if you’re a restaurant and you’re posting a photo of an amazing salmon special you could tag the post #Salmon #Edmonds #Restaurant #Delicious.

With Twitter, you need to remember that there is still (for now) a character limit with each post, so this will limit the number hashtags you can use with each post. There are no such limits on Facebook and Instagram posts – as a matter of fact, many popular Instagrammers typically include multiple hashtags with each post (casting the widest possible net of those who might be interested). Hashtags haven’t caught on as much with Facebook, even though the capability was introduced a few years ago.

And if you’re wondering about LinkedIn, it used to support hashtags but no longer does.

One word of warning: before using a hashtag, check to see what other businesses or events are using it. You don’t want to mix up your audiences by confusing #GoDawgs for the Huskies with #GoDawgs for the University of Georgia!

So there you go – now you know that when you share and engage on social media you shouldn’t just think about WHAT you are sharing, but also how you’re going to TAG it so it’s easier to find by those you want to reach!

Start experimenting with hashtags today and comment with them below. We’d love to see how they are working for you.

Published October 10, 2016 by Luke Severn.
Categories: Social Media