Hashtags have given a new purpose to that seldom used sign above the three on most keyboards. Previously reserved for declaring “We’re number #1” the pound sign, or hashtag, is a great tool for two key social media platforms, Twitter, and Instagram. Although hashtags are of no use on Facebook their worth investing a little time and thought into in order to get the most from your social media strategy.

Simply put, hashtags link topics together. They’re short, often abbreviated, sets of keywords that help people with common interests connect with each other. For example, if I just painted my new yacht and wanted to meet other yacht enthusiasts with whom I could share my experience, I may tweet “Just finished the final coat on my new #yacht. Isn’t she lovely?” People who search for #yacht would discover my tweet, or Instagram post, and perhaps give me a follow or connect in some way. I alternatively could search for #yacht to discover others I want to follow as well.

Put this on the scale of social media, about 500M Twitter users and 100M Instagram users, and you can begin to see the power of this little sign above the number three key.

A few tips and tricks.

Before loading up your post with hashtags take a little time to check the relevancy of your tags. For example, a blacksmith may tag, “Check out my #plate armor” only to discover a search for #plate brings up nothing but fine China and porcelain. Be sure that you’re using the same tags people in the community are using. This is especially true when abbreviations come into play. #SmallBiz is a popular hashtag but #BizMarketing is not.

Beware of PoundLock

That is, limit your hashtags to 1 or 2 per post. Overdoing hashtags makes your business look desperate for attention and will have followers dropping you like a bad habit. Some good rules to remember: post like you’re human, let the conversation flow naturally, be retweetable before asking for a retweet, and don’t tweet like a spam bot.

If you’ve got a wide array of hastags that fit into your social media strategy, mix it up over the month and see which ones are getting the most attention. Pick the best hashtag for your situation, and move on.

Another creative use of hashtags is to create your own.

This is especially handy should your company throw an event or offer a summer sale. Include #SamsDeal, for example, on your marketing collateral to encourage users to join the conversation. You can also use hashtags during competitions. A pet store might ask its users to submit pictures of their pets with the hashtag #BethsPetPals. When the competition is over, a search for the hashtag would filter the results.

Be sure to look out for other events and promotions that you should be listening in on. Let’s say you’re a CD duplication house near Austin Texas, you may want to keep a search going for #SXSW to engage bands looking for CD Duplications around the time of the SXSW musical conference. Or if you love fantasy movies do a search for #TheHobbit and tweet with other geeks about Middle Earth. (Hey, I loved the Hobbit! I can call myself a geek if I want to.)

It’s great to see so many businesses becoming involved with social media. It’s linking communities together like never before. With that, comes a bit of a learning curve for some users. But fret not, there’s not much a hashtag can do that will destroy your business. However, there are some ways hashtags can help your business. By being slightly cautious, conservative, and inquisitive (ie using the hashtags for yourself) you can start leveraging this creative tool to your company’s benefit: engaging new customers, discovering other peers, gaining new insight, and perhaps catching a quick laugh. Instagram and Twitter are great places to connect your business with your customers, as well as with other businesses and professionals in most any industry.

About the Author
Ryan is owner operator at Streets of Atlanta Promotions and Student Innovation Fellow at Georgia State University. His previous work includes Transportation and Sustainability Outreach at Central Atlanta Progress, and small business marketing and advertising. Email him at ryan[at]streetsofatl.com or follow on Twitter @streetsofatl. Thanks for stopping by!
  1. Roger Cagle Reply

    Good luck with your new venture. Work hard and you will be #success.

  2. Lou Wilkie Reply

    Learn something new every day. This is it for today! Thanks.

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