#Hashtag 101: A Beginners Guide to Hashtags

By Stefanie Neyland, Small Business Content Developer at BizLaunch.com

Assuming your business already has a dedicated Twitter account, you should be incorporating hashtags as a part of your social media strategy. Hashtags are a key ingredient in the recipe for social media success, but understanding what a hashtag is—let alone using one—can be confusing for small business owners, even those who consider themselves tech-savvy.
Simply put, using hashtags is similar to typing phrases into Google, except they enable people to search and discover content on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. With a hashtag, users can tag posts with a hash symbol (#) followed by a keyword or phrase, allowing sites to categorize posts based on terms used, which as a result, makes it easier for people to search for related posts based on their interests.
For small businesses (and particularly those who don’t have much in the way of a marketing budget), hashtags are a free and useful way to grow a community for your company on both Twitter and Facebook—as long as you’re regularly posting content that’s interesting and valuable to your followers, and using carefully selected keywords in your hashtags.
Now that you’ve got the lowdown on the basic concept of hashtags, let’s explore how you can use them for your small biz.
1. Where can I use hashtags?
You can use hashtags on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr and Pinterest. To find out what’s trending across social media, Hashtags.org tells you which tags are popular in real time.
2. Keep it simple.
Keep tags simple and direct. For example, if Staples Canada were tweeting about the company’s latest sustainability schemes, #StaplesEcoInitiatives would be far too long and complex. Instead, using a shorter tags such as ‘#StaplesEco’ would be much more effective.
3. Create your own.
Businesses—both big and small—often create their own hashtags as a means of creating buzz around a specific campaign. For example, you may have seen or heard Staples Canada’s #WhatTheL campaign of late, where they drop the ‘L’ of the Staples logo and replace it with a product you wouldn’t expect Staples to carry. Not only does it encourage customers to join the #WhatTheL conversation, but it also collates all #WhatTheL results into one easily accessible place. Using a specially tailored hashtag along with Twitter’s promoted tweets would be a great option for a business to generate buzz, excitement and encourage interaction with users.
4. Piggyback on hashtags.
Check out what’s trending (use the ‘Trends’ panel on the left-hand side of your Twitter news feed to see what’s trending based on your geographic location), or get in on regularly used hashtags such as ‘Follow Friday’ (#FF). Although it’s been going for several years now, the Follow Friday movement is still alive and kicking—and it's a great excuse for your small business to join the conversation and get its name out in the social media sphere. You can create a #FF tweet by creating a list of other users to follow; just squeeze as many user handles as you can into one tweet (using the hashtag #FF, of course).
To get a handle on more of the basics of social media, join BizLaunch on Tuesday 15th October for their How To Get Started in Social Media webinar in association with email marketing experts, Vertical Response.

By Andrew Patricio

January 08, 2014