Hashtag U: 5 Tips to Get More Out of Hashtags

By the small business content developers at  BizLaunch.com.

Hashtags are a specialized form of communication that you’ll find on many social media channels. They allow users to sort posts into searchable categories based on the phrases called out with the ‘#’ sign. Although the use of hashtags emerged on Twitter, today you’ll find them used — and abused — on every major social hub. While the the overarching cultural norms are pretty similar, the nuances of hashtag usage vary a bit from site to site. In fact, there are general rules you can keep in mind to guide your hashtag game that will help your posts find a broader audience beyond those that already follow you. Here are 5 tips to help you strengthen your hashtag usage.

1. Use creative language, but be careful to make sense.

Composing your own hashtags can be fun. It’s like a playing a language game as you mix and match phrases to help your brand get its message out. However, it’s easy to create meanings you didn’t actually intend to imply. Before you invest energy into creating a new hashtag, run it by a few people to make sure there aren’t other connotations in your phrase. Since you can’t use spaces or punctuation marks in a hashtag without breaking them, you might create an unintentional double meaning that undermines your company’s message.

2. Limit the number of hashtags you use per post.

You may have seen a post or two where the writer used hashtags with such abandon and that you wondered if their keyboard was malfunctioning. Select your hashtags with care and use them sparingly as your post might look more like spam if you use too many. One strong hashtag is more than enough to convey an effective message. An emerging beverage company expanding into a new city might want to use geographically based hashtags like #torontokombucha in a series of posts when promoting their entrance into a new market.

3. Use hashtags thematically.

Your hashtags should relate to your post. If you post about your brand and then use a trending hashtag in an effort to reach more eyeballs, you may foster ill will toward your company. A restaurant, wine bar, or winery might use #winewednesday to promote specials and new products, but not all those businesses should use #tacotuesday. Consider how your audience might feel misled if your use hashtags that do not relate to your industry. Contribute to the usefulness of social media by staying on topic with your hashtags.

4. Create a hashtag stable.

In order to integrate hashtags into your marketing strategy, you should think about what language you want to use to promote your brand. Rather than reaching into the aether each time you post, create an approved hashtag list and deploy them appropriately. Your strategic use of a limited number of hashtags strengthens your brand identity rather than diluting it and you can track your hashtags to see which ones have traction and improve interaction.

5. Research on your hashtags before you use them.

You never know who has used your clever phrases before you, so run them through the search function of the social media website on which you are considering using them. The hashtag #retweetthis might seem innocuous, but on Twitter the results included several not safe for work results while on Facebook the results were more religious in nature. Your use of hashtags may be construed as an endorsement, so associate your company with care.

Keep in mind, hashtags are not magic fairy dust that you sprinkle onto your posts and, voilà, instant engagement. Be sensible about when, how, and why you use them to add another powerful facet to your social media marketing strategy.

By Andrew Patricio

March 23, 2016