hash-tag-638977_640It used to be either a tic tac toe board, the pound sign, or a way to indicate your rank (usually #1), but these days, those intersecting pairs of horizontals and verticals are definitely a hashtag. If  you’ve spent any time at all on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or other social networking sites, you’ve undoubtedly come across hashtags. Or, at the very least, you’ve probably seen the Jimmy Fallon sketches making fun of them.


Hashtags are simply social media keywords — a single word or a short phrase, all run together with no spaces, and preceded with the all important hashtag symbol, like #hashtag. The short part is important, especially if you’re using them on Twitter where posts top out at 140 characters. Hashtags help to categorize tweets and posts and make them searchable. When a lot of people use a hashtag, it’s considered to be trending; hop on a trend, and you can get lots of new users discovering your content.


Most importantly, though, hashtags are a powerful marketing tool when they’re used properly. Whether you’re just getting started with hashtagging your social media content or have been doing it for a while, you’ll want to pay close attention to our list of hashtag do’s and don’ts. Here are six to consider.


  1. DO choose hashtags for your social media efforts carefully. Your hashtag can even be your campaign, like Coca Cola’s current #shareacoke hashtag. Once you’ve got a good one, be consistent with it on all of your social media accounts for good cross-platform branding. That way, all of your efforts look like they go together. Plus, you’ll improve your views and ranking if you use a hashtag consistently, especially if you encourage your followers to do the same.


  1. DON’T feel like you have to include your brand name in your hashtag. Instead, choose a hashtag that’s representative of your brand and helps you tell a story. For example, a few years back, Domino’s pizza used #letsdolunch in the UK. It was successful because it was simple, relevant, easy to remember, and encouraged interaction, yet it did not include the name Domino’s.


  1. DO use hashtags that are already well established in social media to drive new users to your content. For example, users on many platforms post old content on Thursdays under the hashtag #tbt, which stands for Throwback Thursday.


  1. DON’T put hashtags in the middle of a sentence, no matter how tempting it may be. Putting #hashtags in the #middle of your #sentence is #superannoying to read. (See?) Instead, use one or two at the end. #success


  1. DO use tools to help you choose the best hashtags. Take some time to see what’s relevant, and look at how hashtag keyword selection affects user engagement. Check out both hashtagify.me and hashtags.org — they’re both free. Want even more in-depth engagement analysis? Consider using a paid service like Sprout Social, RiteTag, or Hashtracking.


  1. DON’T use more than two hashtags on a single post. It may seem like more is better, but according to the appropriately named howtohashtag.org, more than two hashtags on a social media marketing post can significantly lower user engagement. Simply put, it makes your content look like spam to a lot of users.


If you haven’t yet started to use hashtags on your social media content, now is the time to start! It adds value to what you post, it helps you pull in new followers, and it demonstrates to your followers (and to everyone) that you’re a forward-thinking company that understands how social media works.
Are you using hashtags in your marketing efforts? Tell us about it in the comments!