Hashtags: the often misunderstood and misused technical tool. Those of a certain generation (myself included) remember them fondly as “pound signs” or “number signs.” Alas, the changing years bring about changing trends, and the year 2007 transformed this one tiny symbol into a social media necessity.
If you know how to use these tricky little symbols smartly, hashtags can be an amazingly effective marketing device. With them, you can increase your followers, drive up sales, and widen your online reach. Here’s a crash course in how you can use hashtags to boost your business.
The History of the Hashtag
According to Wired Magazine Online, former Google and Uber developer Chris Messina introduced the hashtag to the world in 2007. Looking for a way to effectively organize tweets into categories as Twitter gained popularity, Messina suggested adding a symbol that would “tag” specific topics and people. Thus, the number symbol/pound sign/tic-tac-toe board found new meaning in the world of social media, and the hashtag was born.
Though hashtags began on Twitter, they have since migrated to nearly every social media platform in existence. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest: if you’ve heard of it, the platform likely uses hashtags to categorize themes and ideas, making them searchable and discoverable to users.
What Exactly Is a Hashtag?
When users add a hashtag to a social media post, the word or phrase directly following is cataloged online. Readers searching for specific words and terms can find this information and related conversation threads quickly and easily. Using a hashtag allows your posts to be discoverable by a much wider audience.
Hashtags and Marketing
Social media marketing should be a part of your overall business strategy, but including hashtags adds an extra boost. By adding relevant, intentional hashtags in your posts, you’re helping direct traffic to your site. For example, if you make a post about a home for sale in the Rock Creek neighborhood, consider using the hashtags #RockCreek and #HomeForSale. That way, when potential buyers search for “Rock Creek Homes for Sale,” your post will appear as a relevant search result. It’s a great way to expand your reach and draw new clients to your social media sites and your website.
According to Forbes Magazine, a post containing hashtags have double the engagement compared to posts without them. Imagine how your business might benefit from integrating these simple symbols into your social media posts.
How to Use Hashtags Effectively
Not all hashtags are created equal. It’s essential you understand the rules of the hashtag and how to use them effectively on every platform. Using too few or too many hashtags in one post, for instance, can negatively impact your placement in search results. Take the time to learn some guidelines of hashtags and maximize their impact on your social media presence.
- Just because you can jam pack your post with hashtags doesn’t mean you should. Some social media platforms allow users to post multiple hashtags in one single post (Instagram allows up to 30 tags per post!), but this makes your post hard to read. Choose a few topics that you feel are most representative of your post and most relevant to the subject and tag only those words or phrases. Research exactly how many hashtags to include for maximum effect on specific platforms.
- Double check the meaning of your hashtags. Sometimes, a seemingly innocent phrase could have a much different connotation in the social media world. Check that what you’re writing isn’t considered offensive, explicit, or otherwise inappropriate before posting.
- Be deliberate when choosing your hashtags. Think about the main goal or topic of your post before creating a hashtag. If it’s a posting primarily about the benefits of home ownership over apartment living, but you decide to tag the word #dogs when talking about the yard, you aren’t going to reach your intended reader. Instead, that post should include #homeownership, #OwnOverRent, or #NoMoreRenting.
- Did you notice in that last point how easy it was to read the multi-word hashtags? Capitalize the first letter of each word if you’re using a multi-word tag. That way, your reader knows for sure what you mean.
- Keep it consistent. Use the same hashtag each time you post. This will help you appear multiple times in searches for a single keyword, making readers more likely to check out what you have to say.
It’s time to embrace the future of online marketing and learn to use the hashtag. #GoodLuck.