How to use hashtags is one of the most misunderstood parts of social media and modern marketing.

Hashtags are search terms. Including them in social media posts allows people who search or follow hashtags (some platforms, such as LinkedIn, allow you to “follow” hashtags). Hashtags always start with a “#”. Properly using hashtags can increase the reach of you posts dramatically. Mis-using hashtags does absolutely nothing for your post or content.

Hashtags Basics You Need to Know

Before you use a hashtag, you need to research it. This can be done by just performing a search on Twitter or Instagram, or by using a website such as Hashtagify. Researching hashtags is important for many reasons:

  • You need to make sure people are using/searching for the hashtag. If a hashtag has been used a handful of times ever or the most recent post using it is very old, no one is using it, so there’s no reason for you to use it.
  • You need to make sure it isn’t a trademarked hashtag owned by another company. The United States Patent and TrademarkOffice (USPTO) allows hashtags to be registered trademarks. You don’t want to use another company’s registered trademark in your posts, especially if the company is a competitor.
  • The hashtag might have a different meaning than your intended purpose. This is especially true when using acronyms as hashtags.
  • Different versions of the same hashtags might be more popular than others: maybe a number should be spelled out, maybe it should be plural as opposed to singular, maybe words are in a different order, or there could be an abbreviation that’s more popular. By researching the hashtag, you can determine which one is the most popular and is most likely to get people to find your content.

How NOT to Use Hashtags

There are certain things you should never do when using hashtags:

  • Never put spaces between words: If your hashtag is a phrase or contains multiple words, they all need to be together without any spaces to be a part of the hashtag. To differentiate each word and make it more “readable,” try capitalizing each word.
  • Don’t use hashtags that are too broad or too narrow: Hashtags are search terms, so you want to try to be specific. For instance, using “#marketing” is way to broad because it can cover numerous topics, but using “#contentmarketing” is perfect. Conversely, you do not want to use a hashtags that is too narrow. For instance, if you are a realtor, using an address of a property you just listed as a hashtag, such as “#123MainStAnytown,” is way too specific and no one is going to search for it.

The #1 Thing Never to Hashtag That Gets Done All the Time

Even though companies and businesses do it all the time: NEVER hashtag your company name. Why? If people are going to search for your company/business, the first result that will always come up is your user profile (which is what you want). If people or other businesses want to tag you in a piece of content, they will do an “@” mention (you may be familiar with the expression “don’t @ me”- that’s what it’s referring to). So, since hashtags are search terms and your user profile will always be the first thing that shows up in results, using “#BusinessName” is absolutely pointless.

The goal of using hashtags is to use ones people use and use often, so your content has a better chance of getting found. Proper hashtag use is part of the foundation of audience targeting and a strong content marketing strategy. If you need help working hashtags into your social media or with putting together a proper content marketing strategy, contact us today.