By now, everyone has at least heard of hashtags, and encountered them in some fashion of social media. Let’s be honest, they are everywhere. But the question is, as a business owner, do you know how to use hashtags strategically in your social media marketing?

#What

First, a little background: hashtags consist of a # sign and words or phrases (with no spaces) that are used to tie various social media posts together and relate them to a topic. In theory, they are simply keywords that pull the content that is labeled with the tag that is searched. When you click on or search for a hashtag, the social media platform you are on will show you all the other posts/tweets/pins that are tagged with that hashtag.

Hashtag "pizza" This helps consumers find information more easily, and if you’re the business supplying the information, then it helps consumers find your business.

Hashtags have plenty of benefits:

  • For the consumer: they let you add context to a post, they can help connect people who are interested in the same topic and can connect people at events.
  • For a business: they can expand your reach, build your brand, target customers, and much more.

But remember, it’s not just the hashtag that’s doing the work, first and foremost, you need to produce quality content that resonates with your audience. Once you have that content, hashtags can go to work for you.

#When

To get the most bang for your buck, you have to set goals. What are you trying to achieve with the hashtag? Do you want to build your brand, promote a sale or an event, deliver content to consumers or contribute to a conversation? Figure out what you are trying to achieve before you start to tag.

And don’t go overboard with using hashtags. Hashtags can be fun, but there is a limit to how many you can use before fun turns into spam. Don’t abuse it, you should only use meaningful tags that relate to your business, brand, the products and services you provide, or the specific post you are writing.

Too many hashtags

Research has shown engagement drops when a tweet has two or more hashtags. On Instagram, the maximum number of hashtags you can use on a single post is 30, but studies have found 10 is the most you should use before risking oversaturation. Bottom line, do your research on the social media platform you are using and limit your hashtags to what is effective on that platform.

#How

Keep your hashtag short and sweet. If you are creating a hashtag for an event or something with a long title, consider using an abbreviation or acronym to shorten it. The hashtag should be easy to spell and easy to remember. And again, do your research—search for the hashtag you intend to use, BEFORE you use it. You don’t know what people may be using that hashtag for unless you research it, and you definitely don’t want to risk connecting your business to a controversial topic due to using a hashtag. Before you use a hashtag, make sure it’s not being used for the wrong reasons.

#Why

As important as it is to learn how and when to use hashtags, another key is why … it isn’t just about how to help your business, but more importantly, how hashtags can help your audience. A successful hashtag will deliver what the consumer is looking for, or promote an event or call to action that is important to the end user. There must be a benefit for the consumer, before there will be a benefit for you.

In the end, just remember hashtags are more effective if they are short, precise, easy to spell and easy to remember, and they should give the reader a clear idea about what content will be delivered.