How to Use Hashtags for Business Success

Take Charge of Your Hashtag Strategy #Pound? #Number? #Hashtag? This little symbol is a multi-tasking fella, filling a variety of roles. But if you’re talking social media, you know it as the “hashtag.”

First, let me give you a brief primer on what the hashtag is. Use the pound symbol before any word (with no space) that you want to loop to an existing conversation. For example, if you were following news about the new Pope, you would use “#popefrancis” somewhere in your tweet – and it can go anywhere. With that designation, then your tweet (or post, depending on the network) would be catalogued with all the others for users to read when they conducted a search on the Pope.

So looking for tips on how to use hashtags for business across all your social media channels?

HTs are useful to:

1.  Be part of an existing conversation.

Using a HT that relates to your industry allows your post (and thus your company) to show up if someone is doing a search for related information. For example, say you are a wedding photographer and you like to share interesting articles about developments in the industry. If you added the HT #wedding to your tweets, pins, posts, etc., they would show up in the results stream when someone searched for that term. Obviously, the more customized your HT, the better. Think about narrowing it to #weddingphotography.

2.  Start a conversation.

HTs are often used by companies to promote an event or a product. Even if used for a small event, this can be a very powerful way to create word of mouth promotion, and also make it easy for YOU to see who is talking about your event.

Say you are hosting a “mock” wedding reception party for prospective clients to promote your wedding photography business. You could create a HT specifically for it (#pictureyourwedding). Use it in your own promotion and then at the event, ask attendees to use it when posting from or about the event and you will have a great record of how much buzz your event created.

Make sure to check the HT before you promote it… You don’t want someone else to have had the same brilliant idea and thus have your event caught in the clutter of existing chat.

3.  Let the conversation happen — for better or worse.

As much as it’s hard to cede control, that’s what social media is all about. The conversation will be what it will be, and you have to roll with it. For a high-profile cautionary tale, consider the story of McDonald’s, which was hoping to collect heartwarming tales of people’s visits to the Golden Arches with #mcdstories. Unfortunately for them, the HT went viral in all the wrong ways as the Twitterverse went wild with negative horror stories.

There’s no fail-safe way to present this, since social media is open but do choose your HT with caution to avoid involuntary fails.

4.  Connect with your followers.

Once you establish a hashtag — whether it’s for an event, brand or topic — take the time to check in on it regularly to see how the conversation is growing. Make sure to use all the best practices such as retweeting the tweets of those who are using it, responding to their feedback, etc.

And two cautions:

1.  Don’t #spam with #hashtags. #Use judiciously.

We’ve all seen those posts that are a hashtag disaster, where every post contains multiple HTs. They are hard to read and look desperate, as though the writer wants to be part of #each and #every #conversation. Let’s face it: no one is following any of those HTs. No more than two HTs per post, please, and before you bust one out, do a search and see if it’s a real thing and that it makes sense for your brand.

2.  Don’t try to be too clever.

Another #fail can be creating a HT just for the sake of being clever (nocakeinthefacepls). Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Again, it’s not that anyone is actually following those conversations, but the HT has become a shorthand for “I’m in on social media jokes and I am using a HT to signify my thoughts.”

As above, use judiciously.

The HT is a great way to initiate, join and follow conversations. So have fun, but be strategic and selectively use hashtags consistently across your social networks.

Does your business create its own hashtags? Do you have any additional tips on how to use hashtags for business success? Would love to hear in the comments below!

And if you feel you need training or help with social media marketing strategy, check out “60 Minutes to Social Success” or email me at  Would love to help in any way I can.


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