There are plenty of things about social media to be mystified about, but hashtags are not one of those things.
They might make you crazy, and you might not get what all the fuss is about, but they can make a world of difference to you on some social networks. They can open up new connections for you, or group together existing conversations, or get your content out in front of more people.
So, what the heck is a hashtag and how can you use it in your business? Let’s find out…
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Literally – what the heck is a hashtag?
It’s a word or phrase (usually with no spaces between the words) that is proceeded by a hash or pound sign – # – and used on social networks to identify and group together messages on a specific topic. The word or phrase becomes a clickable link – and when you click on it, you find all of the content on that social network that others have tagged with the same hashtag.
A little research is in order BEFORE you start using hashtags. You need to figure out which are the right hashtags for your business. You also need to know how you can use them in your content so it ends up in front of more people who are interested in your topic. It’s a great way for to you build connections and participate in topics that are important to you. You can see who is talking about the subjects you care about. But, be aware, it can also backfire if you don’t know ahead of time what a hashtag means or how it is most commonly being used.
When you put the hashtag sign in front of the word (or phrase without spaces between the words) it turns into a live link that is then clickable. When you click on that live link what you see is an aggregate of all the people that are using the same hashtag in their material. You can go to various websites and search for hashtags to find what’s being used, but one of the easiest things to do is to just go to Twitter or Instagram and type your hashtag into their search box and see what you find. For example, the hashtag for my book is #PilotToProfit, and if you search that on Twitter, you’ll find hundreds of tweets that relate to my book, Pilot To Profit.
As an individual, if you use a hashtag incorrectly the damage may not be too great, but when a business or a brand misuses hashtags the consequences can be fast and furious (and occasionally very funny). Look at what other information is being talked about under a specific hashtag before using it. Ask yourself if your business belongs in that conversation.
Personal vs. Professional
When I use Instagram I have a whole set of hashtags that are related to my dogs, Gretchen and Eddy. I have #dogstagram, #dogoftheday, #dailydog, #dachshunds, #doxieworld, #doxieoftheday – you name it! I’ve got about 30 of them saved on a notepad on my phone. Anytime I post a picture of my dogs I copy and paste the hashtags either into the post or into the comments below. This connects my content to everyone else on Instagram who is interested in this topic.
People often save or follow a specific group of hashtags so they can browse through content they already know will be of interest to them. Hashtags can help filter out the noise of our busy social media feeds; in fact, they are one of the 5 Twitter Strategies For Business that I recommend.
The same thing happens whether the hashtag is a personal topic (like my doxie hashtags!) or a business topic, like when I use #PilotToProfit or #ShopTalk. My content shows up under hashtags for #entrepreneurship, #entrepreneurlife, #business, #smallbusiness, #money, #mindset, #marketing, and many more. I have a ton of hashtags that I use that are specific to business that allows me to be found by people who are interested in the topics I contribute to, but might not otherwise know about my work.
Creating Your Own Hashtag
Another way that you can use hashtags is to create one that is specific to your community. If you’re hosting an event you can use hashtags to allow your participants to find each other – it doesn’t matter if it’s an online event or in person.
Short hashtags work best, especially on Twitter where they can eat into your 140 characters.
You also need to make sure that your word or phrase doesn’t mean one thing to you, but appear to mean something very different to others. Search the hashtags you want to use, read them out loud, write them with the first letter of each word capitalized and again in all lowercase – you want to be sure that it doesn’t read one way to you, and another (and possibly inappropriate) way to others.
I occasionally use #LarterLogic and if you search it, you’ll find content that is specific to my community. That hashtag is unique to me – it’s my last name, logic is what I do, so it makes sense; it’s short and it’s fun.
Other people can also use #LarterLogic – hashtags aren’t protected or technically owned, but it’s fairly clear when black hat marketers tag things with hashtags that are unrelated to their content or product. That is considered piggybacking or hijacking – both are poor practices on any social network.Hashtags are very useful when used well – don’t be a piggy-backer or a hijacker. #LarterLogic Click To Tweet
Before you get a hashtag headache, spend a little bit of time thinking about how hashtags might work for you. Don’t throw in the towel and give up. Don’t be judgmental of those people that seem to hashtag everything because you don’t know…they might be on to something. Hashtags can be extremely useful when used well and with a little forethought.
Do you have questions about hashtags? Leave me a comment below. I’d also love it if you would hashtag #LarterLogic on Twitter or Instagram and ask questions or tell me know what you thought of this edition of Shop Talk.
Founder and CEO of the Lisa Larter Group, master strategist, author, speaker, podcast host, social media expert, consultant, and business coach. Lisa inspires entrepreneurs and business owners to see the possibilities for their organizations when it comes to strategy. She uncomplicates modern marketing and creates (and implements) strategies for businesses that are guaranteed to increase visibility, inbound leads, and revenue.