hashtag1The hashtag #####!!!!! What is it you ask? What does it mean, what does it do and how do I use it? These are all questions I hear regularly. It’s like this new buzz word that you feel you should understand and perhaps you are even a little embarrassed to admit that you quite frankly don’t have a clue. You are not alone! Many people, including myself once upon a time, have no clue what it is and how they should use it. The amount of posts I see with a random hashtag that serves no purpose would make a chapter of a book. So let’s de-mist the whole subject and explain what it is and you can make it work for your online marketing.

What is a Hashtag?

The hash – # turns any word or phrase that directly follow it (no spaces) into a searchable link. Let’s say you wanted your content to return in a popular search like Black Friday – you would simply write #blackfriday. If you are watching the final of the X-Factor and wanted to join in a conversation online you would simply use #xfactorfinal – by clicking on a hashtag you will see all the content that relates to that topic.

What to Avoid

Spaces between words do not work. You use pretty much any character including numbers but do not use spaces. To differentiate between words you need to use capitals at the start of each word – this will not make it a different hashtag to those using lower case. Do not use the @ sign – this is something different again and is how you find a specific user. The @ is a prefix to someone’s user name. Piers Morgan for example would be @piersmorgan

Know When to Use It

Some people who don’t understand the hashtag use them here there and everywhere because they think they should ass a hashtag and don’t quite understand how it works. Only sue them when you want your content to be found in a popular search.

Hashtags started out life on Twitter but now they can be used on Instagram, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest, Vine and Tumbl’r. They don’t all have the same impact as they do on Twitter or Instagram – it never really took off when it came to Facebook but there are still lots used.

Which Hashtags Should You Use?

If you aren’t sure what to use you can research which ones are most applicable to your business using hashtagify.me

How Many Hashtags Should You Use?

There is a lot of debate about how many hashtags you should use. For Instagram for example the maximum interactions occur between 4 and 11. Some say 11 is too many and looks a little desperate. Others say 5 is a better number. It doesn’t hurt to experiment and see what works for you. With Twitter you don’t get many characters so stick to one or two. With Instagram you have up to 30 to use so you can really go to town. If you don’t want to put the hashtags in your caption box, you can add them to comments underneath. This still makes this content searchable

Trial and Error

Don’t worry if you don’t get it right first time. You can experiment with hashtags on your social media posts until you find those that you are happy with. It may be easier to compile a few lists that yuou can keep in notes on your phone so that you can copy and paste rather than starting over each time. Do some research for yourself, see what your competitors are doing and take inspiration from the posts of others.