So, what is a hashtag and how do I use it?

By Jennifer Garrott, Marketing Coach

While on conference call today, I was prompted to “enter my access code followed by the pound, or hash, symbol.” This was the first time when out of the social media realm that I’ve heard someone refer to the pound sign as a “hash” which made me think, “does the generation after me even know what the pound sign is?”

So, for those wondering why folks on the internet are placing “pound signs” in front of words, let’s revisit the meaning and function of a hashtag (formerly known as the pound sign). According to Merriam-Webster, a hashtag is “a word or phrase preceded by the symbol # that classifies or categorizes the accompanying text (such as a tweet).” On social media platforms, hashtags are used to categorize or group text/images so they are easily searchable by the end-user.

Some might know the hashtag as octothorpe!

From a user perspective, hashtags make it easy for us to find the content we crave on social media. Looking for fashion inspiration, search #OOTD (outfit of the day). Dieting? Search #keto for recipes and foodie photos. From a brand perspective, using hashtags allows us to connect and engage with our target audiences.

The tricks to maximizing your hashtag use are to:

  1. Use the right hashtags for your brand.
  2. Use hashtags appropriately on each social media platform.

How do you find the right hashtags?

There are certainly paid platforms that you can utilize to search and analyze hashtags to find those that will work best for your brand. However, searching hashtags on social media platforms will point you in the right direction and is completely FREE. Start by brainstorming potential hashtags that are relevant to your brand’s content. For example, if you’re in fashion, search #fashion, #fashioninspiration, etc. and see what you find. When folks use these hashtags, what other hashtags do they use? Then, search those hashtags. When searching hashtags, are the people using said hashtags in your target audience? If so, you’ve found a good hashtag to incorporate into your posts. Remember, the goal of using hashtags is to connect you with your target audience. If your audience is not using/searching the hashtag you’re using, find a different hashtag.

Once you know what hashtags to use, how do you use them appropriately?

It is important to note that hashtags are not used in the same way on all social media platforms (just as your content should be tailored for each platform). Here are a few tips for using hashtags appropriately:

  • Twitter: Tweets with one to two hashtags garner the most engagement/retweets.
  • Instagram: While Instagram will allow you to use up to 30 hashtags, posts with 10-11 hashtags generally perform better (with 11 hashtags typically performing the best).
  • Facebook: One to two hashtags generally work the best.
  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn will provide you with suggested hashtags based on your content. You can only add three hashtags to a LinkedIn article.

A few things to remember about hashtags:

  • The rules above are not hard and fast. It is important to test/track and analyze hashtags to see what works best for your brand on each platform.
  • Keep your hashtags concise.
  • Make sure your hashtags are relevant to your content.
  • Capitalize on event-based hashtags, for example #worldcup, as long as your content is relevant.
  • To maximize our hashtags’ effectiveness, ensure your posts are public.
  • Here’s how to check and see if a hashtag is banned: Preview article

As always, if you ever need help researching or analyzing hashtags for your brand, drop me a line at Jennifer@Germono.com.  I offer complimentary 30 minute consultations, where we can both learn more about each other and determine how I can tailor services to your specific needs.

Jennifer Garrott
Jennifer@Germono.com