“What’s a Hashtag and How Do I Use It?” Your Social Media Questions Answered

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by Emily Worden

Last year I shared 10 tips to dominate social media. All of those rules still apply today, and some are now more important than others. For example, here’s Tip #5: “How can my posts be most effective? Use the least words possible, include an image, and 1-3 hashtags…”

Let’s stop right there and talk about hashtags. They have spiked in popularity in the last year. What was once a niche social media marketing tool has now become part of everyday conversation. Hashtags can be very beneficial for marketing, but too few people know how to use them properly. Read on to learn all about hashtags and how to use them strategically to boost your business.


The power of hashtags:

What is a hashtag? It’s most popular on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and technically it’s just a word with a “#” in front of it. Really though, it’s the key to social media success. Use hashtags to direct conversations, track trends, monitor your competition, and so much more.

People use hashtags to track topics (#marketing), monitor breaking news (#Cairo), and follow special events (#election). Sometimes hashtags are funny (#ThingsKidsSay) or part of a trending topic (#SuperBowl).

There are well-known hashtags too like #ThrowbackThursday (#TT) or #FollowFriday (#FF). See what’s popular right now with What the Trend (www.whatthetrend.com) and use Trendsmap (www.trendsmap.com) to view popular trends by location, which is great for local businesses.

Why should you care about all this? It’s important to use trending hashtags; a lot more people see posts that include popular hashtags. Use hashtags to keep track of your industry too. I own a custom-made bag business, so I use hashtags in our social media posts like #custom, #bag, #fabric, or #fashion. Other like-minded people who are searching those hashtags will see my message and hopefully continue to eThreads’ site.


Six hashtag rules: 

Here’s my time-tested rules for using hashtags with social media:

(1) Use a limited number of hashtags. Include hashtags in every post on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, but never more than 1-3 per post. Instagram is an exception, you can use up to 10 there. Everywhere else, keep it short or it looks obnoxious.

(2) Use appropriate hashtags. Don’t just pick a popular but irrelevant hashtag and attach it to your post; it’s considered spammy and turns people off. Scan the trends for what’s popular and only choose hashtags that are relevant to your business.

(3) Search for hashtags related to your niche and “favorite” or retweet stuff people say. For example, if you sell soy candles, search social media sites for #candles, #soy, or #ecofriendly and get involved in the conversation.

(4) Track hashtags the competitors use. For example, I like to search #Longchamp or #Coach to see what people are saying about those bags. Then I study Longchamp and Coach’s social media sites and note the hashtags they use.

(5) Study other hashtags your target audience uses. I had never heard of #ootd  before starting social media. It means Outfit of the Day and I discovered that lots of people who love fashion use that hashtag. Study the hashtags your target audience uses and include them in posts.

(6) Use Hashtagify (www.hashtagify.me) to find popular hashtags in your industry. For example, type in “marketing” and you’ll see #SEO, #business, #socialmedia, and #jobs are popular. If you were writing about marketing, you’d use these hashtags in your posts to boost engagement.


Now that you’re familiar with hashtags, let’s cover basic social media rules:

(1) Be active on social media when your target market is. For example, people are on social media a lot during the weekend. If you can only post one night a week, make it Sunday night when everyone is home and on their computers. Search for the most popular hashtags in your industry and use them with your Sunday night posts for an extra boost in traffic.

People are on social media during work too, particularly 1-3 pm (after lunch). Besides Sunday night, this is the second best time to post. Mondays are popular as people ease themselves back into the workweek. Thursdays and Fridays are good too because it’s the end of the week and people are more relaxed at work and checking social media more often.

(2) Experiment with different dates and times. If you have a Facebook business page, Facebook Insights gives you great statistics about how many people have viewed or shared your posts. Experiment with posting at different dates and times and determine the most popular time to post. Use the hashtags your target audience uses (like #ootd, as discussed above) to boost the popularity of your posts.

(3) Don’t overdo it. Facebook is a personal social media site; don’t post more than once a day or you’ll overcrowd followers’ walls with “advertisements.” You can post a lot (2-4 times a day) on Pinterest, Tumblr, Flickr, and Instagram, but space out the posts so you don’t overwhelm followers’ feeds all at once. Twitter is a free-for-all; everyone knows it’s just about fast updates. Tweet up to a dozen times a day, people won’t hate you for it.

(4) Schedule posts to save time. It’s a lot of effort to post and interact every day; save time and plan posts in advance. Use a social media scheduler like Hootsuite (www.hootsuite.com) or Tweetdeck (www.tweetdeck.com) and write all the posts at once. For example, I run six social media accounts. Every Tuesday I spend 2-3 hours writing and scheduling posts for the week for those various accounts. Then, I spend just 15 minutes a day on social media sites to “like,” comment, or retweet other people’s stuff.

What type of stuff should you say on social media? Well, you should focus on communicating with customers, not pitching them. I recommend 1 in 7-10 messages should be a sales pitch. About 85% of the time you should be engaging your followers with industry tips, humorous messages, and behind-the-scenes info. Communicate with customers – ask questions, get opinions, and reply to messages. Combine these tips with popular hashtags and you’ll have a dedicated group of social media followers in no time.



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