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What Are Hashtags and How Do I Use Them?

A hashtag is a word or phrase that follows the symbol “#” and signifies that a social media post is related to the accompanying text. It helps to categorize content on social media platforms so that users can find posts that are of interest to them.

What’s up fam? We’re sorry if this article hits differently, but we don’t want to be chuegy, tbh. Trying to low-key pass the vibe check and make sure our content slaps. Let us know if you stan our glow up or if you think you might ghost us instead. Finna keep sippin’ tea till then!

Wait!

Please don’t push that escape button. We are 100% just pulling your leg. Thankfully, you do not need to speak or understand Gen Z lingo to participate on the internet. If that were the case, we would all be in trouble.

You do, however, need to get with the times. If you’ve been hesitant to invest in social media, do us a favor and go read It’s Time to Get Social. Doing so will help you understand that, despite its faults, social media is the place to be if you want to market your business online.

Unfortunately, understanding the social media world is not always easy. In some ways, it may feel as foreign to you as speaking Gen Z does to us. But our team is always here to help where we can . . . and today we’d like to cover a social media staple: hashtags. So let’s get to it!

What Is a Hashtag?

No, you’re not going crazy. This little symbol (#) is also known as the pound sign. In other circles, it’s used for a range of reasons that have nothing to do with the internet. You may employ a # to signify a number or as an abbreviation for weight or lb. You might even confuse it for a sharp sign (♯) if you are musically inclined.

That being said, if you come across a # on social media, you can assume that it does not represent one of the meanings we listed above. Instead, it’s almost certainly being used as a label for social media content.

Basically, if you see a hashtag next to a word or phrase, you can click on the term to gain access to other related content on that particular social media platform. For example, you might see a tweet from ToasterTubs that looks like this:

It’s never too early to #treatyoself! Hope your #fridaymorning is as good as ours.

From there, you can click on the highlighted phrases to view tweets from other Twitter users who are using the same word or phrase. Seems basic enough, but there’s actually a lot more to get into. We haven’t even covered the handy marketing benefits yet!

How (And Why) Are Hashtags Used?

In the expansive world of social media, hashtags seem like a fairly insignificant feature. Some people use them with #annoying frequency. Others opt not to hashtag at all. So . . . which lane should you fall into? (Answer: Somewhere in the middle.)

Of course, you don’t want to #overdoit with your #hashtag usage—unless you want your #followers to #unfollowyou #likerightnow. But you should invest in the practice, at least moderately. There are a number of advantages to reap if you can figure out how to #hashtag the right way. Here are a few:

Upping Your Exposure

Even a basic hashtag that you spend approximately zero hours researching has the power to increase your brand’s exposure. Remember, anyone who clicks on the label you’re using has the opportunity to encounter your post. So, for example, if someone were to click on another instance of the hashtag #treatyoself, they could end up seeing the above-mentioned ToasterTubs tweet even if they have no previous awareness or interaction with the company.

This principle can be hugely beneficial for your brand. After all, if your content is interesting or applicable to someone who finds you through a hashtag, who knows? You may just gain another follower!

Now, imagine if you put a little time and thought into the hashtags you employ. You could use your label to reach out to social media users who are interested in your services or products. For example, the hashtag #hottubtoaster is more likely to pull relevant consumers to the ToasterTubs Twitter account than #fridaymorning or even #selfcare. In a lot of ways, hashtags do for social media what keywords do for search engine results.

Prompting Interactions

The hashtag attached to your post indicates that the content is relevant to whatever is on the searcher’s mind at the moment. It could also prompt the social media platform to display your content under a banner that says “You Might Be Interested In,“ or something similar. Since the searcher has already indicated that they are interested in the topic of your hashtag, they are more likely to comment, like, share, or otherwise engage with your content. We don’t need to tell you why that’s a win-win!

Brainstorming New Content Ideas

Once you know which hashtags apply to your content (and business) you can do a social media dive for yourself. What other hashtags are being used in conjunction with your labels? Make a list and use that information as a springboard for new content ideas that are relevant to your audience.

Crafting Digital Campaigns

This benefit could honestly serve as its own, complex article. But the gist of the idea is that you can use hashtags as a branding technique for your digital campaigns. If you have a contest, giveaway, or discount you want to market online, a cleverly crafted hashtag can help you do just that.

When ToasterTubs hosted their first annual Toast to Summer, we helped them market the event with a fun and effective hashtag. Each time they posted on social media about the event, they used #toasttosummer to help categorize the post and make it easier for their followers to find related content. Next year, they can plan on using the same hashtag to keep the branding seamless.

What Does it Mean If a Hashtag Is Trending?

Now that you’re a bit of a hashtag expert, let’s talk about a hashtag-adjacent phrase: trending topics.

We all remember the experience that was #covfefe, but presidential mishaps are really just the tip of the iceberg. Trending topics are ones that spike in popularity and usage (or go viral) for a brief window of time.

You can discover what hashtags are trending by checking the “explore” page or tab of the platform you’re using. Or, you can do a quick Google search of “what’s trending today.” You can even use a hashtag-specific tool, like Trendsmap, for updates on what’s trending in your geographical area.

Staying on top of what’s trending on social media can be entertaining, but it’s also a great way to stay in the loop about what might appeal to your customers. While trending topics generally only last between one day and one week, you can use these brief windows of relevancy to your benefit.

There are lots of examples of how businesses use internet culture to increase their popularity online. Just check out @DennysDiner on Twitter for a look at how you might use social media trends in a way that is specific to your unique brand.

Before We Move On, A Brief Word of Caution:

Don’t think that you can throw a trending topic hashtag at the end of your post and just call it a day. If you can’t use the term in a way that is both relevant and true to your brand, it’s better to not post at all. Using a trending hashtag on an unrelated post will only annoy your followers and damage your credibility.

A hashtag helps to categorize content on social media platforms so that users can find posts that are of interest to them.

How Can I Create Brand-Specific Hashtags?

Some brand-specific hashtags are a no-brainer. Think, #McDonalds or #Imlovinit. But if your business doesn’t happen to be a household name, then you might need to put a little more thought into crafting the perfect label.

Thankfully, the process of finding a great brand-specific hashtag is low stakes and can be achieved through trial and error. It’s also kind of fun—if you think creating content, sharing it with the world, and opening yourself up to brutal criticism is fun. (Just kidding about that last part . . . kind of.)

Step One: Figure Out What You Want

As always, you can’t create a marketing strategy—even if it’s something as basic as choosing a hashtag—without knowing what you want. The goals, objectives, and priorities of your business will determine your next steps.

With the post in question, do you want to boost engagement, gain more followers, strengthen your brand voice, or simply attract people to your website? Knowing the end goal will make it easier to create a strategy and select a hashtag.

Step Two: Do Some Research

With your priorities at the front of your mind, dip your toes into that “explore” page we mentioned earlier. Which trending topics are your competitors using? More importantly, which trending topics speak to you? Do those topics seem to point in the direction of your end goal? If yes, then write them down!

Remember, you can opt for more than just one hashtag per post. In fact, you could shoot for anywhere between five and eleven separate hashtags, if you’re feeling adventurous. Just be sure that each choice remains relevant to the content of the post, relevant to your business, and trending.

Step Three: Create a Go-To List and Try It Out

Now, look at your list of trending hashtags and think of ways to make them more specific to your brand. For example, ToasterTubs could have jumped on the #covfefe bandwagon by sharing this tweet:

When you’re tweeting from your hot tub and get distracted by the ding of your toaster, you get #toastfefe.

Will #toastfefe be the next viral sensation? Probably not. But it could give the ToasterTubs followers a brief chuckle and further establish the brand’s tone and individuality. Or, it could be a massive fail! Social media users are fickle creatures. Either way, ToasterTubs will be able to go back to the drawing board to craft future posts with the knowledge of how this attempt played out.

Of course, the #toastfefe hashtag would be more of a one-and-done strategy. But you can also compile a list of go-to options that can be used over and over again. For ToasterTubs, this could include:

  • #toastytoes
  • #hottubtuesday
  • #toastertubsforlife

…or any other zany label they might come up with! And if your business isn’t zany, that’s okay.

Even something as basic as #yourproductinchicago or #yourbusinessnamediscount could work as you work toward building an established presence online.

Now You’re Ready to #Hashtag Like a Heathen!

Before we go, here’s a helpful list of social media platforms that allow you to use hashtags in the ways we’ve outlined in this article:

In other words, almost all of the top platforms in the U.S. allow you to use hashtags for marketing purposes—with the notable exceptions being Reddit, Snapchat, and WhatsApp. Whether you’re on one or all of the above, we can’t wait to see you get started. Simply follow the steps we mentioned and you are well on your way to becoming an internet sensation.

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