Hashtags — What They Are and How to Use Them

You know that a marketing technique has hit the “big time” when people start making fun of its usage. Take hashtags, for instance … a lot of people use them, but there have been some hilarious send-ups of this viral phenomenon, which pretty much hit an apex thanks to Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake.

But here’s what it isn’t a laughing matter — they work! When used properly and with even a modicum of thought behind them, this marketing tool can increase exposure of your business and lead you to even greater profits. So what are hashtags and how do you use them? Without further delay, let’s find out…

What the Heck is a Hashtag?

A hashtag is represented by the “#” symbol on your keyboard or mobile phone keypad, also known as the pound sign. For years, people have been familiar with the symbol on their phones, and it’s taken on new meanings and uses as time has passed. These days, its most prevalent usage is that of social media. By placing a hashtag before a word or short phrase, you can connect a link, post, etc. with all others that have also “hashtagged” the same word or phrase. When someone clicks on the hashtag you’ve created, they are immediately taken to a list of all those connected posts. Hashtags will sometimes begin “trending,” which means that its usage is picking up momentum.

Hashtags are a Brand New Thing … Right?

Hmm. Yes and no. The proliferation of hashtag usage has only been a big deal for the past three or four years, and barely that. However, the very first hashtag usage occurred back in 2007. Yes, that’s right — eight years ago! It started thanks to a Google employee at the time who thought they could be used as a way to identify groups and bring people together. Here’s his original post:

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Little did Mr. Messina know that his simple idea would catch on years later and would become as much a part of our social media lexicon as “tweet” and “Facebook me” have.

Hashtags and Your Business

Seeing as how social media trends have become such an integral part of our communications, hashtags are most likely here to stay. You shouldn’t expect them to be written off as a fad any time soon, especially since they’re growing in popularity for both consumers and businesses. This means that learning how to use them is crucial.

How can you use hashtags to improve your business exposure? There are a few different techniques you can employ. First, you can use somewhat common words that are likely to be repeated by others. The second technique you can try is to take a look at hashtags that are trending at any given time and jump on the bandwagon. And finally, you can make a name for your business by creating your own hashtag that is specific to your business. Our advice is to test out all three from time to time in order to expand your marketing horizon. #greatadvice

The trick is not to go overboard with their usage. For posts, choose one or two that are most relevant to the information you’re presenting. If you hashtag every other word, you’re going to overwhelm people and no longer stand out.

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