By: Mackenzie Maxwell On: March 10, 2015 In: Advertising & Marketing, Social Media Comments: 0

#Hashtag The use of the number sign (#) to signify a category online dates back to the 1990s on Internet Relay Chat (IRC). This idea evolved into what we now know as the “hashtag,” which was popularized by Twitter. The first Tweet containing a hashtag was sent out by designer Chris Messina in 2007 and simply read, “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?” We’ve come a long way since then.

Nearly eight years later, hashtags have saturated social media and permeated pop culture. Nearly every social media platform has integrated hashtags. Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon even created a viral sketch all about saying “hashtag” in conversations. There is no doubt that this tool is here to stay.

Businesses cannot ignore this trend. It’s important that executives learn to use hashtags for online marketing. They drive traffic, engagement, and ultimately, profits. So, how can you make sure your business is using hashtags to the greatest effect? Here are some helpful tips.

1. Know Which Sites Use Hashtags All Around the Social Media Table

Trying to use hashtags on a platform that doesn’t support them could hurt your marketing efforts. As of March 2015, these are the social media sites that allow hashtags: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, and Pinterest. Social media is always changing, so that list may grow substantially.

2. Obey the Rules

Of course, all hashtags begin with the number symbol. Other special characters and punctuation are not allowed. #Duncan/Day would not be a successful hashtag because of the slash. Similarly, any space will end the hashtag. #Duncan Day would show up as only #Duncan because of the space before “Day.”

Numbers can be tricky as well. While they are allowed, hashtags cannot contain only numbers. #2015 would be unsuccessful, while #Oscars2015 was a trending hashtag this year.

3. Make It Relevant

It’s tempting to just add a trending hashtag to your post. After all, more people will see it, right? While that may be true, using irrelevant hashtags will only hurt businesses in the long run. Savvy consumers will read such a post as spam, and their impressions will not be positive.

4. Use Existing, Searchable Hashtags…Sometimes Hashtag

While you certainly don’t want to hijack existing hashtags and use them in irrelevant ways, it is still perfectly acceptable to use established hashtags. For example, if you are posting an image with an inspirational quote on Instagram, you can use #InspirationalQuote. Users who search this, and there are many who do, will welcome your image. You might even gain some new followers.

There are other times when it is best to come up with your own hashtag, however. If your post is part of a larger campaign, you are asking users to respond to a question, or you are hosting an event, your business will benefit from a unique hashtag. For example, suppose we opened up a question and answer session on the Duncan/Day Twitter feed. If we did this, we would ask people to use something like #AskDuncanDay in their Tweets to us. This way, we could easily search all questions.

5. Make it Clear and Concise

The whole point of a hashtag is to let readers know what the post is about. Avoid using too many hashtags in a post. Sure, more people may find the post, but it will be confusing and look like spam. It’s better to use one perfect hashtag than 10 so-so ones.

Another way to make your hashtags clear is to avoid making them too long and complicated. #ThisIsALongHashtagAndNotEffective #NobodyWouldEverSearchThisOffTheTopOfTheirHead

6. It’s All in the Timing

This should be obvious, but #ThrowbackThursday isn’t effective if you post it on Friday. Make sure whatever you use is timely. That way, you get more engagement and exposure.

Follow these simple rules and your social media accounts should be #winning in no time. If your business is in need of a social media marketing strategy or any other branding help, call Duncan/Day Advertising.