Hashtag, the pound hashtag sign - # - you've probably seen pop up all around the Internet, was first introduced by Twitter back in 2009. A hashtag acted like a hyperlink that would, when clicked, show the reader all the tweets containing the same hashtag. It was a feature that allowed people to find and be found, to join in on conversations, and to participate in upcoming trends. A couple of years later, other social media outlets started using hashtags as well - Instagram has it, as does Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+. If you're a business owner, you're probably familiar with these social networks - chances are you're using some, if not all, of them to promote your business.
Why You Need to Know how to Use Hashtags
Businesses, at least those who want to play the social media game well, know how to use hashtags. Yes, they can be sometimes used as a funny, sarcastic, or poignant underlining for a social media post, but most of the time they have a practical use.
For example, if you want to know what's your competition up to, or if you're doing some research on social media, you can use hashtags to find relevant content. If there's a trending topic in your industry or just a trending topic in general, you can use the hashtag related to the topic to add your content to the conversation, making it easier for people to discover your content. Hashtags can also help you with branding and getting recognition, and they can also serve as the point around which you can build a community when you're holding events.
How to Do Hashtags Correctly
Now that you know why you should be using hashtags, let's see how you should use them. Let's say you're launching a product - an ergonomic keyboard for tablets. You're thinking that you want to market it as a tool that lets people type on their tablets very quickly. And you need a hashtag to use in your social media post.
The first rule of writing a hashtag is - know your limitations. Since they originated on Twitter, hashtags are usually kept reasonably short - you have an overall character limit you need to fit into. So, a couple of words at most. Next, you can't use any character other than numbers and letters in your hashtags, no special characters are allowed. That includes space, which is why it might be a good idea to capitalize the first letter of every word in your hashtag, to make it easier to read.
With those limitations in mind, you can come up with hashtags like #FasterThanEver, #TypeReallyFast #SpeedTypersUnite. It might be a good idea to check whether the hashtag you choose is already being used - you want to avoid the awkward moment you jump on the wrong bandwagon. You can also damage your brand and your business by using a hashtag in a wrong or inappropriate context.
If you choose to use more than one hashtag - and people do that all the time - you should know that using more than three will be considered hashtag spamming. And just like any other type of spamming, it's generally frowned upon. If you keep it at or under three, you should be just fine. And even then, try to avoid auto-posting content containing a lot of hashtags on Facebook. It is very practical that you can post something on Twitter and then have it posted on Facebook automatically, but Facebook users aren't that enthusiastic about hashtags.
Hashtags go well and are a part of, almost every business related activity for which you'd use social media. Promotion, events, campaign, tapping into trends, doing opposition research, branding your business or yourself - hashtags can help you with any of those. Just make sure you're not using an existing hashtag in an inappropriate way.