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5 Hashtag Best Practices to Start Using Now


By Kenneth Hitchner, PR & Social Media Director

There is a glaring symbol that has crept into our society. Whether roaming the store to look at teen clothing or on marketing campaigns on buses, you can find hashtags in today’s culture everywhere you look. Hashtags are the quickest, easiest way to search for, find topics or link together posts on social media platforms. Hashtags can be a simple way to give your posts some much needed visibility and are a wonderful way to find new and relevant audiences. If you’re trying to use them in your business and aren’t familiar with the way they work, it can be tricky. Here are five easy steps for using hashtags to get in front of more users and allow others to easily interact with your brand.

1. Join the Conversation

You can benefit from the power of the hashtag without creating them on your own. Join in conversations with others by searching tags that are relevant to you and your business.  Use these particular hashtags in your posts.  If you are a local coffee shop, for example, you might want to use hashtags that reference coffee (#decaf #coffee #DarkRoast), your area (#princeton #PrincetonEats #PrincetonShops) and maybe something that is already being used by other audiences you are trying to reach (#PrincetonTigers #NJisntBoring). Also, be sure to tag relevant companies in your post and geo-target by checking in to a specific location.  Just be careful not to over use tags.  On average, it is common practice to use five hashtags per post.

2. Search the tag.

Be sure you are using tags that are relevant to you. If you are looking to use your own hashtag for a conference, product or concept, search the tag on Twitter, Instagram and other platforms.  In an acronym-heavy world, you can find that the acronym you use for your business, could be another person’s abbreviation for a local walk.  Make sure that nobody else has laid the groundwork on your tag, otherwise searchers will be finding their posts intertwined with yours when searching.

3. Use Caution & Know Your Downfalls

Hashtags can be easy for people to hijack for sarcastic and unwanted criticism. Be careful when picking hashtags that could invite negative comments.  Just search for the story about the hashtag #McDStories, a twitter campaign that went horribly wrong for McDonald’s in 2012. When they first shared a tweet about potato farmers that supplied their fries, the Twitter universe hijacked the #McDStories tag and went crazy discussing everything from food poisoning to something wrong with their order.  While this was only a mere 2% of the discussion of the burger brand on Twitter that day, they did have a contingency plan of attack to combat the naysayers.  Be sure to have a backup plan to any negative talk on social media with your hashtag, and always play Devil’s Advocate brainstorming hashtags for your content strategy. Also, don’t be afraid to use capital letters when you need them in order to make words clear throughout your hashtag. You want people to be able to read your hashtag and using capital letters in a tag with more than a few words helps it read easier.

4. Play Off of the Classics

There are a few popular hashtags that are used and followed by many users. These may include:

  • #Regram: A regram is a hashtag that identifies this is a photo posted by someone else. It’s a great way to include brand loyalists so they feel that they are a part of your brand. When regramming a photo be sure to give credit to the original poster, something as simple as “photo credit: @username.”
  • #PhotooftheDay: @photooftheday is an account with over 278K followers, which features a photo chosen each day. While many of them are images of exotic locales, people searching the tag find great pics from around the world.
  • Days of the Week: On social media, Monday can call for music recommendations (#MusicMonday), Tuesday calls for tips (#TipTuesday), Wednesday means something good for you (#WellnessWednesday) and Thursday brings pictures from memory lane (#ThrowbackThursday). Each day of the week brings different hashtags with it. If you have something relevant to your company, it can be enormously beneficial to leverage these highly active and engaging hashtags.

5. Create a Call to Action

Hashtags only work well when your audience uses them. They are a great way to prompt your followers to get involved with your brand. Whether you’d like your fans to share photos interacting with your product, give feedback, answer a question or enter a contest, make sure they know how you’d like them to use the hashtag.  It may seem obvious to you—but it might not to them.  After putting effort into a social campaign, you need to keep the ball rolling to see traction and engagement. Search Starbucks’ #RedCupContest to see some great brand loyalists singing praises about the brand.

Social media is an excellent way to communicate and build awareness with your audience. While today’s world may be hashtag heavy, leveraging them in a way to get the most impact on your post and accounts can create new relationships for your business.

Ken Hitchner, PR & Social Media Director, was on the expert panel of a live Facebook Q&A at the Princeton Public Library (PPL) in June.