If you are around my age, you know the # symbol as the pound sign on the phone or a way to abbreviate the word number. Now it is has become synonymous with the word hashtag and is part of everyday life on social media. I like to look at hashtags as a way to categorize posts making it easier for people with similar interests to find you and your information. Let’s get to know hashtags a little more.

A little history

The first hashtag (#barcamp) appeared in a tweet from Chris Messina, and then they were used during the 2009-2010 Iranian election protests to make it easier to track the activities for Twitter users. On July 2, 2009, Twitter began to hyperlink hashtags used in tweets allowing users to click on the hashtag to see all tweets that contain that tag. This made it easier to track conversations around an event or topic. The word hashtag was added into the Oxford English Dictionary in June 2014.

Why use hashtags?

By using existing hashtags you can become part of conversations that are already taking place, and therefore can help you gain new and relevant followers. People search on hashtags to find the type of content that interests them. Your post will show up in that stream and if they like your post, they may look at the rest of your content and follow you. The key here is relevant followers. Do not use a hashtag just to try and get attention. You will be viewed as spam if you try to hijack a hashtag with irrelevant content.

Where to use them

Hashtags are currently supported by the following sites:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Google+
  • Tumblr
  • Pinterest – they are not searchable, but help for keyword searches in descriptions.
  • YouTube – in the comments
  • Vine
  • Flickr
  • Periscope

You will want to do further research on the best way to use hashtags for each tool you use as part of your social media strategy.

How to use hashtags

You can use popular tags like #tbt for Throwback Thursday, but know that the popularity of these may make your post a needle in a haystack, but I still think they are a good to participate for a few reasons. One they give you easy content ideas, two your followers will enjoy them, and three you may pick up new followers. You can also search for more industry-specific hashtags such as #solorpreneur or #salestip. Take some time to research tags for your industry and the types of content that are shared on these tags. If they make sense for your business, include them in your posts.

Don’t overdue the number of hashtags you use. For most sites, you want to keep your hashtag use between 1 and 3. Instagram is definitely an exception due to the fact that interactions can increase with post including 11+ hashtags. Please don’t feel pressure to use that many. Remember to keep it relevant and if you are adding that many to your Instagram post, consider adding it as a comment so it is not a distraction to the content in your post.

You can also create your own tags for various reasons including events and campaigns, but we will leave that conversation to another day.