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The Power of #Hashtags: How They Can Boost Your Social Media Game

Updated: May 18

Turning A Symbol Of The Past Into A Marketing Tool

As a millennial, I have witnessed the transformation of a symbol of the past into a powerful marketing tool—the hashtag, formerly known as the pound sign. The hashtag, once a source of generational mockery, has now become a universally recognized and beneficial tool for marketers of all ages. 

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History Of The Hashtag

What is a hashtag? A hashtag is defined as a word or phrase preceded by the '#' symbol, categorizing the accompanying text.

The hashtag first emerged in 2007 in a tweet from Chris Messina. Messina reasoned this idea by explaining he was "....more interested in simply having a better eavesdropping experience on Twitter". The hashtag concept was to provide content filtering and a conduit for different topics. Since creating a scene on X/Twitter, social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn have allowed hashtags. 

Hashtags are not just keyword tags; they are powerful tools that can help your posts reach targeted audiences, attract users to your niche, develop your brand image, and increase engagement. They enable social media users you do not know to find your content, engage with it, and follow you, potentially turning into profitable customers. 

Using hashtags gives you an advantage; research shows that even one hashtag averages a 12.6% increase in engagement. 12.6% for one hashtag!? Let's add 20 more, right? Wrong. Like the Charmin Ultra commercial said - less is more. The amount of hashtags you should use varies among platforms:

  • Facebook posts should contain one to three hashtags.

  • X/Twitter recommends up to two hashtags per Tweet.

  • Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags, but most creators agree no more than five.

  • TikTok posts should use at most five hashtags.

  • LinkedIn suggests up to three hashtags per post.

Another advantage to using hashtags is that you can use them to promote discounts or giveaways. For instance, when Coca-Cola created the #shareacoke campaign. Coca-Cola launched this campaign in Australia during the summer of 2011, changing the traditional can wrapping with 'Share a Coke with...' and a popular name. This campaign allowed Coca-Cola to create a more personal relationship with consumers socially and playfully. That summer, Coke sold more than 250 million named bottles and cans, which is astounding considering the nation's population is no more than 23 million. This is just one example of how a well-executed hashtag campaign can lead to significant business outcomes.

How To Use Hashtags

Understanding the background and advantages of using hashtags is just the beginning. This blog will equip you with tips, tricks, and mistakes to avoid, ensuring you use hashtags effectively and intelligently. 

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Keep your hashtags simple. Long, complicated hashtags are less likely to trend or resonate with your followers. Simplify your hashtags. The goal is to get social media users to follow your topic and use your branding in their posts.

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Use hashtags relatable to your product or service. You would not use #USA or #fruit if you sell wine in El Dorado County. A more appropriate use of the hashtag would be #edcwineries

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Keep the number of hashtags in your post limited. Remember, less is more. Just because Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags does not mean you should. Social media users and platforms often view this as 'spamming,' which is the excessive use of hashtags in a single post. This can make your post look unprofessional and can annoy your followers. Instead, focus on using relevant hashtags to help your post reach the right audience. 

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Create a brand-specific hashtag. This is the best advice I can give you for branding and using hashtags! Pick your brand hashtag and stick with it. Mine is #BoldCommunications; I use this on all social media posts. Branded hashtags enable users to see everything I have posted about my brand and what others say about my brand. If you are promoting a big event, this also applies. For example, the El Dorado County Fair & Event Center hosted its annual fair in 2022, and the theme was 'The Magic is Back.' They used two hashtags for this event. #EDCFair is general to the fair, and #Magicisback is specific to the event's theme they wanted to promote.

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Don't worry too much about hashtag placement. The jury is still out on where the hashtag should go in your caption. Some choose to place the hashtags below their captions, while others prefer to include them as they type their post. Even a fraction of individuals suggest not having the hashtags in your caption but instead commenting on your post with the hashtags. Instagram is the only platform where the rules do not appear to apply. However, most other platforms cannot categorize your content if you comment with the hashtags. I recommend using hashtags somewhere in the post caption instead of in the comments, as that tends to be easier for most and does not require you to remember to comment after your initial post. 

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Use local hashtags. You will start making connections with local community members using local hashtags. Connecting with your community is especially important for small business owners. You may want customers who can visit your store and purchase or use your service rather than social media users 2,000 miles away. Using local hashtags, you can increase your visibility among local social media users and attract potential customers more likely to engage with your business. 

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Only use hashtags relatable to your brand, product, or service. I previously mentioned using hashtags relatable to your product or service, but this is so important that I must repeat it. You risk getting shadow-banned if you are using irrelevant hashtags to gain visibility. For example, when posting a picture of the season's outdoor flowers, a plant nursery floods its captions with keywords such as love, happy, summer, fun, outdoors, and beautiful. While I can see the connection between the image and the keywords used, they are not relatable to the product. 

A Symbol For Your Success

Hashtags have long evolved from a symbol on a telephone to a powerful marketing tool, offering numerous benefits to brands. By understanding their history, leveraging their advantages, and following these best practices, you can harness the power of this symbol to expand your reach, engage with your audience, and enhance your brand's online presence. Hashtags, used as a strategic element of your social media strategy, can increase your brand's visibility, meaningful connections, and success in the digital age. 


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