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What hashtag should I use?

This little symbol can be so #powerful

Hashtags in business can be used to add emphasis to your social media posts, attract new followers, categorize your content and inject a little personality into your copy.

Tweets with hashtags get twice the engagement than tweets without a hashtag. Instagram hashtags are the best way to find new content and followers. And Facebook users have adopted the use of hashtags to add emphasis to their posts and add a dash of humour.

1. What is a hashtag?

This seemingly innocuous symbol is actually pretty powerful. A hashtag is the pound symbol (#) added before a word in order to categorize social media posts. First commonly seen on Twitter, it has now grown in popularity across many social networks.

Essentially, a hashtag is a way of grouping all the massive amount of posts and content available on social media so you can filter through the different topics online and find posts or people that you think are relevant. It makes those words prominent.

The rules are simple but important:

  • No spaces
  • No punctuation
  • Use uppercase letters to add clarity when words are combined
  • Numbers are allowed, but special characters are not

Examples include:

Excited for our 5th annual #CompanyABC sales conference in #Montreal.

Great to meet you @personofinterest this afternoon at the #EventOfLifetime. 

This week we’re offering 20% off all online purchases. #GreatDeals #RetailTherapy #2016FallFashion

2. How many hashtags should I include?

There are best practices to follow on how many hashtags to include in different posts, especially when you’re publishing from your company’s social media feeds.

Twitter: Stick in the range of one to three hashtags on Twitter. Once you add more, their effectiveness significantly drops.

Instagram: This platform is hashtag crazy and allows up to 30 per post, but don’t get too carried away. Although it’s acceptable to use many hashtags on Instagram, try to define your top five to 10.

Facebook: You don’t have to include any hashtags in your Facebook posts, but if you do then limit it to one or two – and make sure they are highly relevant. Adding more could saturate your post and risk losing credibility.

3. How do I know which hashtags to use?

Use a mix of strategic planning, research, plus trial and error to determine which hashtags to include in your posts.

Search on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to determine the hashtags and keywords already being used in the market. You can click on any hashtag to see a list of all the posts around that word.

Next, be a little more strategic:

1. Create a list of possible hashtags under each of these columns:

  • Branded: Your company name, abbreviations, product names, campaigns, trademarks or sub-brands you have in the market.
  • Customer: Keywords your customers and prospects are posting.
  • Competitor: Piggyback off any relevant non-branded tags
  • Trends: Industry hot topics
  • Influencers: Industry gurus, guest speakers, trade associations and business groups making a simple hashtag wildly popular.

2. Rank each hashtag from 1-3 by two criteria:

  • Importance to your brand
  • Importance to your customer

3. Sort the lists – first by importance to your customer, then by importance to your brand. (Your customer viewpoint is more important). You’ll quickly see which hashtags rise to the top.

4. Use this list as a handy reference when creating your social posts. Update it at least once a quarter to stay on top of the ever-shifting landscape.

To go the extra mile, make use of tools like and Tagboard. Both of these give visual demonstrations of hashtags used in the market, and allow you to search conversations in real-time.

Start trying it out by publishing your posts with those top ranked hashtags. If you’re interested in certain topics, the chances are that your audience will be as well. And the great thing about social media is you can try things out, then improve and adjust along the way.

Up Next: 10 free and easy ways to increase your social media engagement

Mark Glucki

Mark has been developing digital blog communities for 10+ years that connect business and tech pros with their inspirational stories. He developed a North American best practice for creating positive experiences on social media networks and spends as much time learning about entrepreneur success stories as he does producing content for others to enjoy. Mark is also a commercial photographer focusing on product and location images. His work can be seen at Wonderlab Photo.

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