What are hashtags and why you need to start using them on social media

Yashu Mittal

Hashtags, hashtags, hashtags! You see them online, on just about every social network website. Sometimes you see them in abundance. Sometimes they’re silly, and sometimes they look like they serve a purpose. So, what are hashtags and why should you care?

In this article, you’ll find out what hashtags are, why you should start using them with your social media posts, and how to maximize your reach with them.

What are hashtags?

Hashtags aren’t new. Hashtags are words or short phrases that are preceded by the symbol (#), which is most commonly known as the number sign. These terms are clickable, and allow you to identify specific topics.

If you’re one for official definitions and search for “what are hashtags” online, you’ll find this definition:

"On social-media websites, a word or phrase preceded by a hash mark (#), used within a message to identify a keyword or topic of interest and facilitate a search for it."

For example, in Twitter, under the hashtag #codecarrot, you can find out what people from around the world have been tweeting about that topic. This is also particularly handy for events or conferences, especially to track and document vital information such as what attendees, speakers and event organizers are talking about.

Hashtags Twitter Example

With hashtags, you can use all lowercase, or even use camel case lettering, but no spaces. Hashtags are not case-sensitive. For example, if you want to use #CodeCarrot instead of #codecarrot, the term will still click through to the same topic stream.

Where can you use hashtags?

You can use hashtags on most social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Search, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine and Flickr.

Unfortunately, LinkedIn does not use hashtags, so if you’ve been using them, you probably should stop, as they are not really effective on that social network.

Why should you use hashtags in your social media posts?

You should use hashtags in your social media posts because they can be searched. If you’re trying to increase your reach, using hashtags will put your posts in the streams that people are searching for.

Crazy as it is, people are actually using social media to look for things that they can find on Google or Bing. In fact, many companies do use social media as part of their SEO strategy.

If you’re planning to sell your services or products, and are investing in advertising, you can optimize your ad with a couple hashtags to reach more people. It doesn’t cost anything to add hashtags. So why not give it a try?

How can you maximize your reach by using hashtags?

Maximizing your reach by using hashtags boils down to the fact that you need to do some research. Yes, it’s much like researching keywords for your website’s content. Make a list of terms, and look to see if that hashtag is trending or if it has a large enough volume of people using it. If you just add a hashtag all willy-nilly to your social media posts, you aren’t going to get as much reaction.

Use hashtags responsibly

While some people joke around and use hashtags frivolously, they are not always effective in increasing reach when used without any research. If you’re talking about blogging, use #blogging. If you’re talking about search engine optimization, use #SEO. You can use a couple hashtags, but make sure to keep them relevant to what you’re posting.

You can research hashtags with a few different tools. Here are just a few of the many tools out there that you can use to look up search terms, including hashtags, and plan your social media campaigns.

Google Trends

Google Trends

Google Trends allows you to search for just about any term, including hashtags. You can search based on location, by time, by category, and by type of search. So, you can look for specific hashtags that have been used in videos on YouTube, images, news, or even Google Shopping.

Plus, you can use Google Trends to figure out the best time to post using a particular hashtag. This is great because if a term is constantly trending during certain days or certain hours, you can schedule your posts for better reach.

The big takeaway

The point is, you need to get on the wagon and use hashtags for social media. Yes, it might be as tedious as doing keyword research, but the end result is a return on investment - which means traffic, engagement and likely more money in your pocket.

Do you use hashtags for your social media marketing strategy? If so, what tips do you have to help others needing a helping hand in social media? What tools do you like to use when researching for the best hashtags for your campaigns? Please share in the comments!

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