The hashtag. First developed on Twitter back in 2007, and since then the idea has spread to every corner of the social media world. The intention of the hashtag was to make it much easier for users to search for content specifically. It is essentially a way to categorise information, without having to scour the entire website that you’re using. Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+ have all jumped on the twitter trend, although they may not all of been as successful as each other when it comes to this phenomenon.

Twitter have even introduced a new feature in the past few years called ‘Hashflags’. Twitter simply tweaks the code to add a graphic of their choice to the end of a hashtag whenever someone uses it. You may have seen these during the 2015 British Election, but don’t try searching for these tweets now as they are only temporary – based on what is trending on twitter at that time.

As you can see, hashtags are the bane of Internet Culture. It is incredibly rare to find somebody that doesn’t know what a hashtag is, but it is is also rather rare to find someone who knows how to use hashtags correctly within their business, and this not just becoming #relatable.

Here is my guide on how to use hashtags to your advantage, not your imminent peril of your business

1. #Dont #Hashtag #Every #Single #Word #Ever

On twitter especially, using more than two hashtags does make you drift into dangerous waters. Using more than 2 hashtags actually results in an average drop in the engagement of 17% (on Twitter specifically). Plus, it is just rather annoying. I know from personal experience, if someone on twitter is #talking #like #this, my brain is automatically going to switch off and scroll past. People using Instagram hashtags may gain lots of followers when they use over thirty, but at the end of the day, the followers will not be the ones you want. You gain the wrong type of follower, aka spammers or people only wanting to be followed back – who will probably unfollow you in the end anyway.  Plus, no one is going to be searching for the word #like or #this as a hashtag, it is way too vague. Which brings me onto my next point:

2. Be specific

Like I said, no one is going to be searching for words like #the or #as while scrolling through Twitter. This is why you need to be specific, choose words that are a direct link to your post. Therefore, if someone is searching through those tags they are going to be reading something that they specifically clicked on. For example, if you are tweeting about the Rio Olympics, you are going to want to tweet with the hashtag #Rio2016 rather than just #Rio. It allows the user reading the tweets to view something that is related to what they were interested in.

3. Don’t go too long

Keep branded hashtags short and sweet. It has got to stick in someone’s mind if you want someone to tweet it. If they forget what it was by the time they come to write the tweet they will lose interest, (again – I know this from personal experience). Plus, you want people to naturally search for that hashtag. The whole purpose of a hashtag, as I previously explained, is to make things easier for users to find and engage with topics they are interested in, therefore, the hashtags need to be simple. Don’t overcomplicate it.

4. Be Relevant

This should be pretty obvious, but if you are promoting your huge sale on shoes while on twitter, you’re not going to want to start using the #VeryBritishProblems hashtag, just because it’s the number one trending hit in the UK. Using a popular hashtag like this, that has no relevance to what you’re promoting, will just make you be seen as a spammer and will hurt your credibility. When you check your tweet activity, you may have lots of impressions but nobody would have actually engaged with your tweet, which is what you want! See what hashtags are being used in the business you are in, and if top trending hashtags are relevant to what you’re promoting – use them! Users will then be able to find you when they search those keywords, and it will be more likely of you gaining interactions and followers.

5. Be Consistent

Use the same hashtag on all your social media channels. Using the same one while promoting your business will give it more exposure, which makes it much easier for your audience to remember it. This again will give you a better chance of gaining interactions, followers and eventually – new customers. Plus with all your social media channels linked together with a hashtag, it develops your own brand as everything is consistent.

Following these steps when using hashtags in your social media posts can help increase your posts’  reach and connect with your target audience across all of your social media.