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What is a hashtag and how should I use it?

You might know it as a number sign, pound sign, or a tic-tac-toe board. Or even a sharp, if you’re a musician.

What’s it for?

A hashtag comes in handy when you want to find a topic on certain social media platforms. It was made popular on Twitter and Instagram. You can also use hashtags on LinkedIn. They haven’t been popular on Facebook (yet), but there is a trend towards using them.

So, how can you use hashtags to your advantage?

You want to get into the conversation when someone searches for hashtags. When you add hashtags to your posts, people looking for that topic can more easily find you. You can literally click on a hashtag, and it will take you to a page full of results for that word.

How do you know what hashtags to use?

Research, research, research!

Research your keywords.

Do you have keywords that you use on a regular basis? They might be the beginning of a successful hashtag.

On Instagram, type your hashtag into the search box at the top of the desktop screen (on your phone, click the magnifying glass at the bottom of the screen, then search at the top).

For example, if you sell jewelry, start with #jewelry.

You can see in this picture, though, that #jewelry has nearly 100 million posts. You’re not likely to stand out with odds like that. So, add to your hashtag! Look down the list a little, and you’ll see #jewelryoftheday with just over 3 million. Or #jewelrybling, with just over 2,000.

You can do keyword searches with Google also. Type in a word, and Google will show you the most searched phrases that start with that word. Maybe you want to use #costumejewelry, #costumejewelryatlanta, or #costumejewelrytrends.

(Notice that all the words run together in a hashtag. Once you’ve used a space or punctuation, the hashtag is finished. So “#costume jewelry” is just “#costume” with the word “jewelry” after it.)

Research your competition.

What hashtags are your competitors using? Do they make sense for you? Research them to find variations that might work better for you.

For example, another studio in Atlanta who also does brand strategy and photography uses hashtags. You can see some of them here.

Some of these hashtags make sense for me, but some don’t. For example, I could use #communityovercompetition, #femaleentrepreneur, and #atlantaphotographer, but not #momofmultiples, #workfromhomemom, or #thebump.

Each hashtag shares something about the brand with the audience. Moms might relate more with her, and people with cats might relate more with me.

Research the celebrities.

Every industry has the experts, the leaders, the teachers.

What hashtags are yours using?

One of the leading branding experts out there today is Nick F. Nelson, CEO of BRANDPRENUER.

You can see that he uses some branded hashtags (#BRANDPRENUER and #TheBRANDPRENUERAgency), some more general hashtags about what he does (“#digitalbranding and #personalbranding), and hashtags about the specific topic he’s addressing in the post (#lawfirmmarketing and #attorneymarketing).

How can you use these three types of hashtags to get people’s attention?

And, if you’d like a little more quick info on hashtags, watch Jasmine Star’s great video The Secret to Awesome Hashtags.

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