Even if you’ve never used one in your marketing, you’ve seen hashtags on social media. They’re the words after a post, starting with the # sign. They help people who know a Tweet, Instagram post, or Pinterest image to find the content to help them understand.

While adding hashtags to your content is easy enough, it requires skill and attention to do it artfully. In this article, we’ll explain how to choose and use hashtags to attract new followers and – this is what you’re here for – increase your profits.

What is a Hashtag? 

Let’s start with the basics for those who don’t know. A hashtag is a word or phrase that appears after the # symbol on social media. There are no spaces, and the goal of a hashtag is to make it easy for people interested in your business and content to find you.

Hashtags can be serious or whimsical. Community hashtags can crop up week after week and year after year. For example, #ThrowbackThursday (or #TBT) is a hashtag that has been making the rounds for over a decade. #ThrowbackThursday was started by Sports Illustrated back in 2006!

Hashtags can be related to topics or events. For example, if you’re someone who owns a landscaping business, you might follow these hashtags, all of which we found on Twitter:

  • #Landscaping
  • #Lawn
  • #Lawncare
  • #PropertyMaintenance
  • #GroundsMaintenance

We also saw examples of lawn care and landscaping companies jumping on community hashtags such as #SpringAhead because – let’s face it – spring is when many of us start working on getting our lawns in shape for summer cookouts and lawn games.

Tips for Finding Relevant Hashtags

One of the most critical elements of using hashtags is choosing the right hashtags to reach your target audience. It might be tempting to throw ten hashtags onto every post, but you’ll do better with well-researched hashtags relevant to your business.

Let’s start with Twitter, the birthplace of the hashtag. You’ll see a menu with a # Explore when you log into your Twitter account. When you click it, you’ll see a Trending tab. You’ll get a list of trending hashtags and topics if you click on that. You can also use the search function to find relevant hashtags for your business.

There are some tools you can use to research hashtags as well. These include:

  • Hashtagify Me is a free tool that you can use to find hashtags for Twitter and Instagram.
  • HootSuite allows you to manage your social media and find hashtags relevant to your business with its “Streams” feature.
  • Google Trends is free to use and can help you find trending topics you can use in your business Tweets and Instagram posts.
  • Pinterest Trends is free and has a list of trending searches plus a search function.

We suggest putting in some time researching hashtags. Then, follow them if you find someone you think could be a good business connection with a relevant hashtag. You may be able to connect with them in a way that helps both of you.

Tips for Using Hashtags 

What should you do with the hashtags that turn up in your research? Here are some suggestions.

  • Find people who may be able to help you market your products. For example, say you make custom wedding cake toppers and notice a local baker posting pictures of wedding cakes with the hashtag “cake topper.” You could DM the baker and ask if you can send them a sample topper, and – if they like it – they can feature it in one of their posts and use the same hashtag.
  • Look for trending hashtags and figure out how to make them relevant to your business. For example, if there’s a holiday coming up, you can use holiday hashtags to suggest your products for gifts or use them at holiday meals or gatherings.
  • Combine hashtags to expand your audience. Perhaps you’ve added a new service or product to your lineup. Expanding your hashtag vocabulary can help you get your social media content in front of a new audience.
  • Create a custom hashtag for your business. We would suggest using this idea sparingly. In many cases, creating a new hashtag may be the equivalent of screaming into the void. However, if you can create a memorable hashtag that helps you differentiate yourself from competitors, then go for it!

A word to the wise about using hashtags: many big companies have made huge missteps when trying to capitalize on trending hashtags. An Insider article from 2019 highlighted a list of Instagram influencers who promoted themselves using 9/11 hashtags. Please don’t copy their mistakes.

Examples of Effective Hashtag Use

Let’s look at a few examples of effective hashtag use. The first is from Kentucky Fried Chicken, which jumped on the #NationalFriedChickenDay train to promote its meals. Although they’re a national chain, any local restaurant serving fried chicken could do the same. So keep your eye out for relevant tag trends nationally and use them to your advantage.

An example of a brand that did a great job creating its hashtag came from Charmin, who launched the #TweetFromTheSeat campaign. Of course, the campaign helped because Charmin is a national brand, but injecting humor into your social media posts is a great way to get people to pay attention to your content.

The hashtags that fail are typically those that can have a double meaning. The company intended not necessarily what the world perceives, ending in a bad reaction and press. This illustrates why it’s so important to research any “new” hashtag before you try it.

The takeaway is that hashtag marketing can benefit local businesses if you research, choose hashtags thoughtfully, and don’t try to shoehorn your content into a hashtag when it isn’t appropriate or relevant.

Now, get out there and start hashtagging!