social media how toDo you use hashtags in your social media marketing?

What if someone else is using the same hashtag about a totally different topic?

Even worse, what if your competitor is using the same hashtag about the same topic?

Before you just throw any word or phrase out there and decide to use it as your hashtag, there are a few things you’ll want to consider to maximize your hashtag’s exposure.

What’s a Hashtag?

A hashtag is a pound sign (#), but it’s also used on Twitter to categorize messages.

According to Twitter, hashtag is defined as follows:

hashtag definition

Definition of hashtag from Twitter.

Since the first person used a hashtag in August 2007, they have become one of the most commonly used symbols on Twitter. People use them to organize conversations, tweet at events and engage in conversations online.

But in order to have a successful marketing campaign using a hashtag, you have to know how to pick the right hashtag.

Here are 4 tips for choosing a successful hashtag.

#1: Choose Something Unique

As a marketer, you want to be able to reach your community with the use of hashtags, especially during events, webinars or Twitter chats.

However, if you want others to join in on the conversation and be able to engage with each other, you have to use a hashtag that is more unique—not something as simple as #marketing or #webinar.

Verizon Wireless is a great example of a company that knows how to pick hashtags that will make them stand out in their industry and are also recognizable.

If you search for just #verizon, there are thousands of tweets that appear. Knowing that, Verizon makes sure they pick a more detailed hashtag for their different webinars and chats, such as #VerizonNOLA10 and #VZWINNOVATE.

When you take a look at the results on Twitter for #VZW, you see a very crowded tweet stream. Many people use #VZW when talking about Verizon, so anything they are saying about the company from getting in touch to customer service to commenting on their phone will be picked up in this stream.

search results #vzw

Search results for #VZW.

In the picture below, you see the tweet stream for #VZWINNOVATE, which exclusively focuses on Verizon’s participation in Black History Month.

search results vzwinnovate

Search Results for #VZWINNOVATE.

By adding the “INNOVATE” to the end of “VZW,” you’re able to understand that the hashtag has to do with Verizon, but also involves a campaign they’re doing.

It’s clear and unique and is not being used by other companies, which is important when differentiating yourself and your social media strategy.

When choosing your hashtag, make sure it is something unique and specific so that it doesn’t get mixed up in other conversations going on.

If you use general terms such as #marketing or #webinars, these updates will appear in the results for everyone using these terms. This can be good, but it also won’t allow your participants to carry on a conversation about one topic.

#2: Choose Something Easy to Remember

When choosing a hashtag, it’s important to make sure that your hashtag is easy for users to remember. With thousands of hashtags roaming the social media universe, the last thing a business wants to do is create a hashtag that is hard to spell or pronounce. Users will end up spelling it wrong and this defeats the purpose of having a hashtag in the first place.

Hashtags should be short, easy to pronounce and spell and give users a better idea about the topic of the conversation or tweet stream.

National television network ABC has a lot of programming, and each show has its own hashtag, allowing people to tweet about the episodes and the actors and actresses.

But ABC is smart and strategic with their use of hashtags. They make sure the hashtags are visible on the website and occasionally have them appear in the bottom corner of the episodes that are playing.

In the case of the show Dancing With the Stars, thousands of people tweet about the different dancers, in addition to the show itself. To bring it all together, ABC promotes the hashtag #DWTS.

It’s simple and easy to remember and will also not take up a lot of space in tweets’ 140-character limit. #DWTS is able to organize everything people are saying about their show and engage with their audience, thanks to this hashtag. And fans who are watching the show don’t forget it because it’s so simple.

search results #dwts

Search Results for #DWTS.

When choosing your hashtag, consider your objectives for having people come together for the conversation, and also make sure it is easy to remember and understand.

If you have a hashtag that’s too complicated, long or hard to spell, it will defeat the purpose of a hashtag, because people may forget it or may not be able to fit it in their tweets.

#3: Use the Hashtag on Multiple Social Media Channels

As you work toward making your hashtag second nature for many users, try to adopt it on multiple channels.

Although the use of hashtags may have started on Twitter, they are now used across multiple social media channels including Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Hashtags allow users to organize their content and pictures while also instilling the hashtag into the minds of their audience.

Take Southwest Airlines, for instance. They held a social media contest for filmmakers to submit their videos for a chance to win prizes. They started off by just using the hashtag on Twitter, but soon adopted it into their other social media channels including Facebook.

swa cinema twitter

Search Results for #SWACinema.

swa cinema facebook

Southwest Airlines using #SWACinema on Facebook.

If people see a hashtag once, it may stick in their minds if it is truly memorable. But most likely it takes a couple times of seeing the hashtag to really remember it.

Use the hashtag on multiple social media channels. This helps you in two ways. First, this gives your hashtag more exposure to more people to help spread the word about it. Second, this helps people to remember your hashtag when they see it multiple times on different channels.

#4: Search for the Hashtag Before You Use It

The worst thing that can happen when using a hashtag is to realize after it’s tweeted that the same hashtag is used for an entirely different topic.

Embarrassing situations can occur if you don’t do your research first. What if the hashtag you’re using has already been used in a discussion about something negative? What if the hashtag is associated with a natural disaster in another country, but you didn’t realize until after you sent your tweet?

Before using a hashtag, you always need to search to see if other people are using it and what they are saying.

Entenmann’s learned this the hard way when they used the hashtag #notguilty to talk about their cookies when other people were using it to talk about Casey Anthony’s #notguilty murder trial verdict.

entenmanns tweet

Entenmann's #notguilty tweet.

They apologized and admitted afterwards that they had not researched what people were saying on the hashtag ahead of time and therefore did not mean to tweet something so insensitive.

Take what Entenmann’s learned as a lesson. Always check what people are saying on particular hashtags before you tweet anything. If you want your tweet to stand out, tweeting on a negative hashtag is not the way to do it.

Use Effective Hashtags in Your Social Media Strategy

When you use hashtags in your social media strategy, the key is to make sure you’re using the right hashtags at the right time to ensure you are reaching your audience in a positive way.

By following these 4 steps, you’ll be able to choose a hashtag that’s memorable and unique. But the most important step of all is to see what other people are saying on that hashtag or topic in advance.

Remember that it’s okay to use general hashtags such as #marketing or #webinars, but it’s harder to make those effective when trying to have a unique conversation.

Use multiple hashtags if the topic is right, but do not add extra hashtags in an attempt to show up in as may searches as possible.

To see what hashtags are being used, visit the hashtag dictionary.

What else do you think is important to do before selecting a hashtag? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave your questions and comments in the box below.

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  • Very interesting post Rachel. I usually use #podcast when posting on Twitter, because I wanted to connect with like-minded individuals who are into podcasts and of course, to give more exposure to the updates from my website. What do you think is a better hashtag strategy for my podcast (I interview Entrepreneurs who share their inspiring journey) in order to make it more unique? I am actually thinking of #EOFpodcast or #podcastonfire. I would love to know what you think. Thanks in advance for your advice!

    ~John Lee Dumas

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  • Taswir Haider

    Very informative post.I really like it.Thanks for sharing it.

  • Taswir Haider

    Very informative post ! I really like it.Thanks.

  • This is good information.

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  • Thanks for the post. I often see blog articles use a hashtag in the title. I thought it was a bit cumbersome, but I guess that it shows people which hashtag to use when talking about the article. What do you think about that?

  • Rev. Akasha Lonsdale

    Very helpful post….got me thinking!

  • Ann Mullen

    I still don’t get it, but I will keep trying. Thanks for the information.

  • Good easy info! Why no mention of Instagram? #HashTagsAreHuge ! Oh and maybe that should us pointed out too, just using some silly thought behind a hashtag is just funny and gets noticed and is also a good way to connect with people too.

  • Cakap Niaga

    What is the limit for number of characters to be appropriately used hashtag?

  • Happy to read this, I have been saying similar with regard to Hashtag use for some months …
    That said I do not think we should post verbatim across all platforms 🙂
    Actually peeves me when people don’t show up on their FB page instead just Tweet to their page … plain lazy! To me that says they can’t be bothered with their page and if they can’t why should I visit the page. A bit like inviting someone over for supper and then leaving them a snack in, and a note on the fridge saying “Had a better offer, gone out, help yourself!” 🙂

  • Take a look here John 🙂

  • Luisa

    I love #podcastonfire as it is very easy to remember!

  • Natalie

    I would caution people about using multiple hashtags. Studies show a 17% drop off in engagement when more than two hashtags are used in a post.

  • Moyra Mackie

    Yes I love #podcastonfire too. To me #podcast is just too bland. I would seek you out with that hashtag, especially if you used it across other media as suggested.

  • Rachel Sprung

    Hey John!
    I would suggest including #podcast but also including something more personalized to your company or brand. I really like your suggestions above especially #podcastonfire. It definitely stands out!

  • Rachel Sprung

    Thanks for the stat Natalie! I think a good rule of thumb would be to include 1 general hashtag and 1 specific one. What do you think?

  • Rachel Sprung

    Sadie-Michaela, I agree! I definitely think you can personalize your content per platform. It takes maybe 5 minutes to do that, right? 🙂

  • Rachel Sprung

    Cakap, I would say something around 10 characters is good. A little more or a little less is okay too. But remember the more characters your hashtag is, the more limited your message will be (in the case of Twitter at least!)

  • Rachel Sprung

    Diantha, I think it is the author’s way to make sure the hashtag is used when the blog post is put on social media. That being said it may be more useful to include “Tweet this!” links in the blog post and leave the title for something else.

  • Kevin Nelson

    Agree with most, but strongly disagree with using hashtags on Facebook. It makes it look like the social media manager doesn’t know what they’re talking about. You wouldn’t ask someone to like a tweet (again, unless the social media manager had no clue what they’re talking about)

  • With all due respect, I completely disagree with this article for the average marketer. Here’s why:

    The average small business or small marketer doesn’t have enough conversation going to warrant using a hashtag no one else is using or even knows about.

    Hashtags are meant to connect people together and help organize conversations, so why would the average marketer with no dialogue waste characters on something no one else is going to use? I say the opposite. Use the most relevant and popular hashtags so you can be found through all the noise.

    All that being said, if you have a big following, and have a lot of interactive conversations, then the advice above is great! Also, if you’re going to be putting on an event, then you definitely want to use a hashtag exclusive to that event so attendees can have their own “channel” to discuss the event.

    So, while this is great advice for larger companies and marketers with a decent following and interaction rate, the smaller fish might want to stick with the more known hashtags to get in on conversations first.

  • Nice article, but one of the best utilities around hashtags is You can register a hashtag and basically create a webpage about the hashtag. This is especially good if the hashtag is for an event. I have a good link to show how that works if you want to see one.

  • If your podcast is popular and you have a lot of people talking about it, then a custom hashtag is Ok. If you’re just starting out and need to grow your following, then stick with #podcast so people looking for podcasts can find you easier and you can grow your following quicker.

  • How are people going to notice a crazy weird hashtag when there are millions of tweets out there? Just curious.

  • Exactly. Don’t use a hashtag on a network that doesn’t use hashtags.

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  • Heather Munro

    Very useful info! Thanks for posting.

  • I like this. I had often wondered about using them on Facebook, as I thought it might look like I didn’t know what platform I was on. This makes sense, though! Thanks!

  • Excellent post, but perhaps the title is misleading. It should read as “How to use hashtag in your twitter marketing” since that’s the sole focus of the article. Hashtag are at the heart of Instagram strategies as well, yet used somewhat differently. Same goes with Google+ where hashtags can be useful to filter streams of topics one might like to follow – just like you would on Hootsuite, for example. Perhaps that’s material for a follow-up article? 😉

    Cheers from Quebec City,

  • cateca

    I love a good hashtag! I’m spending more and more time on G+ communities. Does anyone know if it’s ‘okay’ to use the same hashtags on there or if there are a whole set of G+ specific ones? If it’s the latter, anyone know if/where I can find out what they are? Need to find specific ones for specific clients. Thanks so much!

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  • Great tips cheers

  • Does anyone know what the “life span” of a hashtag is? I set one up for a monthly meeting and when I went back to review the next month the tweets were no longer showing.

  • Thanks Rachel!

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  • The smart use of Hashtag for the network it allows, mainly helps in search visibilty of your result on a particular hashtag to get it visible by people to whom you follow or not. It offers a more opportunity.

  • Gloria

    Thanks for this timely article, I found it extremely helpful because I’ve been trying to figure out how to get some control over conversations involving us and our events.

    I have a follow up question though, how do we make holidays relevant in our hashtags? We will be hosting celebrations for an upcoming holiday, how do we make the hashtag relevant?

  • A very useful article with useful tips that I didn’t know about. Thanks for your help!

  • NHPGlobal

    Clearly, neither of you have spent much time on Facebook lately. Almost every Status update now includes Hashtags, so whether you agree or not the teenage generation today is using Facebook as a secondary Twitter option

  • Natasha

    good advice Louis re. small businesses needing to use well known hash tags to get in with the conversations, or just to make your voice heard.

  • Can you search for # on Facebook?

  • Great article. I tend to side with @twitter-168439241:disqus position on this. It’s funny, my friend Lisa told me last night that people are now using Hashtags on Facebook, Texts and Pinterest which drives her nuts. “Hastags are meant to connect people together and help organize conversations”. -AGREED.

  • Fola Folayan

    True. I built a steady readership and even a business from the hashtag #DearArtiste.

  • Kris Powers

    I’m relatively new to social media marketing. When our Twitter account was first set up, we used the hashtag and our company name in every post. I’ve since taken over and I’m wondering if that’s the correct use of the #. What’s the correct method, the # or @ when linking our company name to one of our posts? We want to be found in searches – and I think that the # might be better used for keywords in our industry (i.e. #education, #elearning) and the @ better used for our company name. Thoughts?

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  • Mreneebsmith

    I completely agree with you… I was going through this article shaking my head because I felt I couldn’t use any of that information to help the small business I work for… So thank you for pointing this out.

  • What size do you classify as an “average marketer”? I work with a few SMBs and help with their social strategy and they’ve seen an increase in conversation by using hashtags. Granted, a few other changes were made with tweeting schedules and types of content, but the similar results have been seen across the board: increased engagement/conversation.

    I’m not trying to pick a fight or anything, I’m just interested in your point of view.

  • What exactly don’t you understand, Ann?

  • Rachel, can you please elaborate on your opinion on #3 please.

    As others have stated, it doesn’t seem right to use hastags on Facebook, because they don’t have a place. In my experience, Facebook engagement falls (and in some cases, loss of audience) because it appears the same content is being pushed between sites. Hashtags appear “accidentally” from apps like Instagram, because users caption their filtered images and share them to Facebook and Twitter, which creates the same issue of publishing the same content across mediums.

  • No, you can’t search for hashtags on Facebook (yet).

    In response to NHPGlobal, we’re only seeing hashtags on Facebook because users connect their Instagram/Twitter profiles to Facebook and auto-publish. Unless you’re doing it for branding purposes, there’s no reason to use hashtags on Facebook currently.

    I agree with Kevin and Louis, I think it makes brands look ignorant.

  • So are you suggesting that the small marketer couldn’t benefit from this information?

    I personally believe that this is vital information because it fosters creativity and research. Especially the research part!

    Hashtags are an extension of one’s brand.

    I agree with you Louis when you stated that small marketers should use popular hashtags to be apart of the conversation.

    Personally I would use hashtags on Twitter and Google Plus. Little iffy about using this hashtags on Facebook.

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  • Brett

    Whether to use a unique or common hashtag depends on what you are trying to achieve. A unique hashtag is good for curating a conversation, so you can keep the posts focused and avoid extraneous tweet noise. Common hashtags are good for reaching out to broader audiences, since these can be easily tracked or searched without requiring people to follow your handle — for example, a tweet on this blog post would attract more people by using tags such as #socialmedia, #hashtag and #marketing than by it would by using #rachelblogsontags.

  • Maybe some data about the effect of hashtags can help prove what works and what does not. Looks great on Twitter and ugly on Facebook but I sometimes use it. Great post anyway

  • I never said “hashtags” weren’t a sound strategy. I said creating a hashtag no onee knows exists and no one is using doesn’t make sense until you have a more interactive following where you can then create a custom hashtag and those now-interactive people will then follow suit.

  • Hi, and thanks for repplying to my comment. I think it’s pretty clear what I suggested, but maybe nott, so please let me try again. 🙂

    I said if you don’t have an interactive folloowing, then using an obscure hashtag will have no benefit for you until you have a more interactive following. I can make up the hashtag #boobaloo all that would be is 9 characters wasted until I had people following me, interacting with me, and conversing with me enough where I then say #boobaloo and everyon then starts using it, too.

    It’s not about good vs bad advice. It’s about the right execution for the righht situation. This write says this is sound advice. Period. I say yes, but, only if you have people ready and willing to jump on board. Otherwise, stick to the more popular tags so you can spread the word and eventually build up that interactive following. 🙂

  • Thank you. 🙂

  • And where are my manners. Thanks for replying to my comment. 🙂

  • Thank you. 🙂

  • Sorry you’re feeling frustrated with our opinions, but I do spend a lot of time, as does my company, doing community management for clients. None of our clients are teenagers, so I can’t speak to how teenagers are using Facebook for marketing their products/services, but I CAN tell you that “almost every status update” including hashtags is not true. That is not an accurate statement at all, but thanks for sharing your opinions and best of luck to you and your clients. 🙂

  • I think it’s be helpful to look at hashtags, as a whole, and not ones just related to twitter. I’m actually finding I need more help with hashtags in emerging social spaces like Google+ and Instagram. Some of the above article applies to these new spaces as well but it’s important to note that hashtags aren’t just used on Twitter.

  • Thank you Louis for clarifying this. I definitely agree with you.

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  • ElenaHansen

    Timely article, Rachel. I’m new to the social marketing and I was just trying to figure out how to work with hashtags on Twitter. Now I’ve also found out that I can use them on other platforms. Thank you!

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  • # is not a £ sign.

  • #hastags are a great way to organize threads, but overuse can have a desensitizing effect as well. To discover anyone talking about you (your brand), you can do a twitter search for the company name, since you don’t need a hashtag for search. Better yet, you can create a dedicated column in tweet deck to monitor the name in real time. Again, no hashtag necessary. Unless you have a ridiculously long company name, you don’t need a hashtag since you’ll see all your @replies or @includes anyway, and with a dedicated search column for the company name you pretty much catch everything. I run the marketing for a company called Boxman Studios. I don’t use a company hashtag. I guess I could use #BOX, but I’m gonna guess there’s too much traffic there. And I could use #BXMN, but why would I use 5 characters for an abbreviation when I could use 7 and have the whole name? It’s just easier to try to have authentic dialogue when I can get it – and then keep a search open for Boxman. However, we did do a photo contest during the 2012 DNC in Charlotte tagged #inthewild. One of the rules to qualify was including #inthewild when they instagrammed or tweeted pictures. I chose the hashtag as a way to monitor the thread without making people @reply or @include us. Sure there were a few irrelevant #inthewild tweets, but 99% were for us. So hashtags do have relevance, but I’ve only found it on the campaign level. Finally, one drawback to routine company hashtags is spammers. I’ve seen enough examples of spammers latching onto and inundating popular hasthtag streams. It’s not pretty.

  • could you not say on facebook “Go to twitter and hashtag #example to join the conversation” ?

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  • DeannaHarms

    Such a small, small world. Reading this article and the very first example of people using a Verizon hashtag included friend and former Greteman Group colleague Shelley Downs.

  • Alexandra Coroian

    Good point made, Louis! Consider writing a post on how can small businesses make use of hashtags, Rachel? Thanks for the great info!

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  • Very interesting post. Some people don’t realize that thousands of people could already be using their business name in hashtags for more general purposes such as noting one of their products, praising or criticising the company. It doesn’t matter whether your business is big or small, if you use a hashtag that is broad and would be commonplace for people to use when just talking about you in general terms, then it’ll be much harder to track a conversation or know who’s participating in one of your contests.

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  • Khalid Abdullah Khan

    Thanks a lot Rachel for this post. Thanks Louis, Phyllis and other for sharing your thoughts. This is the most comprehensive discussion on hashtags.

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  • One of the most important things I believe is the time when you decide to put up the #. If the average person follows 400 then their stream will be continuously flowing with tweets. To develop the # the best thing to do is talk directly to people and have them as a core group who will interact with you but also spread the #.

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  • I have to start using hash tags more effectively. So many really good points! Thanks!

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  • I was aware of the fact that hashtags play an important role in social media marketing but before reading this blog I was not very sure of the right ways of using them. Now I have learned how to pick the right hashtags by going through the instructions and also how to implement them to achieve the desired result. Thanks a lot for sharing the insights with all of us.

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  • It’s easy to get caught up in a storm if you’re not up to date with hashtag trends. It could be innocent enough but could seriously damage a brand in the short term.

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  • Adamsoncin

    My veterinarian’s office over uses hashtags on facebook. How many are too many? I’ve seen the posts containing 7-8 hashtags and most are not unique: #kitties #dogs extra.

  • Andrew Jacob

    I couldn’t agree more. I’m beginning to find these hashtags on Facebook annoying. You have the space so say what you want to say. #NoToHashtags