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Whether you are on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or any other social media channel, you can’t escape the #hashtag. But what is a hashtag?

With thousands of posts published every minute on all social media, it can be hard to stand out. The possibility for your post to be seen is minimal, even amongst your followers and that’s where hashtags come in.

A hashtag is a keyword or phrase used with the hash symbol, written within a post or comment to facilitate a search for it. Essentially, by including a hash symbol it can be indexed by the platform so that it can be discoverable to everyone, even if they’re not your followers or fans.

Why should you use hashtags?

Hashtags mean your posts aren’t limited to just your followers. By adding them, your content will be accessible to others who have used that particular hashtag to search for topics they are interested in.  Choosing the right hashtag is key to broaden the reach of your social media posts. For example, if you are a coach, it can be tempting to go for the obvious #coaching, but beware! With over a million posts, the chances of being seen are as slim. If you use a more specific tag like #coachingforsuccessdorset, it increases your chances.

Types of hashtags

If you are totally new to hashtags, first consider using some that directly relate to your product, service, market or area of expertise. They’re known as ‘content hashtags’ because they relate to the content that you would be naturally associated with. For instance, as a VA we use those related to administration – such as #VirtualAssistant and #BusinessSupport.

Another great way to boost your brand’s visibility is using existing ‘trending hashtags’ that are popular among users as these already have an audience, for example #WednesdayWisdom and #ThrowbackThursday. Make sure your content is on top of its game if you intend to use these, it will have a lot of competition.

The problem with using generic hashtags is that your posts are often lost amongst hundreds of posts using the same hashtags. It is a good idea to create your own dedicated ‘brand-specific hashtags’. These can be used for general branding, promotions, events, contests or other marketing campaigns.

How to use hashtags

To create a hashtag, all you need to do is include a ‘#’ and a relevant keyword or phrase right? Wrong. They are only powerful when used wisely.

Keep it short: To save everyone the headache, don’t squeeze too many words into one hashtag. People aren’t going to be using long search terms, and they are harder to read.

Don’t overuse: Avoid writing your entire caption with one hashtag per word. #Its #Annoying #You #Already #Isnt #It. Make sure you are using only relevant hashtags – quality over quantity.

Think strategically

Use a mixture of the type of hashtags in your post to increase your chances of being seen. Using only generic hashtags is the fastest way to being invisible. Plus do your research. What are businesses similar to you using? Keywords from your website are also a good place to start.

What are the best hashtag practices?

Twitter: research shows that the optimal amount of hashtags is two. Over that, the tweets have a significant drop in engagement. The most limited platform in terms of the number of hashtags used you are less confined as to where they should go. It can be used at the end of a Tweet or incorporated as part of the sentence.

Instagram: You can use up to 30 hashtags, and the more hashtags you use, the more engagement you see – up until a certain point. After about 10 hashtags, you risk losing out on some of that engagement. In order to keep everything organised and neat, it’s best to put your hashtags at the end of your comment.

Facebook: Take them or leave them. Facebook doesn’t actually benefit from using hashtags.

#HappyHashtagging #theumbrellatree