The humble hashtag (or should I say, #hashtag) can helps you give meaning and context to your social media posts and comments–making them especially useful in social media marketing. If used properly and thoughtfully, hashtags serve to accurately categorize and collect our messages, amplifying their power by doing so. Hashtags can unite like-minded people, and turn a one-off comment into a cause celebre, a viral topic, or even a meme. The right hashtags help your audience find you and, along with your other marketing tactics, help build a relationship with potential followers/customers.

Unfortunately, too many social media marketing mavens (and average social media users, too) just throw up as many hashtags as possible, sometimes for humor’s sake, and end up diluting or confusing the meaning of their own post/comment. Getting carried away with hashtags, using too many or using non-relevant tags, is a bit like keyword stuffing–it works against you.

Don’t Let Your Hashtags Run Away with You

Ideally, your hashtags will get a larger conversation going (or keep it going and growing, by adding your voice to others), spurring interaction.

Here’s how to use hashtags wisely: 

  • Choose only relevant hashtags: If you latch on to a hashtag that doesn’t make sense with your content, you confuse or disappoint readers. It’s something like spamming.   
  • Investigate hashtags: Sometimes hashtags don’t mean what you think. The meaning may not be obvious from the #word. Check out the real meaning before using a tag, especially a brand-name, political or charity-related hashtag.  
  • Note trends in hashtags: If you’re doing social media marketing, you can find new, current tags that you could use to reach a wider audience (but make sure they’re relevant). 
  • Use holiday hashtags: These can be good to attach social media marketing campaigns to. 
  • Track hashtag performance: If something isn’t working, stop using it or at least don’t use it in future.  

HELPFUL HINT: You’ll find that many of the rules for correct hashtag use are similar to the rules for using (or misusing, or overusing) SEO keywords. Used properly, hashtags communicate meaning and activate readers. Used haphazardly, they create frustration or get ignored. Keep these tips in mind to create a solid hashtag strategy for successful social media marketing.