Meet the hashtag (#), formerly known as the pound sign. This symbol is the common denominator between all social media channels and is a powerful tool when used right.

It can help people find you, help you connect with like-minded businesses and streamline your social media marketing.

The hashtag is a way to keep your social media content categorized, making it easier for users to cut through the clutter and reach the content they’re most interested in. It’s also proven to increase engagement. In fact, a post with hashtags averages more than 10 percent engagement than posts without them.

Hashtags are used to make your posts found by those who are searching for that hashtag or a particular keyword. For example, #smartmarketing. You’ll also be visible to those who don’t currently follow you, opening the door for more followers. They can be used anywhere within your post.

Here’s how to use hashtags to catapult your Internet marketing.

1. Drive Engagement


One of the ways to use hashtags for business is to drive engagement. This works by using hashtags that resonate with your audience, either through current events or trends. Find what’s popular and if it fits with your brand, start building posts that use that hashtag. If it resonates enough with them they’re more likely to share your content.  

Using hashtags not only drives engagement with your current followers, but it also exposes you to other people who don’t currently follow you. You’ll be seen by their followers and the followers of anyone else who shares your content. When done well and thought out this engagement is what leads to a post going viral.

Your business has a lot to say on social. However, it may go unnoticed if you aren’t doing something to draw attention to it. Engagement hashtags allow you to reach other companies and people who are interested in the hashtags you are using and encourages them to take action on your post, whether by liking it, sharing it or commenting.  

You can also create a unique hashtag that aligns with your brand and can be used in your wider marketing efforts.  One such tactic is called User Generated Content (UGC) and it works by having social media users promote your brand for you by sharing your hashtag in their posts.

One great example of this is Aerie’s #aeriereal campaign. It encouraged users to spread body positivity and discourage the use of photo editing apps by posting unedited photos of themselves. To take this a step further the company also donates a dollar to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) for every post that included the hashtag.

2. Use Trending Hashtags

A trending hashtag is a hashtag that is already very popular. When you piggyback off of what’s trending, you’re already a step ahead. Trending hashtags are already popular and in front of your target audience.

If you see an opportunity to use a hashtag that’s trending for your business, if it’s relevant, it can be exactly what you need to get that increased visibility.  

Regardless of how popular a topic is, if it doesn’t fit your business it won’t do well for you. Keep an eye out for trends that fit your niche. When using trending hashtags in your marketing efforts it’s important to move fast because trends are always changing.

A successful hashtag campaign is one that moves fast before the buzz dies down. Keep an eye on what’s trending and if it fits, move fast.

3. Tell a Story

Tell a story. And keep them wanting more. Hashtags will let you get your story in front of a wider audience. Storytelling is an important part of marketing–it helps you connect with your audience and lets them into the more human side of a brand.

This connection is what generates brand loyalty.  If they feel like they know you, they’re more likely to keep coming back to see what you have to say.

Social media is an ideal venue for telling stories. You can use hashtags to promote this by creating a hashtag related to the topic and using that every time you post. It will keep your stories organized and easy to find.

One brilliant example of this was Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign, which urged females to not be influenced by society’s expectations of them. It encouraged the use of the phrase “like a girl” to symbolize strength rather than weakness.

When you share your story, think about what emotional connection you want to make with the audience and what makes you unique. If you can stand out while nurturing a real connection, you have the makings of a successful storytelling campaign.

3. Target Your Audience

The more specific your hashtags, the better. To attract the audience you’re looking for you need to do some research and figure out what they’re searching for. Once you know that, you can use targeted hashtags that you know your audience will see and is more likely to interact with.

You can also look into what your competitors are doing. Hashtags will give you insight into who they’re targeting so you can do the same.

To hone in on the audience you’re looking to target, you'll need to make your hashtags as specific as possible. If it’s too broad it will get lost in the sea of other hashtags.

4. Run a Contest

Holding a contest can help you grow a larger following on social media. A contest with a simple incentive will get people involved and entice them to share your post in front of their audience.  

To make this work you’ll create a specific hashtag for your business and ask your audience to share it in exchange for a chance to win a prize. You can use additional hashtags to target the groups who are more likely to not only share your content but to stick around after the contest is over and turn into potential customers.

Promote your hashtag across all your social media channels and create blog posts around your contest along with email marketing efforts. Make it fun, and relevant to you.  

In one example of great marketing hashtags, the Empire State Building’s Instagram account ran a photo contest that asked people to post an image of them “holding” the top of the Empire State Building. The winner received $5000. 

A hashtag contest is easy to set up but to be successful you have to outline the goals of the contest, determine the audience you’re trying to reach, whether a broader or niche audience and then you can come up with an effective plan.

Bonus: Hashtag Marketing Dos and Don’ts

When using hashtags for marketing purposes, there are some key things to remember to make sure they don’t work against you. 

  • Do follow trends: During a major event, piggyback off of the success of a popular hashtag and become part of the conversation.
  • Don’t repeat hashtags in a single post: You won’t do yourself any favors by being repetitive, and it could render your post unreadable.
  • Do keep a list of your company’s effective hashtags:  Social media is a lot of trial and error. When you find a hashtag that works well for your company, add that to your marketing arsenal and keep using it. If it’s not working, toss it.
  • Don’t use hard to read hashtags: You want your hashtags to be read easily. So you’re going to want to #avoidhardtoreadandrunonhashtagsbecasuetheyretoomuchwork. Don’t make it hard to decipher your hashtag. Rather, #keepitsimple.
  • Do listen: To stay on top of the always shifting and something that was popular yesterday is already old news. Look out for the trends and when you find one that aligns with your brand, move fast so you don’t miss out.

Hashtags for Internet Marketing Success

Hashtags make your content discoverable, makes you stand out and encourages engagement with your brand.

By using these tips to improve the way hashtags for businesses are used, you’ll see an improvement in visibility, engagement and if used correctly, you’ll see an increase in your followers.

Remember, social media is a conversation. You don’t want to talk at your audience you want to talk to them…and ideally, you want them to talk back. Effectively using hashtags will allow you to communicate with a broader audience than you typically would, exposing you to potential clients and growing a loyal follower base.

Check out this Free Course to learn more about Internet marketing success.