Using Hashtags to Grow Your Business

# – once known as the “pound sign” has now transitioned into one of the biggest social media tools today. In case you are not yet a big hashtag user, hashtags are words that you tack on to the end of your social media posting, such as #catlover or #digitalmarketing. When your hashtagged message goes out into the great universe of social media-ness, people who are interested in your topic can find your content easily and have an opportunity to follow you, respond, or just listen in on the conversation.

The world of hashtagging has grown through the years and these days a social media campaign is incomplete without one. To get an idea of how people are using hashtags right now, go visit Tagboard, my personal favorite aggregation tool for hashtags of all kinds. There you can enter a hashtag and see who is using it on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, Vine and Flickr, with up to the second coverage.

And why, you may ask, do we need yet another thing to track in social media?  Because hashtags don’t just add to the noise of social media, they help segment it out.

Here are 4 ways you can use hashtags to grow your business

Extend the reach of your message.  By adding a hashtag to your post, you may capture the attention of those who might not otherwise see your message. Hashtags can be embedded into your messaging for conferences or events, Twitter chats, infographics, images and any other place you can imagine. And they aren’t just limited to digital media. Hashtags are also used to promote products and brands anywhere – from billboards, to sports signage to TV commercials. Don’t overdo it though. On Twitter it’s the norm to use two or three hashtags per post, on Instagram the average is 13 (those darn kids!) and most people use them only occasionally on Facebook.

Measure the pulse in your industry. It’s important to become familiar with the hashtags that are commonly used for your industry and follow them. For example, when I want the latest technology news on Twitter, I search with the #technews hashtag. It’s a simple way to monitor what is going on at any given time whether it be news, tips, products, images, videos, webinars, etc. By using an aggregator like Tagboard or Hashtracking, you can get a quick read on the latest.

Find new peeps.  Following hashtags will enable you to target people who are interested in your business or industry.  In addition, hashtags open you up to meet the huge network of people that have content you might be interested in. Many people have hashtags right in their bio so finding them on Twitter or Instagram is a snap. Some social media tools such as Commun.it and BuzzSumo also will also reveal who the influencers in your industry are based around a certain hashtag.

Create your own branding through hashtags.  Want to create your own following with hashtags rather than sharing the glory with others?  No problem.  You can go big time and create and use your own branded hashtag. You see this with sports and movies quite a bit, but it also works well to brand a specific marketing campaign. Keep in mind though that you have to make sure your hashtag isn’t already being used by others, and you need to be ready to put a lot of marketing and branding effort into promoting and managing the hashtag to keep it alive.

Whether you use hashtags aplenty or sparingly, don’t forget that they can play a big role in the effects of social media for your business.