These days, you’re probably seeing hashtags (#) all over the internet. Developed as a tracking tool, these little fellas are being used by companies and individual Twitter and Instagram users every day. If used correctly, they allow you to easily track a trending conversation online… and be part of it!

In this post, you’ll learn 1) what a hashtag is, 2) how to use hashtags when posting content online, and 3) the benefits.

1) What is a hashtag?

A hashtag is the “#” symbol used before a word or phrase (without spaces) on Twitter or Instagram. Here are a few recent and/or ongoing examples: #PopeFrancis #Oscars2013 #nofilter #tbt

By adding the “#” symbol before a word or phrase in your Tweet or Instagram post, you are categorizing it. Now your post is grouped with others using the same hashtag. 

2) How to use a hashtag

Simply add the “#” symbol before the word or phrase you want to categorize. It can be as simple as #sunrise or #puppylove. When adding a hashtag to a phrase, be sure to keep the phrase together. For example, if you want to be part of the conversation #puppylove, you’d tag the entire phrase as opposed to #puppy #love. By separating the words, you’re now part of two different conversations– one about puppy and one about love. See the difference?

Another option is to use a popular hashtag developed by an organization or public figure. For example, the popular singing show American Idol developed hashtag #idolresults, which it posts during its weekly results show.




Fans of the show may incorporate #idolresults into their own posts. For instance, you could say “Hoping Chris gets the 9th spot! #idolresults” or “Watching #idolresults… fingers crossed!”

In the end, your post will pop up in Twitter or Instagram’s search engine, grouped with others who also used the hashtag #idolresults.

When using hashtags, don’t spam! According to the Twitter Help Center, no more than two hashtags per tweet is best.

3) The benefits

Hashtags enable you to be relevant, which presents a great opportunity for companies.

If you’re coming out with a new collection, hosting an event, giving something away, celebrating an anniversary, etc., encourage your fans to use your hashtag tied to that occasion. For instance, if WordPop were a clothing company with a highly anticipated summer collection, #wordpopsummer13 would be relevant as clothing stores fill racks with summer wear. After a few hours (or even minutes) of publishing a hashtag, WordPop could search the hashtag to see who is talking about the brand, and specifically, who is talking about the summer collection.

Companies can also search their brand name to see what users are saying. For example, a Kobe Bryant fan recently started the hastag #Vino, comparing Kobe to wine…keeps getting better with age. #Vino started trending, and Kobe Bryant himself started using the hashtag. He’s making himself part of a conversation that’s happening right now. Even better, he’s joining a conversation started by his fans.




What’s ahead?

Facebook is looking to add the hashtag tool to its platform. Until then, hashtags on Facebook are not grouped or categorized in search, thus unnecessary.

Ready to tag?

Click here to see what’s trending right now on Twitter.

Click here to see what’s trending right now on Instagram.

Happy tagging!